Starting off with just over two thousand bottles, the Wolf Blass Wines brand has grown substantially since a young Wolf began the label over 50 years ago. To celebrate the iconic wine brand’s history and the life of Wolf himself, the Wolf Blass Foundation has launched the Wolf Blass Gallery and Museum in Hahndorf.
“The brand itself is selling 65 million bottles a year, but I started it in 1966 with two and-a-half thousand bottles – things have changed a bit,” Wolf says.
“We’ve become the most successful exhibitor at national and international wine shows, and have collected 10,000 awards over time. South Australia has become the wine state, and Wolf Blass has been a big part of that.”
While the Barossa-based brand has become a global operation, Wolf is now dedicated to the operation of the Wolf Blass Foundation, which continues to support the Australian wine industry, the University of South Australia, and still works with the Winemakers’ Federation of Australia.
Part of his work with the foundation has been opening a gallery and museum about the brand and his life, a long-held dream of Wolf’s.
“The museum is a product of the Wolf Blass Foundation,” he says. “I didn’t want to confuse the brand and the man… so it made sense to move the man to Hahndorf because it’s so Germanic.”
“Wine has been a part of my whole life since 1949 and I’ve been a part of the Winemakers’ Federation of Australia since it’s been built. I’m a 1934 vintage, so I would like to leave a personal legacy to the community at large to enjoy.”
Wolf and wife Shirley searched for the ideal location for the new museum for a number of years, eventually stumbling upon the heritage space in Hahndorf in late 2014.
“We were passing the BankSA building and there was a lease sign,” Wolf says. “I said ‘get out and let’s buy it!’”
They’ve kept the historic charm of the space, despite substantial renovations to the space. The original Hahndorf Schoolhouse building from 1854 has been kept as a barrel cooperage inside the larger construction.
“The main residential building was re-constructed in 1912 and since the purchase in 2015 there has been a huge upgrade inside, and fitting the infrastructure and layout has taken almost two years. With the windows and furniture, we had decorators from the museum come and help us, with much of it specially designed.”
The original museum collection in the Barossa has been absorbed by the Wolf Blass Foundation, now available to view in the new space, along with a whole lot more. Amongst other historic treasures, there’s 73 albums filled with newspaper clippings, photographs and other items collected over the brand’s history – an insight into Wolf’s career and life.
It’s more than just a museum, too, with plenty of opportunities to sip a local drop and nibble something while you browse, too. The Wolf Blass Horse Bar (Wolfie’s) is a favourite aspect of Wolf’s.
“The bar is seven metres long, so people can enjoy tasting, drinking, buying, and also a food platter of cheese and meats.”
You’ll be hard-pressed to decide on your tipple of choice, with a selection of Adelaide Hills based wine labels on offer, including some from the Wolf Blass Gallery & Museum’s own label of course.
It’s still early days for the establishment, with exciting additions on the horizon.
“I’ve enjoyed building something which I suppose history will never forget.”
The Wolf Blass Gallery & Museum is open Thursday 11am to 5pm, Friday to Sunday 11am to 7pm, 62 Mount Barker Road, Hahndorf.