Wolf Blass has warned Australia it is in danger of confusing the public with a ‘fruit salad’ of grape varieties.
The veteran Australian winemaker, who turned 75 this week and whose biography has just been released, urged the industry to concentrate on producing the red varieties for which it is best known – Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon.
And it should make Riesling its benchmark white wine, the founder of the now Foster’s-owned Wolf Blass brand says.
He told decanter.com last week that Australia was in danger of making the same mistake as his county of birth, Germany, in ‘creating a fruit salad of grape varieties and confusing the public.’
He advocated ‘very little’ planting of the new varieties which are proliferating in Australia, and leaving Sauvignon Blanc to New Zealand.
‘We’d be absolutely mad to compete against Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand when the New Zealanders have about a 50% surplus,’ he said.
Blass called for a levy on winemakers to fund promotional programs designed to maintain Australia’s global market position.
Despite the current downturn, the industry was fundamentally sound but was suffering because there was no co-operative thinking.
‘We’ve got too many people in the industry not participating and putting money where it belongs,’ he said referring to about 2,000 wine producers who were not members of the 350-member Winemakers’ Federation of Australia.
‘If you are out of sight you are out of mind. No promotion and no propaganda, something terrible will happen. Nothing.’
Blass said he believed that Asia was a key to the Australian industry’s future.
He advocated tackling its markets with fermented pearl – or spritzig – wines – similar to those he and other winemakers produced in the 1960s and which are credited with converting Australians from being beer and fortified wine drinkers to table wine consumers.
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Written by Chris Snow in Adelaide