Jim Barry Wines Vineyards
Jim Barry Wines’ philosophy to winemaking is to own the vineyards to develop the best fruit flavours possible and retain these flavours during winemaking. The Barry Family firmly believe that great wine is made in the vineyard. Over 55 years they have worked to establish a mosaic of vineyards across the Clare Valley, each unique in site, soil and aspect. In addition to this, they have two vineyards in the Coonawarra region, where they grow Cabernet Sauvignon on the famous Terra Rossa soils.
The Armagh Vineyard
The Armagh Shiraz has achieved extraordinary success and is regarded as one of Australia’s highest quality wines.
The vineyard was named after the adjoining hamlet of Armagh, established by Irish settlers in 1849 and named after the lush rolling hills of their homeland. Jim Barry planted the 3.3 hectare vineyard in 1968 with Shiraz grapes.
The vineyard is planted on its own roots on grey sandy abrasive topsoil over clay subsoil and receives an average rainfall of 600 millimetres per year. Such is The Armagh vineyards suitability that minimal intervention is needed to maintain yields below 4 tonnes per hectare, which produce rich and concentrated fruit of the rare quality required to produce wines with ageing potential.
The Florita Vineyard
The Florita vineyard at Watervale is one of the oldest in the Clare Valley. This is the vineyard where legendary winemaker, John Vickery, sourced the grapes for his great Leo Buring Rieslings of the 1960s and 1970s.
At a time when the South Australian Government had initiated a vine pull program to counter an oversupply of grapes and the industry was in a state of turmoil, Mark, Peter and John Barry went against conventional wisdom and purchased the Florita vineyard in 1986.
Despite fruit being in oversupply and Riesling being overshadowed by a huge surge in popularity by Chardonnay, they knew that Florita was one of the best vineyards in the country and was crucial in their plans to produce premium Rieslings.
The unique soil composition is primarily loamy clay over limestone. Traditionally, vines from Florita are hand-pruned to a level of 40 buds per vine to maintain the intensity of flavour. The grapes are harvested in the cool of the night at their optimum ripeness to preserve the delicate Riesling flavours and to retain natural acidity.
The Lodge Hill Vineyard
The first time Jim Barry walked on the soils of Lodge Hill in 1977, he knew it was a special site. It now produces two of Jim Barry’s most famous wines – The Lodge Hill Riesling and The Lodge Hill Shiraz.
At 480 metres, the Lodge Hill vineyard, situated on the eastern ranges of the township of Clare, is one of the highest points in the valley. Jim’s original intention was to devote the entire Lodge Hill vineyard to premium Riesling. However, while he was pottering around with his trusty shovel, digging here and there, he discovered a very different soil profile on the small north-facing slope. Warmer than the rest of the property, Jim decided it was the perfect place to plant Shiraz. So in essence, there are two vineyards within the one.
The Shiraz vineyard’s soil consists of about 40-50 centimetres of rich, chocolaty loam over rock, consisting of almost vertical sheets. The cracks between the sheets have been filled with soil, providing passage for the vine roots and free drainage – the ideal environment for low-yielding Shiraz vines.
The soil in the Riesling vineyard, on the other side of the crest, is brown loam over a layer of clay and slate bedrock that is about 900 million years old and has cracked just off the vertical so that water can drain freely through it. It’s a soil that nourishes the vines adequately, but makes them struggle just a bit, making it suited to growing intensely flavoured, finely structured Rieslings.
The Old Cricket Ground Vineyard
On the southern boundary of Coonawarra is the old Penola cricket ground, which first saw a ball bowled in anger and the flashing cover drives of local champions in 1950.
Jim Barry always had an affection for Coonawarra and the region’s fabulous Cabernet Sauvignon fruit, so when the property went on the market, the opportunity to transform it into a vineyard was too good to miss. To preserve a little piece of Coonawarra cricketing history, the original pavilion was retained and the vines were planted around the cricket pitch.
Over thousands of years erosion and air-borne dust have laid down the famous Coonawarra ‘terra rossa’ soil. The limestone that underlies the area is porous and has an excellent water-holding capacity, providing a very good source of supplementary water during dry periods. Coonawarra lies well south of latitude 37° and it has a cooler climate than many of the other Australian grape-growing regions. This cooler climate results in a much longer ripening season; which in turn produces excellent fruit flavours and unique tannin structure.