It’s funny how things change in the course of a life. I’m starting my WSET Level 2 in Wines and Spirits in September, but…….
One of my earliest memories of drinking wine was back in 1999. I was 21 and up until that point wine was really just something that my aunties drank so I usually stuck to beer. In November 1999 I headed to the land down under and spent a year travelling around Australia. It was there I discovered the back packer joy that is 5 litre boxes of wine. Yes boxes ! Over time I traded in the boxes for bottles and of course Wolf Blass was among those bottles.
You can imagine my excitement then, when on an otherwise usual Tuesday I found myself in the comfortable surrounds of The Westbury Hotel among a small group, all with eager expressions. We were there for something very special. Something that will most likely not happen in Dublin ever again.
Wolf Blass wines and Pico Communications were hosting what can only be described as a rare privilege in wine. A vertical tasting of some of the prestigious Black Label line from 1979 to 2012. In total we were tasting eight wines which were 1979 A/B (two different bottles), 1984, 1992, 1998, 2002, 2004, 2010, 2012.
2016 is an exciting year…
Franz Otto Blass founded the Wolf Blass winery back in 1966. I imagine at the time he had big plans for his winery. 2016 is shaping up to be an exciting year for Wolf Blass. This year it celebrates fifty years in business. One of the most successful lines produced is the Black Label range which this year is celebrating its 40th vintage. The range has an impressive awards history behind it including four Jimmy Watson Trophy wins and a long and growing list of gold medals. The winery was also named red winemaker of the year at the International Wine Challenge in London.
Chris Hatcher & The Evolution of the Black Label
Leading our tasting was chief winemaker Chris Hatcher. Chris is renowned in the wine world and his philosophy is to make the best wine possible for his customers. He is engaging and passionate about the wines Wolf Blass produce, including the Black Label range which has evolved over time. The first screw cap one came about in 2002, which he assures us does not in any way compromise the wine inside. The philosophy of the Black Label is to craft the best blend of red wine possible. That means the finest grapes from multiple regions may find their way into the bottle. Traditionally the blend was confined to Cabernet and Shiraz but again, with time this has evolved.
From 2002 onward we have seen the introduction of both Merlot and Malbec to the blend. Interestingly enough the 2002, 2004 and 2012 which I was particularly fond of, all have either Malbec or Merlot in the mix. Other evolution’s at the winery have seen more focus on the use of French oak instead of the more traditional American oak. With less oak needed and a better quality fruit a more balance wine is being produced.
You can see the full line up of the bottles we tasted below. It’s interesting to see the change from smaller amber coloured bottles to the darker green which is much more common these days. If what we tasted on the day is anything to go by the future for Wolf Blass and the Black Label is in good hands and we can expect more incredible blends to be delivered. I for one, as an existing customer look forward to what comes next.