Published on July 19th, 2011 | by ladyparker0
Straight-Shootin’ Blass: Wolf Blass Black Label 1991
Wolfgang Blass. He’s not as ferocious as he sounds. In fact he’s renown for wearing radiantly coloured bow-ties and is always prepared to laugh at himself. Perhaps this is why he’s one of the most generally liked faces in the wine industry, despite reason for envy. Having sold his eponymous wine company firstly to Mildara in 1991, which in turn was purchased by brewing giant Foster’s in 1996 for $A560 million, roughly three decades of dedication to producing approachable, quality wines and distinctive marketing preceded him. Moreover, indicative of his hard-working nature in his 70′s he still fronts the brand.
Arriving as an emigrant to Australia from East Germany in the 1950’s, Blass was armed with nothing more than a winemaking degree and experience of vintages in Europe. Championing his trademark ambition he scraped together enough money to buy up 2.5 acres of land in the Barossa Valley in 1966, and as a red wine tyro, began to craft a wine style that would revolutionize the Australian wine industry.
The pinnacle of Blass’ success came with the hat-trick Jimmy Watson trophy wins from 1974 – 1976 with Wolf Blass Black Label, led by winemaking baron John Glaetzer. This triumph was to be repeated for the 1998 Black Label – four wins is absolutely an unrivalled feat. The formula for Black Label it seems is brilliantly simple – take the best parcels of fruit from around South Australia, predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon, often with a trace of another red variety, and blend. The practice of blending different parcels and varieties from sub-regions, alongside his devout use of oak to soften harsh tannins, truly was one of Blass’ greatest gifts to Australian winemaking.
Although not a Jimmy Watson trophy winner, the Wolf Blass Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz 1991 was an exceptional vintage.
The high notes surprise with their enthusiastic resonation – there’s dark brambly fruit, and a wonderfully expressive bitumen, leather, and cigar box aromas. The secondary aromas from bottle age are enticing which nullifies the slightly developed nature of the wine. There is eucalypt present but it’s not running rampant. The palate is soft, with fine integrated tannins and good length… and fascinatingly it is only 12.5% alcohol. Blass is clearly a believer in wines without silly alcohol levels, recently stating that no table wine with an alcohol level over 15% should be awarded a medal… ever.
The baroque Black Label is classic, it flaunts a wine style well-suited but perhaps despondently different to what is produced in South Australia. It’s not too big, but it is full-bodied and expressive. Nor is it unsympathetic to one’s level of sobriety. Let’s just hope that the new brewery-charged winemaking team, reigned over by winemaker Chris Hatcher can maintain this satisfyingly distinctive and inspiriting wine style, and for all the right reasons continue Blass’ aim of ensuring Blass wines ”make strong women weak and weak men strong.”
Food Suggestion: beef fillet or steak simply grilled.
Wolf Blass Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz 1991