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by Fred McMillin
for July 10, 1997

World-Class Blass

Prologue:

  • 1965—A young German winemaker is earning $2.50 an hour driving his old Volkswagon from one Australian winery to another, seven days a week, selling his advice. His name is Wolfgang Blass.

  • 1973—The advice is looking pretty good. Author Len Evans writes that there is little doubt that Wolfgang soon will be making not just good, but GREAT wines.

  • 1988—It happened. Wine authority Alan Young writes that Wolfgang "has transformed the face of winemaking in Australia."

  • 1992—Wolfgang Blass is honored as International winemaker of the Year.
The Rest of the Story: How did he do it? "No wood, no good" was his battle cry. Aussie authority James Halliday says the most obvious feature of Blass winemaking is "sophisticated oak treatment." It's clearly apparent in his Presidents Selection (Wolf is the president) 1996 Chardonnay. If you like oak, this is YOUR Chardonnay.

1996 Presidents Selection Chardonnay, McLaren Vale
Wolf Blass Wines, Bilyara Cellars, South Australia
USA Contact—Michael Parkinson at (919)851-5955
$15

Postscript:

The Name Game
Vale—Low-lying land; a valley
McLaren Vale—An outstanding, marine-cooled wine district near Adelaide in south-central Australia
Bilyara—Wolfgang started making wine under his own label, Bilyara Wolf Blass, in 1966. Bilyara is an aboriginal word meaning "eagle hawk"; it is a handsome bird that still graces the Blass label.


About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


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