Wine Review: 2012 Jim Barry The McRae Wood Shiraz

5 04 2016

[This bottle was provided as a sample for review purposes.]

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Serious, serious Shiraz.

I decided to have a good start to the week.  I usually hew to the age-old rule of opening nice stuff on weekends but sticking to the cheaper end of the cellar on Monday, but yesterday I said to hell with it:  forget convention, I’m opening something fun.  This led me to the upper echelon of my sample rack, and to one of the better Australian Shirazes I’ve ever had, Jim Barry’s The McRae Wood.  Excellent Monday decision.

Jim Barry’s wines are no stranger to this blog – I’ve reviewed his highly impressive entry-level Cab and Shiraz and his mind-blowing, Grange-challenging top-end Shiraz The Armagh.  This bottle is closer to the latter than the former, a reserve-level Shiraz clocking in at around $60 and often known as The Armagh’s little brother.  Jim Barry is based out of the Clare Valley in South Australia, an elevated and cooler-climate region due north of Adelaide and just northwest of Big Shiraz Mecca, the Barossa Valley.  Clare is best known as Riesling country and is about as stylistically different from the Barossa as you can get by travelling 100 km or so, producing leaner, less ripe and more elegant wines and rethinking what it means to be an Aussie Shiraz as a result.  The McRae Wood Shiraz is sourced from a special single vineyard in the Clare Valley, a 70-acre plot of land that Jim Barry purchased from his neighbour Duncan McRae Wood in 1964 to plant his very first Shiraz vineyard.  This eponymous bottling honouring the initial owner of the land was first released in 1992, making this the 20th anniversary vintage of The McRae Wood.

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Jim Barry Estate.  Photo Credit: Don Brice, southaustralia.traveller.com.au

Thankfully to those placing importance in round numbers, 2012 was an ideal anniversary year for this Shiraz, an excellent sunny vintage where rain near harvest-time actually helped the grapes by delaying and extending ripening.  The McRae Wood was dark, deep, mysterious and opaque, a glass-coating purple, not hugely viscous (14.0% abv) but plenty dense.  I didn’t get a ton off of it to start, but after I decanted it for about two hours it started filling up the room with waves of tomato, mesquite, hot rocks and dark chocolate over a tight core of blackberry and black cherry fruit, with a lingering sweet dusty aroma that I can best compare to Golden Grahams crumbs (admit it:  you also know what those smell like).

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Stelvin Rating: 7.5/10 (Props to anything more than a plain black screwcap, and bonus points for the neck tartan [see first pic above].)

When you take a sip you step into a huge abyss of inky, grapey black fruit, but it doesn’t follow stereotype, coming across taut and chewy and not remotely loose or jammy.  Hickory, blueberry, violets and angel food cake round out what sounds like the flavour profile of your standard big Aussie Shiraz, but these are all precise, tight and chiselled down, delivered on a texture that’s both weightless and linear, with invisible yet omnipresent structure, a medium-bodied beast that’s just starting to stir.  There is so much going on underneath the surface here but that’s just not ready to show itself yet; a pleasant quaff masking the raging torrent below.

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I feel like I’m describing about 30% of what this wine will end up being, but the rest of it is still firmly folded up, biding its time.  If you have one of these bottles, I would wait at least 5 years before cracking it or give it a good long decant before drinking.  This doesn’t come cheap, but it actually offers a monumental value for what it’s going to be in a decade.  This is another level of Jim Barry.  Stock up.

93 points

$60 to $65 CDN

You can find another Calgarian take on this bottle at YYC Wine.  Great minds…

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