The premium tasting included the Platinum, the Grey and the Black Label (four times winner of Australia’s most prestigious wine award, the Jimmy Watson Trophy – three of them on Chris’s watch).
Wolf Blass dominated Australian wine shows in the 70s and 80s and Chris had originally intended joining WB for just five years to learn the secret of its success. Something must have gone right for this is Chris’s 24th vintage with Wolf Blass….
One of the most successful wine brands in the world today, its Luxury releases have also garnered some of the world’s most coveted trophies and awards. Fittingly for a review of the Luxury range, the tasting and lunch were held at Restaurant Patrick Gilbaud and included past vintages of Black Label as well as the new 2007 release Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz Malbec, representing the 35th consecutive vintage of this iconic label.
Platinum Label Shiraz 2005 and 2008 were also featured, as was a preview of the new Grey Label Shiraz Cabernet 2009, to be with us early next year. Interestingly, Grey Label was the first wine ever made by Wolfgang Blass in 1966-67, establishing the Wolf Blass range. Some time later, Yellow Label was introduced.
Chris explained the different medallion labels thus: “Platinum and Grey concentrate on region and variety etc whereas Black seeks to fuse the best of this wine type”.
Wolfgang celebrated his 77th birthday last September and it was felt fitting that the winery should now use the occasion each year to release new Luxury wines such as those we tasted:
Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz Malbec 2004, the 35th consecutive vintage, sits amongst the best Australian vintages (along with 2002 and 1998). In screwcap format (as are all of WB’s wines now), the first WB wines were put into screwcaps in 2001.
Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz 2005 won a trophy for being the Best Wine Export from Australia. The first vintage was made in 1973 and volumes can vary from 500 cases to 2,500 cases depending on quality each year. This wine came out very well in tastings despite emerging under the dazzle of an excellent 2004 vintage which few thought could be surpassed, claimed Chris.
“It just keeps winning wine contests and has just won a gold at this year’s Adelaide Show,” he said. Perhaps it’s the more balanced character of this wine that wins it so many prizes.
Grey Label Shiraz Cabernet 2009 is a “once-off” wine. This resulted from Australia’s ‘drought’ that year (coupled with high salt levels in both Longhorn Creek and McLaren Vale).
The wine reflects Wolfgang’s advice to Chris once that, “What’s in the glass has to be of the quality of each of the tiers of the wine” and this one-off wine seemed good at the time. However it was only decided to release it following approbation from the Australian wine trade who tasted what was no more than a curiosity at the time. It will be here in the New Year.
Black Label Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 also resulted from a ‘dry’ year and became the first wine to spend a year in WB’s new cellaring system.
“There’s a lot of Adelaide Hills in this wine,” commented Chris.
Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz Malbec 2007 is released four years after vintage following a process of carefully-monitored bottle and barrel maturation.
Platinum Label Shiraz 2005 was released simply because Chris thought the wine was “too good to waste on blending”. A predecessor, the 1998 Shiraz won an IWSC Award. Chris had originally intended to make Platinum the best Barossa Shiraz of the vintage (eg the ’98 and ’99) but Platinum has come to represent “the best Barossa Valley wine Shiraz we can make”. It’s a powerful wine and Chris describes it as “the unsung hero vintage”. A small batch, it’s all about the vineyard, he says.
Platinum Label Shiraz 2008 was matured for 22 months in new French oak barriques, the final blend being enhanced with a small component of fine elegant fruit from the higher altitude, cooler Eden Valley foothills.
All in all, this range of wines goes to show, as Chris put it, “… that Wolf Blass is not all about Red Label and Yellow Label”.