Wolf Blass releases new range of wines

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If I was a wine producer having trouble getting listings in fine restaurants, I’d quickly put out a restaurant-only label that bore no relation to the wines I sold through retailers.

If I was the Margaret River winery Cullen (tastings), for example, I would not have the word Cullen anywhere on the label. Call it Auntie Vanya, perhaps. The need is to avoid any price comparison customers could make with known products at known retail prices.

And this is kind of what Treasury Wine Estates has attempted with the Wolf Blass brand, to celebrate the 80th birthday of Wolf Blass, the man.

They’ve released a suite of four excellent Barossa Valley shirazes, each named after a parish of the Barossa, complete with the postcode. There’s one each for Ebenezer (tasting), Lyndoch (tasting), Moculta (tasting) and Dorrien (tasting), all from the great 2012 vintage and all priced at $85 (at normal retail mark-up). They are very good indeed, and much less-oaky than the usual top-end Blass reds, which is a blessing. You can actually taste the fruit and marvel at the sub-regional style differences.

I especially like the St John’s Ebenezer bottling, but I enjoyed them all, the Lyndoch perhaps a shade less than the others. They have the richness and velvety texture typical of Barossa shiraz, with subtle local permutations.

These wines are aimed at restaurants, but also fine wine outlets. I’m not sure if that includes Colesworth. However, I can see the same old problem arising here, the reason Wolf Blass wines are seldom seen in high-end restaurants: any bottle with the name Wolf Blass on it will be avoided by these restaurants, for the reasons outlined in the earlier item on this blog.

That should be no problem for Treasury as the wines will be eagerly received, I’m sure.

The company also released a luxury birthday present for Wolf, a one-off wine named The Master, priced at $350. This is double the price of the company’s hitherto most expensive wine, Platinum Shiraz at $170 for the current 2010 vintage.

The Master (tasting) is a 60/40 cabernet shiraz blend, all from Langhorne Creek (the region Wolf relied on for all of his early wines) – indeed, it’s from a single vineyard named Pasquin. This vineyard is owned by the man who was Wolf’s winemaker for the first 30 years, John Glaetzer, and Bill Potts, a long-time Langhorne Creek grapegrower and member of one of the district’s most distinguished wine families. Both men were among the guests at last week’s birthday bash for Wolf in Sydney.

This, too, is a gorgeous wine: a luxuriously soft and decadently rich, fleshy red which happily avoids any excess of the regional mint character (I’m not a fan of strongly minty reds, although a dash of it can be attractive). The wine has plenty of coffee/mocha characters from liberal use of French oak, but is not nearly as big and rugged as the Wolf Blass Black Label red, nor as oaky. I like it very much. 

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