A trifecta for Riesling lovers – clos Clare

Readers will have seen that we focused the wonderful Rieslings of Vickery recently. And also those of LoosenBarry. Now, the trifecta for lovers of that amazing grape and it is all tied up together. 

The local guys behind the LoosenBarry are the Barry brothers, Sam and Tom, sons of well known Clare maker, Peter, and grandsons of the famous Jim of the eponymous Jim Barry Estate. 

Tom & Sam

Sam and Tom also do their own thing, clos Clare. It has an illustrious history and has been under the brothers’ control for over a decade, allowing them to make their stellar Riesling. 

So what is the connection to Vickery?

The legend of John Vickery largely revolves around the astonishingly good Rieslings he made, many from a vineyard known as the ‘Florita Vineyard’ in the Watervale region of the Clare. These were for Leo Buring and Leonay. As I mentioned elsewhere, two of the greatest tastings I have ever attended were verticals of these wines. Truly amazing. Tragically, few of these wines still exist and those that do are mostly borderline dodgy, thanks to the substandard seal offered by corks of the era. 

The Florita vineyard was originally purchased by Leo Buring, a wine merchant, back in the forties. As mentioned, it is located in the Watervale district of the Clare Valley, which is at the southern end of that region. It was planted, not with Riesling but with grapes destined to make sherry – hence the name, ‘Florita’ – Pedro Ximenez and Palomino. John Vickery has been quoted as saying that there was also a little of what was called Clare Riesling at the time (Crouchen), as well as Trebbiano and Shiraz. 

Buring also built a winery at Tanunda in the Barossa Valley, which was called ‘Chateau Leonay’ – it is now called Richmond Grove. In 1955, a young John Vickery, just out of Roseworthy College, joined the operation. He made both table and fortified wines, especially sherries (one of which was the first wine to ever have ‘Florita’ on the label). 

In 1961, at the age of 85, Leo Buring passed away and a year later, Lindeman’s bought the business and vineyards. Vickery remained as winemaker. And Riesling was in the ground. 

The Leo Buring Rieslings kicked off in 1963. Over the next 35 years, they won 50 trophies and 400 gold medals. And at the heart of these wines was the fabulous Florita Vineyard. 

However, during the corporate two-step which plagued the Australian wine industry during the 80’s, Philip Morris, now the owners of Lindeman’s, was selling the family silver. Astonishingly, the Florita Vineyard was part of the assets to go. 

It was not a time of endless riches for the wine industry but Peter Barry was all too aware of what a treasure this vineyard was and he managed to juggle the funds sufficiently to add it to the family portfolio. However, they needed to make some sales themselves to keep it. There was a house on the property and so it, and five of the 80 acres, were sold to a local artist, Ian Sanders. It was Sanders who created clos Clare in 1993. His wines were made by Jeff Grosset. clos Clare was sold to Noel Kelly in 1996. Grosset and the guys from O’Leary Walker continued to make the wines. 

In 2007, it was offered back to Peter and he, with Sam and Tom, were only too happy to grab it. Jim Barry Estate offers a Florita Riesling, always one of Australia’s finest, and clos Clare offer their Watervale Riesling from their small corner of the vineyard. 

Their latest, the clos Clare Riesling 2019 ($25) won Best Riesling at the National Show in 2019. Deservedly so. This was a warmer vintage than usual (expect to hear that far more than you might wish over coming years). There are white florals, jasmine, lovely aromatics, spices, grapefruit and limes. A hint of pineapple and underlying minerals. Impressive length and appealing, gentle acidity. A little more forward than some but will still age well. 93. 

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