Sarah Ahmed tastes a vertical of Wolf Blass' flagship Black Label to mark 50 years since 'Wolfy' started making wine in Australia...
Scroll down to see Sarah’s top Wolf Blass Black Label vintages
Wolfgang Franz Otto Blass created a Cabernet-Shiraz, Australian wine legend when he launched Wolf Blass Black Label in 1973.
Its first three vintages scored an unprecedented hat-trick by winning the prestigious Jimmy Watson trophy at the Royal Melbourne Show.
And it’s gone from strength to strength under Chris Hatcher, a Wolf Blass legend in his own right and chief winemaker since 1996.
‘Expect the Black Label 2012 and 2010 vintages to age at least as long as the [highly rated] 1974 or 1979’
This vertical trounced any notion that imposing tannins are a pre-requisite for longevity.
The oldest of 10 vintages shown, the 1974, still had the fruit and line to charm, while the more rugged 1979 built in the glass.
This is doubly impressive when you consider Blass used 100% new oak, predominantly American, to drive palate sweetness in early vintages; hence their perfumed coconut and cured leather notes.
Black Label 2010 and 2012 from drought-free years stood out for their refinement, despite relatively elevated alcohol. Expect them to be at least as long-lived as the 1974 and 1979.
Our favourite Wolf Blass Black Label vintages
This highly acclaimed vintage has produced a cracker. Initially brooding, with time in glass this blend of 89% Cabernet Sauvignon,
Winter rains ended the drought. This and a temperate growing season produced an animated, really expressive 51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 49%
The Malbec (5%, versus 54% Cabernet Sauvignon and 41% Shiraz) sings in the juiciness and violet lift of a vintage
A hot summer followed by a mild, wet spell resulted in a late, flavour-packed harvest. An impressively rich, tarry nose
A wet winter and cool, long growing season plus the introduction of screwcap and Malbec (7%) to this year’s Shiraz-dominated
Good winter rainfall and a long, warm dry vintage produced this concentrated blend of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Shiraz and
A textbook vintage (good winter rains, a warm, dry growing season), if not a textbook blend. Leaning more towards Bordeaux,
Elegance is the stamp of this wine from a cool, wet year in which the Shiraz (20%) came from Coonawarra’s
An unusually cool growing season, with patchy rain at vintage. This 58% Cabernet, 42% Shiraz blend spent 30 months in
More on Wolf Blass Black Label
A brazen self-publicist, Wolf Blass used to market his wine brand by getting airports to page his name via public address systems.
But the wines did the talking, too, and especially Wolf Blass Black Label – a Cabernet Shiraz blend from several regions in South Australia.
After the early success, Black Label broke its own record by winning the Jimmy Watson trophy for its 1998 vintage, too.
Awarded at that time to the best dry one-year-old red, the Jimmy Watson Trophy sat well with Blass’ firm belief that wine should be ready to drink when sold.
He was a keen advocate of partially barrel-fermenting reds to improve the integration of oak.
He also believed in ‘blending to a plush mid-palate, with softer tannins’, invariably with an emphasis on Langhorne Creek’s supple, juicy fruit, according to Wolf Blass’ chief winemaker, Chris Hatcher.
With the advent of professional viticulture in the 1990s, top notch fruit as opposed to oak has delivered palate sweetness and an increasingly vibrant, contemporary style.