We had a party a few weeks back and ended up with a bunch of bottles brought by friends, including a decent Riesling and a very nice Fiano. We also ended up with a few bottles of sparkling wine. Sparkling wine around our house is a bit tricky, in that we only tend to open it on special occasions. So right now we have three bottles of bubbles waiting for such an occasion, but rather than just letting them accumulate we decided that opening a bottle of sparkling wine can be it’s own occasion, which brings us to Jim Barry The Nancy 2006.
First off, I have to say that this is not a wine I would have been likely to buy on my own. The combination of the colour, the clear bottle, the crown cap, and the absence of any information about the wine on the labels is typically aimed at a different target market. That said, not only was there nothing wrong with this wine, but in fact it was quite nice. Unfortunately, I don’t know that I’m going to have as much to say about the region, grapes and company as I would ordinarily prefer, but I still think this is worth describing.
Jim Barry Wines is a family run business, one of the foremost wine companies in the Clare Valley, where the eponymous founder has a historic role in the modernization of the region. Like so many prominent figures in Australian wine, he studied at Roseworthy, and was the 17th qualified winemaker to graduate, and the first to work in the Clare Valley in 1946. He worked in Clare, first with the Clarevale Co-operative (where he met Nancy, who went on to become his wife shortly thereafter and whose name graces this bottle), and then with Taylors, while also building up a set of his own vineyard holdings which now exceed 200 hectares. He passed away in 2004 but the business is carried on through his family, in particularly Peter James Barry and Nancy. With holdings throughout Clare, they have produce at least 15 different wines, primarily based on Riesling, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz, with some Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Malbec, and this Pinot Noir thrown into the mix. Their flagship wine is “The Armagh”, a Shiraz that is among the most sought after in Australia according to Langton’s who put it in their “Outstanding” category.
I’ve talked a bit about the Clare Valley, and rather than further discuss soils and climate, here’s a fun fact. The Clare Valley was settled largely by the Irish, and there is an area named Armagh, after Armagh of County Armagh in what is now Northern Ireland. (Clare itself is another county in the Republic of Ireland.) The Jim Barry flagship is named in honor of the Irish settlers of 1849. This is in marked contrast to the Barossa Valley, geographically close, but with prominent German roots. It might have been easier to keep straight if they had swapped, and the Germany has settled the area in which great Riesling is grown, but nevermind. If you’re in South Australia and want to know which area, find a church. If it’s Catholic, you’re in the Clare Valley. If it’s Lutheran, you’re in the Barossa Valley. If it’s been converted into a nightclub, you’re in Adelaide.
As far as grapes go, this is a straight Pinot Noir sparkling rosé. At some point, I’ll talk about the different ways to make rosé, probably the next time I cover a pink sparkler because they have their own special rules, but this is not a wine about which we need to think too technically.
This wine is all about the drinking. I know that sounds a bit naff, but this was made by Peter James Barry for his mother Nancy, not as a stunning technical achievement, but as something he thought she would enjoy drinking with her friends as they played their weekly card games. The notes are not about how the wine was made, but about Nancy herself.
In the glass, it is just as you see it through the bottle – pretty. I put it somewhere between pink and salmon, while the official tasting notes call it salmon pink. Fair enough. It has big, fast moving bubbles. On the nose it’s quite delicate – patisserie, a little biscuit (but not big, serious Champagne biscuit), and some strawberries. On the palate, it is more lemon and green apple, with the strawberries playing a much smaller role. There’s a hint of sweetness – not a sweet style, but just a hint. The acidity is good – mild for a sparkler, but more than you would typically get from a non-sparkling rosé. Crisp is how I could describe it.
This is not the most serious sparkling wine you’re likely to encounter this year, but that’s obvious even before the crown cap is off. But I think this wine is a success in that it hits the mark brilliantly in terms of being a light, refreshing sparkling wine that’s very easy to drink. It’s completely unpretentious. The bubbles suggest that it was not made in a strict traditional method, as does the price, but I wouldn’t hold that against it. While I enjoy drinking serious, indeed sometimes challenging sparkling wines, this one was very good at the less serious end of the spectrum. And if my mother were after a glass of bubbles, I think she’d enjoy this much more than a wine I’d normally buy.