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Lumen Summer 2011 Issue
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A ripe legacy

When it comes to wine and education, there's one family name in South Australia that jumps to mind.

Raise your glasses to the Barrys.

Believed to the first family of third-generation University of Adelaide winemaking graduates, the Barry clan casts an immeasurable influence across the Australian industry.

Any discussion of the family starts with brothers Brian and the late Jim.

Their pioneering careers have been followed by Jim's son Peter, who is now managing director of Jim Barry Wines, and most recently by Peter's son - Jim's grandson - Tom, who has just started out on his career.

(Not to mention Brian's son, Jud, who also studied at Adelaide and who is now winemaker for his father's company, Brian Barry Wines.)

Such a winemaking lineage is even more remarkable, given the fortuitous circumstances under which both Brian and Jim entered the industry.

"Jim and I were very close," Brian said.
"When we were growing up in Murray Bridge we had a third, younger brother who died when he was eight and that brought us together.

"Jim was a couple of years older than me at high school in Adelaide but he suffered badly from rheumatic fever, so we ended up doing our Leaving year together.

"I stayed back a year at school to do my Leaving Honours, and Jim got a job up at Roseworthy College.

"The principal up there said to Jim: 'with your school marks, you should be doing some more studying', so Jim started in oenology in 1944.

"No-one before us in our family had any connection to wine before that.

"At the end of his first year in 1944, Jim started to wind me up about getting a scholarship at Roseworthy: 'you won't win one Brian, but it will be a good thing for you to do'.

"It was good-natured ribbing that brothers do to each other, so I went up and sat the scholarship exam.

"As it turned out, the scholarships weren't for winemaking but for animal husbandry and agriculture, so all the kids who went to Urrbrae and knew about those subjects won the scholarships.

"But no-one from the west coast of South Australia applied for the scholarship that was on offer for that region.

My exam marks were high enough to be offered an oenology scholarship.

"I think for both of us it was a case of being lucky enough to be in the right spot at the right time."

Jim - oenology graduate number 17 - and Brian - number 22 - used their new qualifications to embark on careers as trailblazers in Australia's burgeoning wine industry.

Jim became the first qualified winemaker to work in the Clare Valley, working for Clarevale Cooperative before setting up Jim Barry Wines with wife Nancy in the late 1950s.

Brian worked briefly for Hamiltons on graduation before beginning a long and illustrious career at the Berri Cooperative.

Between them, Brian and Jim won hundreds of national and international awards for their wines, including Brian's Jimmy Watson Trophy in 1973 for a 1972 Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz blend.

Brian was also prominent as one of the country's best wine judges; a vocation he said he took up to help him improve as a winemaker.

"I figured that if I was going to improve as a winemaker, I had to understand what other winemakers were doing and the best way to do that was to be a judge," he said.

"You were exposed to a lot more wine and were able to pick up different ideas about how to go about it. I really enjoyed it and learned a lot from judging."

Jim's son Peter graduated from Roseworthy with a Bachelor of Applied Science (Oenology) in 1985.

In contrast to his father, he grew up surrounded by wine and winemaking and developed an appreciation for the family business from a young age.

One of the most important lessons Peter took on board as he learned the craft was to nurture the personal relationships that came from such a career.

"I enjoyed the wine business as my father enjoyed it. There were always interesting people for conversation," he said.

"The degree at Roseworthy gave me a great education and the basis for what we have developed as a company today.

"It also gave me a much bigger perspective of wine and people. It gave me lifetime friends, just not acquaintances."

Going out on his own wasn't ever a question for Peter.

"I didn't ever wish to create my own brand," he said. "I was lucky enough to be part of a winemaking family, enjoying being a new part of the family history.

"After I graduated and started visiting wine shows, it became obvious how much my father was respected within the industry by the people who came up to greet him - blokes like Max Schubert, Wolf Blass and Peter Lehmann.

"I have been very lucky to be able to study at Roseworthy as well as learn directly from one of the best winemakers in the country.

"I would learn little lessons from him most days, from wine and vineyards, to life lessons.

"One of the most important things I learned was to independently assess: don't jump to the conclusion, but ask the question and assess."

Since taking over from his father as managing director of the company in 1985, Peter has overseen the company's expansion of its vineyards to more than 245 hectares in the Clare Valley (and another 30 hectares in the Coonawarra region), with their wines now available in 25 countries.

Also following in his father's and grandfather's footsteps is Peter's son, Tom, who graduated in Oenology (while based at the Waite Campus) in early 2010.

His childhood was surrounded by winemaking, without it being forced upon him.

"Growing up in a wine family seemed very normal to me and I definitely didn't see myself as being any different from the other kids in Clare," he said.

"I think this says a lot about how my grandparents raised their children and how Mum and Dad raised us.

"Although we were constantly surrounded by wine, whether that be when we were helping out in the winery and vineyards during the school holidays for pocket money, or having dinner with the many journalists who passed through Clare, we were never forced to take an interest. These things were just part of our life, in the same way that washing the car or mowing the lawn is for other children.

"That said, when you are surrounded by something, it is hard not to take an interest. As I got older my understanding of wine and the wine industry developed and I gradually began to realise what a blessing it was to be born into the Barry clan. Since then, I really haven't looked back."

Tom is a junior winemaker with Jim Barry Wines, and spent much of 2010 as an ambassador for the company, travelling to the US and Europe to meet distributors and customers, and spreading the word on the diversity and quality of Australian wine.

He is currently taking part in a vintage at renowned German Riesling producer Dr Loosen, based in the Mosel Valley.

"It's another luxury afforded to me through working for the family business - I'm able to grow my knowledge and skill base by doing vintages around the world and then bringing these different techniques and ideas home," he said.

"I truly believe that great wineries have stories and history behind them; I'm very proud to make wine in my Grandpa's name.

"With so many family-owned wineries having had to sell to the big corporate companies, I am humbled to have the opportunity to work for my family and continue the Jim Barry legacy," he said. ■

Story Ben Osborne

Peter (left) and brother John Barry in their family’s Clare vineyard. John is also an alumnus of the University of Adelaide, graduating with an Associate Diploma in Farm Management in 1991.
Photo by Bruce Lloyd

Peter (left) and brother John Barry in their family's Clare vineyard. John is also an alumnus of the University of Adelaide, graduating with an Associate Diploma in Farm Management in 1991.
Photo by Bruce Lloyd

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Brian Barry with just two of the many hundreds of trophies he won in a 65-year career.
Photo courtesy of Brian and Jud Barry

Brian Barry with just two of the many hundreds of trophies he won in a 65-year career.
Photo courtesy of Brian and Jud Barry

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Tom Barry.

Tom Barry.
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The Barry family at their Clare vineyard (from left): Sam, Tom, Susan, Peter and Olivia Barry.
Photos by Don Brice

The Barry family at their Clare vineyard (from left): Sam, Tom, Susan, Peter and Olivia Barry.
Photos by Don Brice

Full Image (158.04K)


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