I’ve finally managed to get on top of this shitty cold, which means my olfactory bits are finally working again.
What better way to get back into the groove than with the best-in-years Jim Barry Armagh 2014?
Sam Barry popped by late last week, pouring a collection of brand new releases, his beard looking especially thick and lustrous. It’s a fine beard, even for an industry that believes more beard is better.
What’s sadly less abundant is the 2019 vintage at Jim Barry. Sam reports that red yields will be down up to 80% and there were just two barrels of Armagh produced. Apparently grapes were shrivelling on the vine pre-veraison, which is very unusual. Whites, however, escaped the worst of the heat and are just 20% down.
It didn’t help that the Barry family’s vines were hit by a rogue bushfire, which burnt a section of vines out the front of Peter Barry’s house. Luckily fire crews arrived quickly enough to help save the house, but a patch of vines (including a block of Assyrtiko) were hit.
Thankfully, there is some great wine from recent vintages in the shed, and this ’14 Armagh is very well-formed. A benchmark release. The Armagh style has been reined back in recenty years from the excesses of the early noughties and they’re all the better for it.
I tasted this ’14 as a barrel sample a few years back and was a massive fan, and it looks even better in bottle. There’s this sense of a largesse, of unquestioned power of a big wine, but not heavy or hard. Just muscular.
Depite the 80% new oak, this doesn’t feel oaky. Plums soaked in chocolate, and a little mint, but the oak is more about texture than sweetness. Then, there is this plush, contained, powerful flow of dark fruit that expands as it travels. It resonates. The tannins are grainy, yet still soft Shiraz tannins. Lovely.
I find it hard to define the sense of a wine that is both moderate, and yet powerful, all at once. It’s just balanced really, and the model of a ‘icon level’ Clare Vallley Shiraz in fine form.
Best drinking: Now to twenty years. 18.7/20, 95/100. 14%, $325. Would I buy it? I can’t afford it. But I’d take 2 bottles of this over Grange every day (and have enough leftover for a bottle of the Cascina Fontana that the Barry boys import).