Wine & Spirits

Wine & spirits: Colour-coded sipping

Wine & spirits: Colour-coded sipping Author: Style At Home

Wine & Spirits

Wine & spirits: Colour-coded sipping

Wolfgang Blass is a little man with big ideas. In 1961, he emigrated from Germany to Australia with a few dollars and a diploma in winemaking. While most Aussies were drinking beer as well as ports and sherries in the early '70s, the brash Mr. Blass began producing a new style of red and white wines that he once boasted "make strong women weak and weak men strong."

By blending lightly oaked reds from different regions of South Australia, Blass's palatable wines hit a nerve with the public's tastes. And to make selection easier for novice drinkers, the ever-promotional winemaker colour-coded his labels.

In 1973, Blass introduced "Black Label," his first super-premium blended red wine. It won the Jimmy Watson Trophy, the most-coveted wine award in Australia, in its first year of production and then in the next two vintages. No other winemaker has won it as often for a single wine, let alone three consecutive times and then again in 1999.

Hey, sunshine
It seems as though only a generation ago cheap and cheerful wines like "Sexy" and "Jazzy" (Szekszardi Vöros red and Jaszberenyi Rizling white, both of which are from Hungary) were flying off the shelves in Canadian liquor stores. No wonder. At less than $6 per litre, who could ignore them?

There are still plenty of cheapies on the market, but the largest-selling wine in the country today costs about three times as much: Wolf Blass "Yellow Label" Cabernet Sauvignon ranges from $15 in Manitoba to $23 in Prince Edward Island. Since its introduction in 1991, sales have grown to more than 175,000 cases nationally.

So what gives? For starters, "Yellow Label" is an upscale yet easy-drinking wine with a rich blackcurrant taste that goes well with red meat -- one of Canadians' favourite foods. For many wine lovers, it also represents a reliable, affordable luxury. They may not have a clue what grapes are used in this wine, but they know they like it.
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Wine & Spirits

Wine & spirits: Colour-coded sipping