Wine review — Wolf Blass Grey, Black and Platinum labels

Wolf Blass Grey Label McLaren Vale Shiraz 2006 $30–$40
Wolf Blass Grey Label Langhorne Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 $30–$40

They’re not quite peas from the same pod, but there’s a strong family resemblance across the new-release Wolf Blass reds. They’ve a pure, rich fruit flavour and a juicy, silky texture and softness that contrasts, for example, with the firmer Penfolds style from the same company, Fosters. But there are big differences as well, driven largely by region and grape variety. The shiraz is rich, ripe and soft, but it has typical McLaren Vale savouriness, too. The cabernet is pure varietal and shows two peculiar but loveable Langhorne Creek traits – a distinct mint-like aroma and an unusually fleshy, dense palate for this variety.

Wolf Blass Black Label Cabernet Shiraz Malbec $130
Black label emerged as Blass’s flagship after winning the Jimmy Watson trophy in the early seventies. Those earlier vintages seemed very oaky at the time, but tasted terrific in a thirty-vintage line up two years ago. The style now features more intense, pure fruit character and less obvious oak. That’s partly attributable, says Foster’s Chief Winemaker, Chris Hatcher, to the better grapes available today and, in turn, less need to ‘build’ the wine with oak – although maturation in new oak remains a key element. The 2004, a Langhorne Creek-Barossa-McLaren Vale blend is an extraordinarily powerful but well-balanced drop built for long cellaring.

Wolf Blass Platinum Label Barossa Shiraz 2005 $160
Like the Black Label above, Platinum makes a good ‘memento’ wine – a red to cellar long term for that special occasion – but without the price tag of a Penfolds Grange or Henschke Hill of Grace. Caroline Dunn makes Platinum (and all the reds reviewed here) in the Wolf Blass northern Barossa winery. Platinum’s labelled Barossa, but comes predominantly from a single vineyard in the elevated, cooler Eden Valley (part of the Barossa). While the wine has a ripe, silky richness and huge flavour concentration, its Eden Valley origins show in a beautiful fragrance and elegant structure.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2008