I recently had the good fortune to attend a cocktail party at a beautiful harbourside Sydney mansion for the launch of the current release of the Wolf Blass luxury collection: the Gold, Grey, Black and Platinum labels.

The line-up of wines was excellent with the sublime Platinum Label Shiraz 2008 Grange-like in the complexity and depth of its bouquet. But the real highlight of the evening was the chance to listen to the entertaining musings of the very dapper 77 old Wolf Blass, who is still a roving international ambassador for the brand.

I went home with a copy of Wolf Blass’ biography, Wolf Blass: Behind the Bow Tie, by Liz Johnston. The book proved a fascinating read. Apart from providing a very entertaining history of a German immigrant generally regarded as “larger than life,” the book offered some very interesting insights into the Australian wine industry and Blass’ very important contribution to its development.

Blass’ business success is legendary. His winery, which began in a Barossa Valley tin shed in 1973, became Australia’s number one wine brand by value and volume in 2003. Today it one the jewels in the Treasury Estate (formerly Foster’s) portfolio with production in excess of 70 million bottles a year.

And by any standard, Blass is also one of Australia’s greatest marketers. The ingenious colour coding of the Wolf Blass range, for example, still sets the brand apart for the ease with which it guides consumer access to high quality products as various price points. Johnston describes Blass’ very German penchant for discipline and order, and indeed the clever branding of his wines reminds me of Mercedes Benz with its A to S Class series.

In a country famous for shooting down its tall poppies, Blass fearlessly embraced self-promotion, proudly wearing the “Australia Cockiest Winemaker” moniker. He was one of the first winemakers to decorate his bottles with trade-show medals, of which he had no trouble collecting. Beginning with the first 1973 vintage, the Wolf Blass Dry Red Claret (subsequently renamed Wolf Blass Black Label Cabernet Shiraz) won the coveted Jimmy Watson Memorial Trophy at the Royal Melbourne Wine Show for best young red wine an unprecedented three years in a row!.. [Read More]