Welcome Wolf Blass Gallery & Museum - South Australian wine history finds a home in Hahndorf

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

It’s been three and-a-half years in the making, but Hahndorf can officially welcome the Wolf Blass Gallery & Museum to our iconic Main Street.

The man himself, Wolf Blass, shared with us an insight into the carefully curated collection which boasts his personal legacy, including 60 years of winemaking history. Starting off with just over two thousand bottles, the Wolf Blass Wines brand has grown substantially since Wolf began the label over 50 years ago.

“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,” he 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.”

With large changes for the Wolf Blass Wines brand over the last few years, Wolf and Shirley have been looking for a spot to settle the Foundation’s history, moving the museum from its original home in the Barossa to somewhere more personal to Wolf’s own story as a German expat.

“The museum is a product of the Wolf Blass Foundation,” Wolf 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.”

It was fate ...

After years of searching, it was fate that brought them to 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!’” Since then, the move eventuated organically, creating a necessary distinction between the Foundation and the wine label.

The original museum collection in the Barossa has been absorbed by 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. It’s now available to view in the new space, along with a whole lot more. Educational material on marketing, winemaking and presentation will be available in the Wine Barrel Boardroom, too.

While Hahndorf may seem like the natural decision for Wolf, given his German lineage, the final stamp of approval was by Shirley.

“My wife loves Hahndorf. She was the person who made it happen.”

The original Hahndorf Schoolhouse building from 1854 has been kept as a barrel cooperage inside the larger construction, maintaining a historic charm in the space from the moment you step inside.

“The main residential building was reconstructed 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.”

Stunningly designed by locals Beyond Ink and Shirley, the project involved a redesign and reconstruction of the entire complex, something the local council was only too happy to see move forward.

“I can only say we’ve had the full support of the District Council of Mount Barker. We had all the assistance of expanding and developing this whole area.”

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.”

Keep your eyes peeled for little pieces of history at the bar, too. Wolf’s top tip is that you might even spy the very first Melbourne Cup Trophy, dating back to 1865!

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.

“The wines have been selected by myself and Brian Walsh (Chairman, Wine Australia and a Trustee of Wolf Blass Foundation Inc.) as experts.”

But it’s not just about the wine at the Wolf Blass Museum – it’s a celebration of Wolf’s life, too. With 73 albums of newspaper clippings, photographs and other items collected over his years working in the industry, you’re sure to discover a piece of South Australian Wine Industry history.

“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.”

It’s still early days for the establishment, with exciting additions on the horizon.

“We will have special tours and attach ourselves to the hotel chains and bus services, but this all takes time. First of all, you have to open the establishment.”

It’s an exciting time for Hahndorf, as an incredible collection of history settles in, ready to fascinate the future of South Australians and all of our visiting tourists.

“I’ve enjoyed building something which I suppose history will never forget.”