Image credit: Jim Barry Wines

Jim Barry Wines

The very definition of a family owned and operated winery
Image credit: Jim Barry Wines
5 minutes

Jim Barry is an Australian wine legend with a list of achievements as long as the finish on his Clare Valley wines. Jim was the region’s first qualified winemaker. He helped define the region as one of Australia’s best for Riesling, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon at the Clarevale Cooperative. Jim was also vital in establishing one of the region’s great wineries, Taylors. And he did all this before he started the Jim Barry winery in 1974.

With Jim Barry Wines, Jim built up a global reputation for quality and innovation in the vineyard and in the winery. Today, two generations of the Barry family ensure this legacy will grow and continue long into the future. From Jim’s son and Managing Director, Peter, to Peter’s children Tom, Sam and Olivia who occupy a variety of roles, this is well and truly a family affair. In a little over two generations they’ve gone from Jim’s first ‘home-made’ wines to one of Australia’s First Families of Wine alongside the Henschkes, Tyrrells and Brown Brothers. But they aren’t resting on these laurels, rather they are continuing to innovate and challenge the status quo to ensure the legend of Jim Barry Wines will grow around the world.

From father to son – From Jim Barry to Peter Barry

Peter Barry has been involved with Jim Barry Wines from the very beginning. That’s no surprise when your father is already gaining a reputation as a local legend in the wine game. Peter knew from a young age that he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and the nascent Jim Barry winery was the perfect place for him to do this.

1977 was Peter’s first year of official work in the winery, just three short years after Jim’s first vintage. Peter loved the hustle and bustle of vintage life. His father instilled in him the value of a good education to support his passion for wine, so Peter headed off to complete an Oenolgy Degree at the University of Adelaide.

Peter returned to the winery in 1982 and has been helping to shape the style of the wines ever since. Peter innately understood the style of wines his father loved. He built on these by adding his own style and his own flair. Over the years Peter has added vineyards, wines and marketing nous without ever losing the fine wine core established by Jim.

When a succession plan works better than you could ever expect

Jim Barry knew within a few short years of setting up his winery that his legacy would be carried on by his son, Peter. He didn’t need to wait years to find out whether or not someone in his family would be interested in carrying on his life’s work. It was a different story for Peter. As soon as he had children he was able to wonder if any of them would be as passionate about a life in wine as he was. Would any of the Barry children be keen to carry on Jim’s legacy? 

There was no need to worry. Growing up amongst the vines in one of Australia’s most beautiful wine regions has had a deep impact on all three of Peter’s children. Each has picked up a passion in a different area of the wine game: winemaking, sales/marketing and communications. Peter couldn’t have planned it any better if he had tried.

Tom Barry is the oldest of Peter’s children and was the first to get bitten by the wine bug. He went to boarding school in Adelaide but couldn’t wait to get back home to the Clare Valley in the holidays to work in the vineyards and winery. After finishing school, he headed to the same university that his father and grandfather had attended to complete his studies in oenology. The Barry family winery became the first to ever have three generations of winemakers graduate from the Roseworthy/Waite school, a wonderful achievement given the storied place of the school in Australian winemaking.

All of this is fine and dandy, but what really matters is the quality of the wines that you make. You could understand if Tom felt a little pressure to match up to the high standards set by his father and grandfather. If he did, it hasn’t shown. Tom has taken the signature Riesling wines at Jim Barry to another level. He’s added to the range of red wines and seen the reputation for these classic Australian wine styles grow.

‘Today, my children inspire the style of wines and the brand. Every generation has the opportunity to see the vision of where they want to go in their lifetime of working. It’s a job we take on for the rest of our lives and we are lucky to have that opportunity.’

Peter Barry, General Manager, Jim Barry Wines

Sam Barry was the next one to fall for the wine game. For Sam, it was the business of wine that captured his imagination. Sam still loves helping out during the vintage and has worked in some of the world’s great wine regions, but his heart is in the commercial side of wine. Rather than studying winemaking, Sam studied accounting and finance as part of a Commerce degree. While it’s not as romantic as vines and winemaking it is vitally important to ensure that wine lovers around the world get to enjoy what you produce.

While they don’t give out trophies or gold medals for Commercial Managers, Sam has been earmarked as a future leader of the Australian wine community. In 2015 Sam was selected to participate in the Australian wine community’s peak personal and professional leadership program. The aptly named ‘Future Leaders’ program is designed for the next crop of those who are ready to step up and take their businesses and our sector to the next level. The future is looking bright for Sam and for Jim Barry Wines.

Last but by no means least is Peter’s daughter, Olivia. The youngest of the Barry children, Olivia developed a passion for wine working at the cellar door during high school. This love led to a degree in Communications and Media Management at the University of Adelaide, completing the wine sector bingo card for Peter. Olivia has travelled the world as an ambassador sharing the Jim Barry story. She’s helped bring loads of new fans to the fold and helped to ensure that Jim Barry Wines thrives at home and in the 25 countries they export to around the world.

Jim Barry Wines – The very definition of a family owned and operated winery

Family owned wineries are a vitally important part of the Australian wine community. They’ve been responsible for some of our greatest wines and our most important innovations. The Barry family is no exception. They’ve planted and produced Australia’s first Assyrtiko. They’ve been leaders in single vineyard and micro bottlings of exceptional parcels of Riesling from their Florita and Lodge Hill vineyards. They’ve built the Armagh vineyard, planted by Jim Barry in 1968, into one of Australia’s most renowned for long lived Shiraz.

So much has been achieved in the last forty or so years. Now with Tom, Sam and Olivia slowly but surely taking the reins from their multi-skilled father you’d be foolish to bet against the next generation of Barrys. The distinguished history of quality and innovation that started in the 1970s with a small batch of ‘home-made’ wines made by Jim Barry will grow and grow. Jim would be damn proud of how his truly delicious legacy is blossoming.


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