Some time ago I was invited to lunch in Bath with a smattering of other regional wine merchants and restaurateurs to meet Sam Barry – scion of the family and a budding Captain Haddock lookalike – and to taste a range of wines from the venerable Jim Barry winery. (James Halliday's 2020 Winery of the Year.)
Flagship of the Barry range is the mighty Armagh Shiraz: a wine that has risen in price to well north of £100 a bottle. We finished up by tasting several vintages of that wine and they were all interesting enough. But what really excited me was their range of white wines, including the first commercially-bottled Australian Assyrtiko. As is typical of Assyrtiko, it showed excellent varietal character and something unique that one could only feel was a communication from its own particular patch of earth.
But then, the Riesling. Oh boy. We sampled the 2016 vintage of a wine called La Florita, the fruit for which is grown on terra rossa and loam soils in that classic Aussie source of the grape: the Clare Valley.
Frankly, I was startled by the quality; less so to learn that the winery refers to La Florita as their super-premium Riesling bottling. It was a wine that encapsulated all that is fantastical and scintillating about this most senior of white varietals, as well as revealing the lofty heights Australian examples can attain.
And now Julia Harding MW has published her tasting notes on jancisrobinson.com of a vertical presentation of the wine and it has stirred me into action. To say that she enthused is undercooking the situation.
I urge anyone having even a passing liking for Riesling to have a nibble here. Hell, even those who favour a dry white wine of the utmost quality should give this offer a serious look.
N.B. In addition to the 2016 vintage that I tasted, I am offering the 2017 bottling (a wine that Julia scores yet more highly than the already very generously-marked 2016), as well as magnums of the 2014. And I include Julia’s notes for all wines:
2017 Riesling La Florita, Jim Barry Wines
£141 in bond per 6 Drink 2024-2035
“Watery white. Tight and precise with citrus on the nose and austere but balanced on the palate. So mouth-watering and delicate even though it has great intensity. Long and totally embryonic 12.5%..” Julia Harding MW
2016 Riesling La Florita, Jim Barry Wines
£156 in bond per 6 Drink 2022-2032
“Very cool and well-defined aromas majoring on citrus: lime and lemon and grapefruit. There’s something mineral about the nose, too - a piquant freshness – as well as herbal notes of lime leaves and mint. Palate is dry and lively, with an airy quality within. Flavours are also on citrus fruit, especially lemon and lime and there’s a good earthy texture at the core. Firm acid structure here and really notable length. This is a direct and lively wine with a fine mineral core of structure including that lime juice acidity. Just stunning.” My note
“More spicy than the 2014. Dusty lime and delicate on the nose. Precise and driven citrus palate, a bit one-dimensional at the moment but with plenty of promise with this depth and intensity of fruit. 11.3%.”
2014 Riesling La Florita, Jim Barry Wines
£165 in bond per 3 magnums Drink 2022-2034
“From magnum. Very pale. Tight and limey on the nose and palate. Super-crisp and tight on the palate. Tastes dry and has the density of fruit to give impressive length. Still primary flavours. Mouth-wateringly precise. Barely showing any development and would be a shame to drink this now. 12.1%.” Julia Harding MW