2013 Jim Barry Wines, Shiraz “The Armagh” Clare Valley, South Australia.
The beautiful Jim Barry The Armagh Shiraz is really showing well at the moment with impressive restraint and layering, while still having a seriously dense (rich) and powerful presence in the glass with an inky purple/black and crimson hue and a dark berry coulis and spice laced full bodied palate, it is a wine to be taken seriously and enjoyed for another decade or more. Coming off old vine parcels in the Mounty Lofty Ranges zone of South Australia’s Clare Valley, with the Armagh vineyard, named for the original Irish settlers that came here back in 1849, was planted by Jim Barry in back in 1968 and yields less than two tonnes per acre. The soil here in this more mild and cool site is on sandy-gravel soils with a north-west facing slope that acts as a sun basket making sure these special vines get perfectly ripe. This vintage was warm and the tannins are strikingly silky allowing for early drinking on a wine known for its stellar age worthy structure, though this vintage still has plenty of guts under the hood showing blackberry, crushed flowers, blueberry compote, toast notes and creme de cassis along with hints of loam, cedar, peppery spice and a touch of loam, mineral and mole. Swirling and air bring further dimension with anise, embers, elderflower/violet and plum fruit, in a Syrah that should thrill the enthusiast, it’s a wine that stands proudly with the world’s best versions of this grape, be it other Aussie champs or wines like Guigal’s cru Cote-Rotie, La La bottlings. Australia is going through a big change and re-birth in many ways, with an export market looking to China and young winemakers going for a lighter style and elegance, which is to be admired, and while Aussie wines sometimes are, if not often overlooked in the states, classics like this wine are a reminder of this country’s greatness in this ever tightening niche of collector wines.
Peter Barry is the second generation winemaker here at Jim Barry Wines, named after his late father, and has been the managing director and winemaker since 1985, with his son Tom Barry, who is a young winemaker to watch getting a lot of attention at home, he is the third generation here following in his father and grandfather’s footsteps, after graduating with an oenology degree in 2010 and stints at Yalumba, Australia’s oldest winery and Shaw + Smith, a boutique label that make great Aussie Riesling as well as the famed Dr. Loosen (Mosel) and even part of harvest at Donnhoff (Nahe) in Germany. This makes sense as Jim Barry has some exceptional Riesling vines and make a tasty version too, with Tom showing a real touch with this grape as well as with the famous Shiraz, and he has been helping his father keep the Jim Barry winery at the top echelon of Australian wine. The Armagh was traditional fermented with great care done in the sorting with de-stemmed berries and then aged a full 20 months in 60% French and 40% American oak barrels, which gives this Shiraz its Aussie character, but at 14% natural alcohol it is a wonderfully purring beast with a refined sense of balance and it should continue to develop for years and years, while not cheap, it is almost half the price of comparable wines like Penfolds Grange, Hill of Grace by Henschke and the mentioned Guigal La La’s. The current set of wines at Jim Barry are all worthy of checking out, especially the lower end stuff, including as noted the Riesling, the rare Assyrtiko (geek grape), along with the Cabernet Sauvignon(s), though of course the Shiraz collection stands out and this Armagh, an Aussie first growth, is a treat indeed.
($250 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive