Wine Reviews: Red ShowDownUnder

13 06 2017

[These bottles were provided as samples for review purposes.]

FullSizeRender-646I first got seriously into wine about 10 years ago, when the Australia Phenomenon was in its heyday and Argentinian Malbec was just a glint in some clever investor’s eye in Mendoza.  Yellow Tail Shiraz was my gateway drug, a fact that is assuredly true of more than one of you currently reading this as well.  Looking back now on the Australian wine scene then, there are still tons of similarities.  Critter wines, like it or not, are still a thing. On the quality pinnacle, the high-end wines from Down Under rocking people’s worlds in 2017 aren’t that different from those doing so in 2007.  But I’ve noticed a couple clear differences in the imports from Australia that have evolved over the last decade:  first, a welcome explosion of site-driven elegance from the cooler areas of the country, be it Pinot from Yarra or Mornington or bubbles from Tasmania or the laser purity of some of the post-modern wines coming out of the Adelaide Hills.  Second, a new focus on bottles like the ones below, step-up bottlings, a shade above entry-level in price and a world above the critters in authenticity and quality.  The $20-$30 tier of wines has never had stronger representation on our shelves from Australia than it does currently, as more and more producers zone in on these bottles as the best way to build a lasting relationship of trust with consumers as opposed to an $11 fling.

So what better way to celebrate how far Australia has come as a mature wine producer, and how far I’ve come in my 10 years of Yellow Tail-catalyzed oenophilia, than by lining up two step-up bottles, each from highly respected multi-generational family wineries and legendary regions, and tasting them side-by-side?  It’s not about picking a winner — the mere fact that the exercise is possible is a win in and of itself — but I’m sure that won’t stop Jim Barry and Yalumba from exerting full effort in this battle of reds under screwcap.  Let the showdown from Down Under begin. Read the rest of this entry »

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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. Read the rest of this entry »





Wine Review: Jim Barry Value Red Showdown

13 01 2016

[These bottles were provided as samples for review purposes.]

I'm not making up the vertical/horizontal label dichotomy, right?  Totally something thematic there.

I’m not making up the vertical/horizontal label dichotomy, right? Totally something thematic there.

Australian wine is in sort of a weird place right now.  I first got into wine during the Great Shiraz Rush just over a decade ago, when critter wines ran rampant and the overtly ripe, sweet, boozy style and approachable branding of big-name Aussie Shiraz rolled over the global wine scene like a tsunami, spawning copycats galore and creating ripples that are only now just starting to settle.  The behemoth brands at the front of this wave are mostly still around today, and their bold, fruity, slightly concocted style certainly retains its share of popularity with casual drinkers, but the world has moved on to other phenomena and the scene in Australia seems caught in aftermath phase, not wanting to totally abandon what brought it to global prominence but understanding that its long-term prosperity is likely tied to being something more than liquor store filler.  The country is taking steps to avoid being a one-hit wonder, surprisingly churning out some of the best Riesling you’ve never tried, finding cooler pockets for Pinot Noir and (especially in Tasmania) sparkling wine, using its plentitude of remarkably old vines to its advantage, and dialling its Shiraz back a notch or two while still keeping it lush and appealing to New World palates.  It is also finding stronger and more quality-focused expressions of its value wines which are less industrial commodities and more genuine expressions of grape and place.  This is where Jim Barry comes in.

This family-owned producer is now run by second-generation executive winemaker Peter Barry, the son of eponymous founder Jim, who was the first qualified winemaker in South Australia’s Clare Valley, where the winery is based.  Its tailored lineup of wines runs the gamut from dynamite supermarket bargains (see below) to one of Australia’s very best and priciest bottles, The Armagh Shiraz (as experienced by me in one of my favourite tastings ever).  I was first converted to the Jim Barry cause a few years ago when I bought the Cover Drive Cabernet Sauvignon on a whim because of its circus-tent striping on the neck foil and the cricket player on the main label and was wowed by what I found inside.  I could be wrong, but by its participation in the JB value red duel below, I believe Cover Drive becomes the very first wine in PnP history to be reviewed in three separate vintages, following its write-ups here and here.  Can it hold off a spirited challenge from its neck-striped brother, the Lodge Hill Shiraz?  Let’s find out. Read the rest of this entry »





Wine Review: 2009 Jim Barry “Cover Drive” Cabernet Sauvignon

18 06 2012

The second vintage of Cover Drive featured on PnP…let’s see how they stack up against each other.

