2017 Jim Barry Wines, Assyrtiko, Clare Valley, Australia.
While Australia is a hotbed of varietals and do everything from Verdejo to Muscat and Syrah (Shiraz) to Gamay, Jim Barry Wines, which was founded back in 1959, is the first and only Aussie winery to plant and make Assyrtiko, the unique Greek grape that is more at home on the Island of Santorini than Clare Valley. Peter and his wife Sue Barry holidayed on Santorini in 2006 and they feel in love with the vibrant flavors and crisp mineral driven charm of the wines made from this grape and thought it might be a good choice in their local climate and with the help of Yiannis Argyros of Argyros Winery and a return trip to Greece, Barry finally got his selected cuttings in 2008. It wasn’t an overnight process, especially since the two mother Assyrtiko vines had to be quarantined for two years before Barry could get plants in the ground, but after much headaches and with the help of Yalumba Winery’s nursery got his vineyard block done at his Lodge Hill Vineyard, which is more famous for Shiraz and Riesling, and Peter made his first tiny experiment batch of dry Assyrtiko in 2014. After proving to be a success, this rare and unique wine is now in limited production, and I got a chance to try some of the first to be exported, this 2017 Jim Barry Clare Valley Assyrtiko is a vivid and richly flavored version of this grape with brilliant layering and balance, while a bit fuller than most Greek editions, it rinds me of some of the more serious Santorini wines, like the fabulous Santo Wines Winery and Domaine Sigalas. Like Vermentino, I think Assyrtiko would also do well in California too, and the Jim Barry version gives an incredible insight on how well this grape can do in the new world.
Interesting, Peter Barry, with a nod to tradition, has trained the Assyritiko vines using the Kouloura method which is done on Santorini to prevent the vines from being threaded by winds and to preserve moisture, since the vines are dry farmed on the Island’s volcanic and sandy soils. In Greece, on Santorini, Assyrtiko vines can date back almost four hundred years, since Phylloxera never got here, and they may be some of the oldest European vines. Barry’s Assyrtiko is grown on the iron rich classic Terra Rossa red topsoil over limestone and his wine transmits this with a medium weighted and smooth palate and earthy mineral notes, while still delivering loads of brisk acidity and with 12.5% natural alcohol, making for a beautiful white that has a range of vibrant stone and citrus fruits and a lush textural feel in the mouth. The Lodge Hill Vineyard, also has loam, clay and even some broken slate which is great for their Riesling, and looks to have provided the Assyrtiko it’s freshness and steely charm, which Barry highlighted with the winemaking too, with stainless steel and temperature controlled fermentations with limited lees contact. The 2017 Assyrtiko shows a growing maturity of form and finesse with a pretty pale straw color and subtle floral, orange blossom perfume with a nice saline and stony character showing meyer lemon, green melon, green apple and apricot fruits along with a touch of herb, wet chalk rock and a touch of flinty spice. I love this stuff, for those that want something very different, but impressive, this is a fun choice for Summer cuisine, especially fleshy fish dishes, but can go with everything from Sushi to roast Chicken, drink over the next 3 to 5 years.
($35 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive