The Clare Valley is a wine region that visitors to South Australia on a tight schedule often skip, heading to the more famous Barossa Valley north-west of Adelaide and the conveniently located McLaren Vale region south of Adelaide.
In my opinion, Clare and its valley, though a little further away, offer a lot more for visitors. There are the serene wine-growing vistas, iconic wineries such as Sevenhill, Tim Knappstein and Jim Barry, some interesting restaurants and several easy and fun cycling tracks (with plenty of bike hire options) meandering through said vines and cellar doors.
On the topic of cellar doors, on a recent trip through Clare I noted a sign proclaiming the Jim Barry Winery as Australian Winery of the Year. You have to stop for a visit when you see a sign like that, right? A little research later on revealed that esteemed UK wine writer Matthew Jukes named Jim Barry as his 2016/17 “Australian Winery of the Year”, in recognition of the “stellar work that this family-owned firm does in all sectors of their portfolio”.
The winery is located just north of Clare, on the side of a hill with a picturesque view to the east, over vineyards, of course. Somewhere out there are the low-yielding vines that are the source of the tasty Jim Barry Lodge Hill Shiraz. The cellar door venue is relatively small, and while waiting to be served our next sample I noticed a sign behind the bar proudly proclaiming Jim Barry’s as having the Australian Cellar Door of the Year. I’ve not been able to find out which organisation made the award, in my searching I realised there are a swag of wine magazines and organisations dolling out such commendations. It made me wonder – what would the Cellar Door of the Year have on offer? Larger wine samples? Tapas and cheese served with the samples? Live music? A roaring fire in winter? There was none of that at Jim Barry. It was a matter-of-fact affair on the Saturday of a long-weekend that we visited; a list of wines the Barry Family produces, available for tasting and then purchasing. And that’s probably all one needs. A chance to let the wine do the talking. And a wonderful view while swirling the red magic also helps.
We ended up purchasing a couple of the Lodge Hill Shiraz 2015, while others were keen to taste Jim Barry’s new 2017 Annabelle’s Rosé.
And then there is the Barry take on the Greek wine variety Assyrtiko. The winery announced last November that after a 10 year journey, the Barry family was officially launching the Assyrtiko with a limited on-premise release.
Peter Barry, Managing Director of Jim Barry Wines, first tasted Assyrtiko in 2006 whilst on holiday with his wife Sue on the Greek island of Santorini. What followed was a lengthy process of importation and quarantine of the cuttings. “My late father, Jim Barry was a pioneer winemaker in Clare and was a passionate believer of keeping with the times and making wine consumers wanted to drink. In 1966, he urged those in the region to steer away from traditional varieties such as Pedro, Doradillo, and to plant Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Malbec – varieties that were uncommon at that time,” Peter says.
Jim Barry Wines says its Assyrtiko is available at the Bennelong Restaurant in the Sydney Opera House, Dinner by Heston and across the George Colombaris group of restaurants. It is also at Georges on Waymouth and FermentAsian in South Australia. And for sampling and purchase at the Australian cellar door of the year 2017 (aka Jim Barry Wines). It retails for $35/bottle. There is an on-line limit of six bottles per person due to the limited stocks.
Address: 33 Craig Hill Road, CLARE SA 5453 (head north out of town towards Jamestown). Open seven days a week. Check www.jimbarry.com for full details.
Some material for this article was sourced from Jim Barry Wines.