By Franz Scheurer
I don’t know how he did it, but Nick Christie managed to get every vintage ever made of Jim Barry’s famous Armagh for a vertical tasting. A group of 17 dedicated winos met at est. and Peter Doyle matched the food to each bracket of wine and did a brilliant job.
Here are the wine tasting notes:
1985 – Very youthful and lots of volatile alcohol. Settles eventually in the glass, developing cigar boxy and leathery tastes.
1987 – Fantastically together and balanced. The fruit is still there and although the oak is noticeable it is not dominating the wine. On the palate there is lots of dark chocolate with a touch of vanilla and the finish is long and balanced.
1988 – Almost purple with spicy, Christmas pudding aromas it tastes more leathery and the fruit is almost gone. This wine has left its best years behind.
1989 – The last wine in the first bracket, this wine is the majority’s preferred wine. Good colour, high acidity promise at least another 20 years, matched by big, rich tannins. Personally I preferred the 1987
1990 – Deep purply red with an intense cassis aroma. On the palate it is obviously still very young with huge tannins and lots of oak and the cassis notes are confirmed. This is the majority’s preferred wine of the second bracket. Again, I disagreed and preferred the 1994.
1991 – It smells and tastes of very ripe fruit. Lots of portiness here, but in balance. Approachable now.
1992 – Quite a different Armagh. Much lighter in every aspect. Well integrated oak with Christmas pudding flavours predominating.
1993 – A cassis bomb. Black berries, more black berries and then more black berries. Everything else disappears into the background. It’s porty, full on liquorice and sweet oak. Unfortunately I’ll be never old enough to enjoy this wine at its best. Drink it in 40 years time and it will be brilliant!
1994 – Great colour with lots of chocolate on the nose. This wine is far more balanced and mature than any other in this bracket. Acid balances the fruit perfectly and the finish is long and very enjoyable.
1995 – Quite closed and reluctant to give up its secrets. Red berries caress the sweet oak, both confirmed on the palate. A sweetheart and my favourite in this bracket.
1996 – Far too young and green. At this stage all you smell is fruit and you taste a general steminess, which will no doubt integrate further with prolonged ageing.
1997 – This wine is closed, too, with the almost signature blackberry and cassis notes on the nose. Lots of oak, but fairly integrated. Savoury, almost pinot like characters underpin the fruit on the palate. This wine will age for a long time.
1998 – Plummy and full of strong, French oak aromas, both of which are confirmed on the palate. A bit too port-like for my liking.
1999 – Stylistically quite different (but very similar to the next 3 vintages) this is the Armagh I expect. Great colour, still very young, but integrated oak, rich chewy tannins and lots of fruit without being too berry.
2000 – The aromas remind me of Chinese Masterstock. Savoury, meaty with lots of liquorice root and star anise. Although on the dense, high alcohol side this is a very rich and glorious wine.
2001 – Probably the biggest wine in the line-up it is very young and will need a lot of cellaring to reach its full potential. This was the preferred wine by the majority in this bracket.
2002 – Luscious, ripe and fruity on the nose it surprises with very integrated oak and of course lots of blackberries. This wine is superbly in balance despite its young age.
When asked to nominate just one favourite, the majority settled on 1990
I just wish I could get my hands on another 1987…
Thanks to the brilliant staff at est. who excelled in the service stakes and to Peter Doyle for his fabulous food. It made a huge difference! And finally thanks to Nick Christie for putting on this event and to the Barry family for opening up their museum.