By JOHN ROZENTALS
WINE: 04 MAY 2016
Wolf Blass ... a genuine, larger-than-life Australian wine-industry legend
Wolf Blass sold his winery and label some 25 years ago, but the corporate owners, these days Treasury Wine Estate, always seem to have retained him as the brand’s champion.
And that’s hardly surprising because the generally bow-tied Wolf is one of the Australian wine industry’s few larger-than-life legends and has one of the most recognisable faces around. Even his own version of Teutonic English is charming.
Wolfgang Franz Otto Blass arrived in the Barossa Valley from Germany as a young winemaker in 1961 and a few years later started his eponymous winery.
Between 1974 and 1976 the master red blender really hit the jackpot by winning a hat-trick of Jimmy Watson Trophies, awarded annually for the best one-year-old dry red at the Royal Melbourne Wine Show.
So effusively and effectively did he promote that considerable success that there were observers who reckoned he built the trophy’s reputation as much as it built his.
Blass has always had an eye for, and a way with, the ladies. One of his most famous quotes is: “My wines will make weak men strong and strong women weak.”
His other great passion was and remains model trains, and he apparently has a magnificent collection of rolling stock, tracks and accessories set up in his home.
I remember one year at the Royal Hobart Wine Show tasting, he had just brought a beautiful whistle that imitated the sound made by an old-fashioned steam train. He and I bemused quite a few tasters with our toot-toots across the room.
Anyway, TWE has just released five new wines under the Blass and Blass Noir labels, and it’s certainly appropriate that one of them, the Blass 2014 Black Cassis Cabernet Sauvignon hails from South Australia’s Langhorne Creek, a region, which I seem to recall, was instrumental in those three consecutive Jimmy Watsons.
Blass 2014 Black Spice Barossa Shiraz ($22): Here’s everything a shiraz at this price should be ... a glass of rich, soft, medium-to-full-bodied dry red with lashings of dark berry and spice flavours.
Typically of the Blass label, there’s also a touch of elegant wood winding its way through some restrained tannins.
Blass 2015 Noir Adelaide Hills Chardonnay ($35): Wolf Blass’s personal winemaking reputation rested heavily on his outstanding touch as a red-wine blender, but, of course, corporate reality dictates that the label also graces some very fine whites.
The coolish Adelaide Hills produce some great chardonnays and this complex dry white, with fruit flavours and peaches and melons leading the way, is an excellent example.
There’s plenty of winemaking sophistication in the creamy texture of the palate and the restrained presence of new French oak, which enables it to sit comfortably between the extremes of the big, oaky, buttery chardonnays of yesteryear and some of the more modern fruit-only versions.
Blass 2014 Noir Barossa Valley Shiraz ($35): Really, just take my description of the Blass 2014 Black Spice Barossa Shiraz (see above), ramp it up by several notches and you’ll get the drift regarding this dry red, which moves quite definitely into the full-bodied rating.
I love the rich, plummy fruit flavours, the nuances of freshly roasted coffee and the skilful blending of fruit and French oak. A yummy red quite suited to a special dinner with, as the winemakers suggest, roast duck legs or char-grilled kangaroo fillets.
Bremerton 2015 Mollie & Merle Verdelho ($17): I’m really impressed by the crunchy texture of this clean, crisp, very modern dry white.
It’s made unashamedly for drinking young so drink it on warm days now and throughout next spring and summer, either on its own as an aperitif or with simple dishes such as grilled fish or chicken salad.
Bremerton 2015 Special Release Fiano ($24): Fiano is an Italian white grape variety grown principally in the south of the country so it should be well suited to the warmth of Langhorne Creek.
Like many Italian wines themselves, this dry white’s great feature is its texture or mouthfeel rather than aromatic finery, so it’s designed principally for consumption with food.
In this case, there’s certainly enough body to match it with white-sauced pasta dishes.
Bremerton 2014 Special Release Tempranillo Graciano ($24): Two of Spain’s most popular red varieties come together for this medium-bodied dry red defined largely by the firm backbone behind its attractive juicy character.
Tempranillo is the basis for the great reds from the Spanish region of Rioja and, like them, this wine is a cellaring proposition as well as providing a fine match immediately for char-grilled beef.