Jim Barry seems to be a producer going through transition at the moment. A proactive transition that is. One moving with confident strides to take on the world market in a big way.
Aside from being a pioneering member of the 'Family of 12' supergroup, their present range of wine reflects good quality and diversity, with plenty to offer for both entry level drinkers and those with more discerning tastes.
In addition to their popular Silly Mid-On Sauvignon Blanc Semillon (which the cellar door attendant kept drilling to everyone how their savvy fruit comes from Shaw and Smith) and slightly sweet 'Lavender' Riesling, they've added some new BBQ friendly reds and a light pink, transparent bottled, vintage dated sparkling pinot, which was created by Peter Barry because his mother was too slow at making tea. I didn't care much for the pink bubbles but I'm sure it'll have great appeal to cellar door visitors. Cleanskins are also available in abundance through the winery.
However, for the more serious drinkers it's the moves Jim Barry is making with cabernet sauvignon and Coonawarra which provide the most interest. The old Penola cricket ground site (with pitch still in tact) in Coonawarra's south has provided fruit for Jim Barry's cross regional Cover Drive Cabernet for some years now, but it's their reserve level First 11 from the handy 2005 season which really shows what this site is capable of. The result is exactly as it should be; it's easily the best wine I've had from this site. The even dearer Benbournie from 2002 is an even better cabernet. Reflecting excellent development and potential for a Clare Valley cabernet, it obviously harnessed the superb 2002 vintage to full effect. Both these wines show the benefit of a little extra bottle age.
The premium reds here really were a surprise highlight throughout the day.
Oh yeah, the Jim Barry rieslings are looking good too.
I normally approach wineries who are moving towards new regions, away from their traditional homes, or expanding their lower end, with a fair swag of hesitation, but in the case of Jim Barry, if the wine quality remains good, they can do as they please.
Jim Barry Watervale Riesling 2008 ($15) A shame to see this really because I've read several positive reviews of the 2009 already. The 2008 is a nice and dry, lavender and lime, floral style with good acids and traces of austerity. Top value. 93
Jim Barry Lodge Hill Riesling 2008 ($18) Intended to be the driest of the Jim Barry rieslings, of which it succeeds. Its fairly mineral palate is complemented by great length and structure. 92
Jim Barry The Florita Riesling 2007 ($40) More expensive than Grosset's Polish Hill, which is never a good move in my opinion. All the same it's an excellent riesling, with development starting to show through its toasty/limey/kerosene characters in a savoury manner. Has excellent, languid texture in a mouthfilling style. Great overall balance. 94
Jim Barry Silly Mid-On Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2008 ($18) Adelaide Hills savvy with Clare semillon, in a back to front Grosset style. I've never quite got this wine and the 2008 stays true to this. It's just rather uninspiring and lacking in character for me, but it is clean and fairly inoffensive. 87
Jim Barry 3 Little Pigs 2004 ($18) Shiraz/cabernet/malbec. Made for the BBQ, but more specifically pig/pork/prosciutto. Intriguingly, the press release says Peter Barry 'grows' his own pigs and makes his own prosciutto. The wine has a cabernet nose, with some herbal elements to plum fruits. The palate is earthy, savoury and rustic in a medium bodied style, allowing an idiosyncratic influence of malbec to do all the talking in the finish. 89
Jim Barry Cover Drive Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 ($18) Clare/Coonawarra. Minty cassis fruits with cedar/mocha oak nose. Its palate is vibrant and smoothly fruited with a firm hold of prickly tannins, but it just finishes slightly raw. I still like the pricing here. 90
Jim Barry First Eleven Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 ($55) Coonawarra. Nice, elegant, plushly fruited and deep nose. Shows eucalypt with red and black fruit characters, accompanied by polished cedar oak and spice, perhaps clove. It's a harmoniously concentrated, unusually supple Coonawarra cabernet with sweet balance and fine length. 94
Jim Barry Benbournie Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 ($90) Coffee bean, cigar box and dusted earth nose with a hint of vanilla and perhaps even mint still emanating from the cool vintage. Has real fullness of flavour with sensual, velvet-like texture. Outstanding length and plenty of structure remaining, even at 7 years old. A magnificent Clare Valley cabernet. 95
Jim Barry McRae Wood Shiraz 2005 ($50) Slight barnyard tones to its dark fruit, plum and savoury spice nose. Palate is full in body with a juicy, jujube-like feel. It's very ripe but not over ripe, finishing with licorice tones and a tickle of drying tannin. Good result from a rough year for Clare reds. 92