South Australia’s Clare Valley is riesling country and, in fact, Jim Barry Wines is the largest producer of riesling in the Valley. But the success of the winery’s flagship shiraz, a single-vineyard offering called The Armagh, provides ample proof that the Clare Valley is also capable of making some of Australia’s most exquisite shiraz.
The Armagh vineyard was planted in 1968 by the winery’s founder Jim Barry. Today, the almost 50 year old vineyard on a north-west facing slope about 400 metres above sea level is dry farmed. For a site that receives less than 600 mm of rain a year, the decision not to irrigate necessarily keeps yields low (less than 4 tonnes per hectare) and creates fruit capable of making a rich and concentrated wine with great ageing potential.
British wine critic Matthew Jukes gave the 2006 vintage a rare 20/20 score, describing it as “perfect expression of its site and .. an awe-inspiring encapsulation of the paradise that is the Clare Valley.” (Jim Barry’s Armagh Wins a Perfect Score for Australia in the UK, FirstPress, 18 May 2011).
The Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin was equally effusive in his praise for the 2006 Armagh:
It is very pure and well defined on the nose, with blackberry, black plum, a touch of liquorice and violets. Very fine delineation. The palate is beautifully balanced, sweet dark cherries, a touch of anis and marmalade, very focused on the finish where the acidity slices through that concentration like butter. Superb. (Keeping it in the (Australian) Family, Tasting Notes: Jim Barry The Armagh by Neal Martin, August 2010)
Recently the winemaking reigns at Jim Barry Wines were handed over to the founder’s grandson Tom Barry, who last year was named Young Winemaker of the Year by Australian Gourmet Traveller Wine magazine.
Like his father and grandfather before him, Tom studied oenology at the Waite Campus of Adelaide University (formerly Roseworthy College). He then spent several years working in Australia and Europe, including a stint with the famous Dr Loosen in Germany.
Tom is very keen to uphold the family-owned winery’s impressive legacy of tradition and quality, telling Australian Gourmet Traveller Wine’s Sophie Otton that “We’re sticking to things we’ve done really well, and getting the quality better and better.” (Young Winemaker Medal 2013, Gourmet Traveller Wine)
Sounds like The Armagh is in very good hands indeed!