I remember first seeing the name "Wolf Blass" on an Australian wine and thinking "That's a silly name for a winery." I had no idea that there really was a man named Wolf.
Well there really is a Wolf, and he's been making wine for longer then I've been alive... a long story made short; Wolf Blass was born in what was Eastern Germany in the 1930's and became the youngest person to ever earn the Kellermeister Diploma, or Master's degree in Eonology. He was just past twenty years of age.
Some might think that he had been born with the grapevine in hand... not so. In fact, Wolfgang fell into the wine industry quite by accident~! Wolf ran away from school as a teenager and was given an ultimatum by his parents: return to school or apprentice under a winemaker. Well, school wasn't really Wolf's thing you see - so there wasn't much of a choice for him, and the world of wine has changed as a result of that ultimatum.
Wolf Blass winery (http://www.wolfblass.com.au/) was one of the first wineries in Australia to start commercial production of Shiraz-Viognier. Shiraz, or Syrah as you may know it, has been grown to great success in South Australia for decades but what of Viognier?
Viognier is a relative newcomer to the Australian wine-scene and the blend of the two is really more then just a blend. Viognier is a white grape varietal that in it's youth has an abundance of floral aromas, and depending on where it's grown - will give rich fruit and floral palate with crisp acids. Aging the wine is a risk though as the floral notes tend to die quite quickly (sometimes under 5 years).
And then there is the blend which is more-then-a-blend; it's a co-fermentation. Anywhere from 2% to 8% of the grapes used in total production will be Viognier and it is this varietal which ends up preserving the blend's lively colors as well as fundamentally altering the flavor compounds and phenolics.
It was a risk when it was first conceived, and even today there are winemakers and sommeliers alike who will contest it's merits. To me, there are obvious joys to the co-fermentation and downfalls: a joy would be the lightness that Viognier brings and "tones-down" the South Australia Shiraz' natural inclination to big, bold, jammy characteristics. There are more floral notes of course, and to my palate a richer, more developed fruit profile. On the downside however, there is that tendency for the palate to diminish more quickly than normal... a well made Shiraz can easily last 10 years or more, but I find many Shiraz-Viognier will have lost their flavors in approximately 5.
2005 Wolf Blass Gold Label Shiraz-Viognier
Adelaide Hills, South Australia
varietals: 95% Shiraz, 5% Viognier
maturation: 15 months in oak (18% new oak) with a small amount unoaked to retain freshness
- visual: clear; fully intense bruised plum core with slightest brick rim
- nose: clean; medium intensity and developed aromas of lifted dark florals (irises, lilies), dark berries (blackberries, black raspberry), light cigar tobacco, savory winter spices (allspice, clove, pepper), background of baked earth
- palate: clean, dry, medium+ (red currant) acids, medium- (soft, velvety), tannins, medium body, medium- ABV (surprising considering it's 15%), medium intense and developed flavors mimicking the nose with particular emphasis on crisp red berries (red currant, red raspberry)... light florals mix well with restrained oaking and light spice notes. Very good balance, excellent structure and long length
- conclusion: this wine has peaked, and if you still have a bottle - drink it now~! Enjoy 2009-2012
- FOOD PAIRINGS: crisp, vibrant acids in a red wine with light floral notes and moderate tannins? I can certainly understand people who want to pair it with venison~! consider a Maple glazed venison flank steak (medium-rare) with pure Kentucky bourbon demi-glace, steamed spaghetti squash and wild mushroom ravioli... just a thought :)
To be honest, this was the first Wolf Blass wine that I've tried in years (and years). I can still remember the 1990's when they absolutely dominated the Canadian wine market and were simply the wine to drink. There was a reason for that: they were great wines for the price. I stopped to show myself that I'd grown beyond the "old favorites"... well maybe I've grown up enough to come back to those old favorites. After all, they became our favorites for a reason:
As always I welcome your comments and questions.
CINCIN~!!! SLAINTE~!!! CHEERS~!!!