When your grandfather is SA winemaking legend Jim Barry, going into the family business is a given, but third-generation winemaker Tom Barry always knew what he wanted to do. “I always loved being part of the business,” Tom says. “When I was about 15, I thought: I’ve really got to knuckle down and focus on chemistry because I knew I wanted to be a winemaker.” Tom has a big legacy to uphold – his grandfather revolutionised wine making in the Clare Valley. “When Jim moved to the area in 1947, he was the first qualified winemaker in the region,” Tom explains. “Before he arrived, the Clare Valley was only producing heavily fortified wines. From a style point of view, he helped the region change to producing table wines.”
Jim was focused on making three main varieties – riesling, shiraz and cabernet – and the family’s success speaks for itself. In 2023, the Jim Barry Watervale Riesling commemorated its 50th vintage. The wine also won the Best White $25 and Under (Lighter Varietals) category in the Vintage Cellars Best of Wine Awards 2023. “It’s so satisfying when people come to me and say I didn’t drink riesling before but I had a glass of your Watervale Riesling and now I’m hooked,” Tom says proudly. The riesling was already being made from grapes grown in Watervale in the Clare Valley, but when the family had the chance to buy the Watervale vineyard Florita – what Tom calls the “grand prix riesling vineyard in Australia” – back in 1986, they jumped at the chance to take their rieslings to the next level. “The pedigree of the Florita vineyard was amazing and everything really took off from there,” he says.
These days the fruit for the Watervale Riesling still comes from the Florita vineyard, as well as from other growers around the region. “It’s lovely to deal with generational growers in the Watervale district, and that combination of fruit creates a great complexity in the blend,” Tom says. “The wine has those typical floral notes but for us it’s all about the fresh acidity balanced with the sugar. It finishes with lovely fresh acidity.” The success of the last 50 vintages doesn’t mean Tom is going to rest on his laurels though. “You always have to look at the last vintage and see what you can improve on,” he says. “You’ve got to keep slowly tweaking the style and evolving.”
The Jim Barry cellar door is still in the original Jim Barry Wines building, although Tom says it has had some upgrades since his grandfather first opened the doors. While you’re there, try the Immersion Tasting experience to sample a range of Jim Barry Wines. For something even more special, do The Florita Experience. You’ll see the famous Florita vineyard and be guided through a comprehensive riesling tasting. Other wines worth seeking out include the Best of 2023 Premium White (Lighter Varietals) category winner Jim Barry Assyrtiko and the Jim Barry ‘Barry & Sons’ Cabernet Sauvignon, which was a Gold and Trophy Winner in the James Halliday Cabernet Challenge 2023.
Products featured are available from 15/11/23 to 26/12/23, while stocks last. Some products or varieties featured may not be available in all stores.