Mitchells embrace generation next

Conventional thinking in the wine business says generational family wineries are best placed to clearly see long term goals.

Free from the burden of impatient shareholders, family businesses can be run by people who make decisions for their grandchildren, not the stock market. But that’s often easier said than done and the world’s wine regions are full of the burning rubble of wine business that crashed trying to jump across the generation gap.

Down in the particularly beautiful pocket of the Skilly Valley three generations of Mitchells have called home since 1949, that transition is being managed in a very clever way.

With all three children - Hilary, Angus and Edwina - once again living back in Clare after Hilary’s return from many years in Barcelona, Andrew and Jane Mitchell saw the opportunity to step back a little from the eponymous winery they established in 1975 and bring three pretty capable kids into the business in a more formal way. The desire to put a new spin on an established brand is a pretty natural consequence of injecting new blood but change for change’s sake can lead to throwing out the baby and bottling the bathwater and that wasn’t going to happen here.

“Wines like our riesling and Peppertree Shiraz have such loyal followings built up over years and we’d never want to mess with that,” says Edwina.

“Anything new that we wanted to do had to complement what was already here, not compete with it, “ adds Hilary.

That has resulted in a new label called Kinsfolk, infused with Mitchell DNA but taking it in new directions.

While the classic silver label across the Mitchell range is instantly recognisable to anyone who’s taken even a passing interest in the Clare Valley over the last five decades, the new labels are moodily arty and subtly littered with references to family history.

Look closely and you’ll see old wedding photos, kid’s toys and the like.

The range features four wines - from the never before seen (Gruner Veltliner) and the rejuvenated (Grenache) to new takes on family favourites (Riesling and Shiraz). They sit at the exact right point where experience and understanding meet new ambition.

“The best asset we had with these wines was the knowledge that resides in Dad and our winemaker Simon Pringle,” explains Hilary.

“Between them there’s 70 years of experience in making wine at Mitchells and to be able to draw on that is priceless.”

It’s been especially useful in the way that experience could match the right vineyard sources to the new generation’s stylistic visions.

“We wanted to do an off-dry riesling rather than just mimic the classic Mitchell style and, as soon as we suggested it, Dad straight away said the best fruit for that would come from the vineyard around the old house at Penwortham where Mum and Dad first lived when they came back to the Valley,” says Edwina. “It’s actually the house both Angus and I were brought back to as newborns,” laughs Hilary.

“And I think that really neatly ties in with what this is all about.”

In the same vein, the shiraz in the range comes from a small block up the hill behind the winery, adjacent to the house they all grew up in and in which Angus is now raising his kids.

The fruit once went into Peppertree but now stands on its own feet in Kinsfolk, the established classic finding a way to let something exciting grow in new directions. A fitting metaphor indeed.


This article is courtesy of the Plains Producer 2021 Spring Valley & Flinders Magazine which can be read online in full.