By Deborah Jackson, editor National Liquor News

Wolf Blass Black Label will celebrate its 40th vintage release this year as part of the 2016 Luxury Collection, launching on 3 March.

Chris Hatcher, Wolf Blass' chief winemaker for the past 28 years, told TheShout: "The 2012 Black Label is going to be seen as one of the very best Black's we've ever made – after the 1998 vintage.

"I still think the 1998's are exceptional, but 2012 because it was a cooler vintage, is a really elegant wine and will age for a very, very long time, so I think that's fantastic.

"The 2002 and 2004 are a couple of my real favourites, but interestingly back before Christmas we had a tasting with some of the media in Melbourne and we looked at all the Watson winners plus a couple of the wines from each decade and everyone agreed that the best wine was the 1973. 

"I think they've all been highly successful, it's probably been the most successful wine at competitions. Over that 40 years Black Label has won over 300 medals and 70-odd trophies, and it's actually interesting, that only one vintage, 1994, has not won a gold medal. I guess that comes down to the evolution thing, and Black Label today is still relevant and still winning gold medals just as the early ones were.

"Key to the success of the Black Label is that in 1973, 1974 and 1975, when Wolf (Wolfgang Blass) won the three Jimmy Watson's, he created a very unique style in the sense that it was very plush through the mid-palate, very soft tannins and it was a blend of the best barrels of the year.

"So we've carried that tradition on, but obviously we've evolved it stylistically and a lot of that is driven by the quality of the fruit that we get today, compared to what he had available back in 1973.

"Today's wine has got a lot less oak and much brighter fruit characters, but it still has the plushness on the palate, maybe slightly firmer tannins, not a lot firmer than the original wines, but certainly the brightness and freshness and vibrance of the fruit is a lot more evident today than it was back in the early days.

Hatcher believes that having a combination of experienced and younger winemakers involved, is an important factor in the evolution of Black Label.

"I'm very strong on having people with experience in the team alongside young winemakers. My view is you need to be respectful of the history, but it shouldn't be a milestone around your neck. You need to be respectful of it, but you need to evolve and continually stay relevant to the modern world, and so that overarching style is still there, but as is the brightness and freshness of fruit has changed."

The 2016 Luxury Collection includes:

2015 White Label Piccadilly Chardonnay RRP $33.99

2013 Grey Label McLaren Vale Shiraz RRP $44.99

2013 Grey Label Langhorne Creek Cabernet Shiraz RRP $44.99

2012 Black Label Cabernet Shiraz Malbec RRP $129.99

2012 Medlands Vineyard Platinum Label Shiraz RRP $199.99

The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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