“Syrah Is A Tough Sell”?? Nonsense!!!

Imagine you are a Red Wine Drinker. How does this sound for taste descriptors? Dark berries, plums, smoke, leather, tar, meaty, spicy, oak, long finish. Sounds like the perfect wine for a “Cabernet Drinker”. I am describing the various expressions of the grape Syrah or as they call it in Australia, Shiraz. Yes, Captain Washington is very biased towards Washington State Syrah. In fact I think I can say that I believe that is the best grape that comes from there. I would love to recommend one from a wine retailer or at a restaurant around the country, but the sad news is, unless I am the Sommelier at that establishment you won’t find many from Washington or California or France or Australia. The reason they will tell you is that “Syrah is a Tough Sell”. The answer I will say to that is ….Nonsense!. Bottles don’t talk as I have said before. There is no Cabernet Drinker if presented by flavor profile and not by grape or by brand name who would say NO to a Syrah! In fact, when I worked at the Brazilian Restaurant, I sold more Syrah, Australian and Washington State and even Italian, than any other grape. The saddest decline I see in Syrah is Australia. Yes, Australian Shiraz is hardly represented anymore or purchased and they are amazing wines. This brings me to the pioneer of Clare Valley in South Australia Jim Barry and his family.

Meet The Barry Family From Clare Valley

Jim Barry And Nancy

Jim Barry commenced his wine career by studying Oenology (wine science) at Roseworthy Agricultural College in 1944 Jim and Nancy met when he was boarding in Clare while working at the Clarevale Co-operative. He proposed just six weeks later and they were married in 1950. They started purchasing vineyards in 1964. In 1974 the first “home-made” wines were produced at a new winery built on a hill behind Burton Cottage, with a spectacular outlook over the picturesque northern Clare Valley. In 1977 they purchased the 329 acre (133ha) Lodge Hill property, historically known as Wolta Wolta. Winemaking was passed on from generation to generation.

Meet Current Winemaker Tom Barry

Jim Barry sadly passed away in Clare in 2004 and was recently honored with a “Legends Hall of Fame” award at the 2014 Clare Valley Gourmet Weekend. Fortunately, Nancy continues to play an important role in the everyday running of the business.

Tom Barry

Tom Barry is a third generation winemaker at Jim Barry Wines. He graduated from the University of Adelaide Waite Campus (formally Roseworthy Agricultural Collage) with the same degree in Oenology that his late grandfather Jim received sixty-three years earlier and his father in 1985. Jim Barry Wines is the first family owned winery in Australia to have three generations of Roseworthy/Waite graduates.

2015 Jim Barry “Lodge Hill” Shiraz, Clare Valley

Clare Valley MapAs you can see on the map, Clare valley is part of the Adelaide. It is closer to the water than Barossa Valley but still inland and further north.


The Lodge Hill Shiraz vineyard, on the Clare Valley’s eastern ranges, has soils of rich, chocolatey loam over almost vertical sheets of rock. The cracks between the rock have filled with soil, providing passage for the vine roots and free drainage – the ideal environment for low-yielding Shiraz vines.

The Review

Jim Barry Shiraz Front

Jim Barry Shiraz Rear

Jim Barry Glass

The color is one of the most beautiful deep magenta hues I have seen in awhile. The wine is aged in a combination of French and American Oak. The ABV which I think is accurately and honestly reported here is 14.5%. On the nose extremely aromatic with dark red and black berries, some cassis and strong backdrop aromas of cloves, violets for days, and the rarest piece of eye round beef coming out of the oven. There also, thanks to the use of American Oak ,some green herbs, specifically dill, almost pickle barrel in the background. Finally an Australian Version of Syrah with some green notes…love it!.  On the palate this is intense like many Australian wines but this one has elegance despite the power. Very juicy from start to finish. It goes from mid-palate to the back palate with a burst of blackberries, plums, cassis and vanilla finishing with dusty tannins that are integrated nicely and a sweet spice yet dash of grassy undertones for the finale. It’s very lip smacking good without that heaviness that some higher priced Aussie Shiraz’s can be. A solid 3.5 on the ph levels and solid balanced acidity throughout. I dig this wine. I will say the green notes might be off putting to some and the clove as well but for the majority of red wine drinkers who have a frame of mind that Aussie Shiraz is all giant jam bombs this will be a winner. Wine and Spirits Magazine scored this wine 92 points and I am going to go 1 point lower at 91 for the slight overuse of American Oak.

The Summary

At $17.99 I can’t see anyone who has enjoyed any Red Wine not liking this. Tom Barry you made your Great Grandfather proud! It is screaming for something with BBQ sauce on it or smoked meats. I just had it with some sliced Organic, Smoked Cilantro and Lime Chicken Sausage dipped in a medium spicy BBQ sauce and it was a perfect pairing. I was singing , “I want my baby backs, baby backs, baby backs” Clare Valley is a special place. Tom Barry was a special man and The Lodge Hill Vineyard is certainly a special place for bringing back interest in the Grape Syrah.

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