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The wines of Jim Barry, Clare Valley, Australia
Presented by Peter Barry

Jim Barry Wines is one of the leading producers in Australiaís Clare Valley. Jim was only the 17th winemaker to graduate from Adelaideís Roseworthy College back in 1946, and went to work for the Clarevale Cooperative Ė the first qualified winemaker to operate in the Clare. This was followed by a spell at Taylorís, also in the Clare, and then in 1959 he purchased a property of his own, followed by another in 1964. However, the grapes from these vineyards were sold to others, and it wasnít until 1974 that he set up his own operation, with a new winery.

Thereís a nice history here.

Today, Jim Barry Wines has over 200 hectares of vines in 10 sites in the Clare and a 15 hectare vineyard in Coonawarra. Itís still a family-run operation, and Peter Barry (above), one of Jimís sons, is the MD.

These wines were tasted with Peter. I really liked them, but on some of the older reds I was a bit surprised by what, to my palate, seemed to be some brettanomyces character. This isnít necessarily a fault; it just depends on your tolerance for these spicy/phenol/animal notes and how they fit in the context of the wine. This was a rare chance to try some older Rieslings (which were evolving beautifully) and a vertical of the top wine, the Armagh. This is a Shiraz that is now one of Australiaís cult wines.

Under 1000 cases of Armagh are produced annually; the exact volume is not disclosed. Just 200 bottles reach the UK. The vineyard is managed in three separate lots and usually only two of these will make the grade each year. The scarcity of Armagh was the reason that the McRae Wood was developed, but even this is now allocated, too.

'Without doubt, the Clare is a special place to make wine', says Peter. 'We make great Riesling, Shiraz and Cabernet, but we can't make great Chardonnay or Pinot Noir: it's an unusual thing'. He also adds that one of the strengths of the Clare is that it has been settled by the winemakers, not the lifestylers. 'I was lucky to be born here', he says. 'Hopefully, I'll die here'. 

We also got to look at the new icon wine from Jim Barry, The Benbournie, a Cabernet Sauvignon.

Jim Barry Watervale Rhine Riesling 1977 Clare Valley
This was picked by Roseworthy students in a weekend. Peter Barry reckons that Rielsing has a short picking window of just two or three days. ĎIn those days we had no refrigeration or must chilling facilitiesí, he says. ĎWe crushed with high sulphur dioxide levels and drained the juice off quickly.í This has survived 30 years pretty well. Aromatic, toasty and rich on the nose with nice complexity. Bold and a bit spicy. The palate has a nice citrussy freshness with real depth and presence. A long finish. Still fresh. 93/100

Jim Barry The Lodge Hill Rhine Riesling 1986 Clare Valley
Quite aromatic and full with a strong petrolly, toasty nose and a bit of smokiness. The palate is rounded, complex and soft with a smooth texture. A really complex, integrated wine. 94/100

Jim Barry The Florita Riesling 2004 Clare Valley
Intense, fresh petrolly nose with nice citrus presence. The palate is powerful, concentrated and a little spicy with lots of weight and citrus intensity. Real potential here. 92/100

Jim Barry The Florita Riesling 2005 Clare Valley
Intense, crisp, citrussy and bold with tight limey, almost spicy fruit. Bold and concentrated. Thereís a nice freshness here. Itís dry but thereísome fruit sweetness. 90/100

Jim Barry The Florita Riesling 2007 Clare Valley
Lifted aromatic, flowery nose. This is bright, limey, crisp and concentrated with real intensity. A youthful wine that shows lovely fruit quality and which is very dry. 90/100

Jim Barry The Lodge Hill Riesling 2007 Clare
Really fresh and expressive. Bold with high acidity and limey intensity. A precise, focused Riesling. 89/100

Jim Barry The Lodge Hill Shiraz 2006 Clare
Sweet, pure, intense blackcurrant fruit here on the nose. The palate shows very ripe, sweet, pure fruit with a nice fresh edge. A rich style but still balanced. 90/100

Jim Barry The McRae Wood Shiraz 1994 Clare
Aromatic and evolved with tasty woody complexity on the nose. The palate is bold with nice minty freshness under the earthy, spicy fruit. A classic Aussie evolving quite nicely. Finishes dry. 90/100

Jim Barry The McRae Wood Shiraz 1996 Clare
Aromatic spicy, phenolic nose is appealing but rather bretty. The palate is fresh and bright with good acidity and a bit of spiciness. Slightly metallic finish suggests brett. Second bottle is similar. 88/100

Jim Barry The McRae Wood Shiraz 1998 Clare
Distinctive spicy nose is warm, woody and a bit bretty. The palate is bold and spicy with a medicinal edge to the dark fruits. Itís an attractive wine. 89/100

Jim Barry The McRae Wood Shiraz 2004 Clare
Very deep coloured. Rich, vivid, intense sweet blackcurrant fruit nose with good purity. The palate shows great concentration and lovely purity of fruit. A big wine thatís really stylish. 92/100

Jim Barry The Armagh 1994 Clare (from magnum)
Intense, evolved nose showing rich spicy notes. Itís sweet and warm with a subtle medicinal edge. The palate is broad, intense and spicy with a distinctive warm earthiness. Quite evolved. 89/100

Jim Barry The Armagh 1996 Clare (from magnum)
Very deep coloured. Warm, earthy, spicy nose is full and intense. This is a bold wine thatís warm, spicy and expressive. The palate is smooth and concentrated with ripe spicy, earthy notes. Evolved and drinking very well now. 92/100

Jim Barry The Armagh 1998 Clare (from magnum)
Warm, rich and spicy on the nose with some evolution. Thereís a ripe, rich, tarry character, too. The palate is concentrated rich and spicy with a strong earthy character to it. Bold stuff that is quite evolved. 92/100

Jim  Barry The Armagh 2004 Clare
Really intense, bold, rich spicy nose with pure blackcurranty fruit. Lovely focus with notes of spice, tar and wood. The palate shows pure fruit and has an attractive sweet, meaty edge. Concentrated, broad and full with some earthy undercurrents. Deliciously full. 93/100

Jim Barry The Benbournie 2002 Clare
Intense and concentrated with pure dark fruit and some soft spicy structure. Subtle woody, tarry notes combine with a really intense blackcurrant fruit quality. There's some earthy depth too. Sytlish stuff. 93/100

Jim Barry The Benbournie 2004 Clare
Focused dark fruits nose of blackcurrant and spice. The palate is quite fresh and concentrated with nice freshness and good acidity. Great purity of fruit with good tannic earthy structure. 92/100

Wines tasted 02/08  
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