I went to the Costco liquor store this week, and as always when I walk into Costco, I walked out with a bottle of the Jim Barry “Cover Drive” Cab from South Australia, one of my favourite New World value wines.  When I first grabbed the bottle, I thought it was the same wine that I had previously reviewed back in November, but on closer inspection it was in fact a brand new vintage of Cover Drive, the 2009 (my reviewed bottle was the 2008).  This provided a golden opportunity to examine a question that I’m sure many casual wine drinkers ask themselves:  how much does vintage impact the flavour and quality of a wine?  Is there really a discernible difference between the 2008 and 2009 bottlings of a wine made from the same grapes grown in the same spots?  Most inexpensive wines are made to reflect a consistent flavour profile and style year over year, but my bet was that a quality producer like Jim Barry wouldn’t try to make his ’09 Cover Drive a clone of his ’08 and would retain some of the vintage variation arising out of the changes in weather patterns, sunlight, temperature, harvest dates and more between the two years.  To find out, I wrote up tasting notes for the 2009 CD without re-reading my 2008 review, and now I’m going to retro-compare the two bottles by lining up my 08 notes side by side with my impressions of the 09.  Hopefully this actually proves interesting.  Here goes! Read the rest of this entry »





Calgary Wine Life: Jim Barry “The Armagh” Tasting @ Bin 905

27 02 2012

[Cross-posted at www.calgaryisawesome.com]

In all its glory.

Nothing improves a good bottle of wine more than a good accompanying back-story, and I ended up at the Jim Barry Armagh tasting at Bin 905 in Mission on Friday night due to one of the best wine tales in my recent memory.  The Armagh Shiraz, one of Australia’s rarest, priciest and highest quality bottles, was named after the hamlet of Armagh adjoining the Clare Valley wine region in South Australia, a small village that was initially established by Irish settlers and named after the county of Armagh in Ireland…which in turn is where my friend Fiona was born.  Upon walking into Bin 905 and seeing a sign advertising an “Armagh” wine tasting, Fiona immediately grabbed a ticket for it and also ordered a bottle, not knowing that it cost around $250 and not caring when she found out.  Not one to turn down a chance to drink ludicrously expensive wine for a less-than-ludicrous price, and not being likely ever to come across a wine named after my homeland (the Jim Barry “Edmonton”?), I jumped at the chance to come along to the event. Read the rest of this entry »





Wine Review: 2008 Jim Barry “Cover Drive” Cabernet Sauvignon

2 11 2011

Oh right, did I mention this wine is cricket-themed? All the more reason to Costco it up.

Long time no speak!  I was shocked and appalled to discover that it’s been almost a full week since my last PnP post, but rest assured that I have not been wine-slacking:  after 17 hours spent in classroom for the WSET Advanced last weekend, I’ve been spending my weeknight evenings preparing for my exam next weekend by re-reading my textbook (which we were told we should do 4 times in the next 2 weeks.  The book is 300 pages long.).  The whole experience to date has been both more intense and more rewarding than the Intermediate course that I took in the summer; I walked in Saturday morning feeling intimidated and out of place and left on Sunday feeling like I actually belonged in the class, which was gratifying.  I also thanked my lucky stars for 8 months of doing Pop & Pour reviews, because we had to sample, evaluate and identify FORTY wines blind in two days using the WSET’s copyrighted Systematic Approach to Tasting, designed to allow someone to create a quick, consistent, (mostly) objective analysis of the main components of a wine and use that to formulate an opinion on the wine’s price, quality level and identity.  It’s fun for the first few times, but increasingly taxing as you hit wines #18 and 19 of the day.  To give you a sense of the WSET tasting method in action, I thought I would write up tonight’s wine using their proprietary method…just to ensure that I don’t get sued, let me clarify again that I did NOT invent this approach and am a mere student and user of the WSET’s brilliant taxonomy.

Read the rest of this entry »