Irish wine lover’s mad dash for 2014 harvest

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Irishman Brian Shaw has made a mad dash from his homeland – to harvest grapes for Queenstown wine label ‘Wild Irishman’.

“It’s a long way to come to pick grapes,” Wild Irishman winemaker and Gibbston Valley wine pioneer Alan Brady says.

“Only an Irishman could travel 20,000 kilometres to get here in time to pick grapes,” Brady chuckles.

Like Shaw, Brady’s from Ulster too.

Shaw tells Mountain Scene this week: “If I had to fly 40,000km I’d still have been here with bells on.”

The 26-year-old went home in mid-April with girlfriend Kelly Donnelly for his first visit in nearly two years – but the wine harvest lured them back early.

Brady sources his grapes from Mt Rosa Lodge co-owner Brian Dennis, who called his mate Shaw in Ireland to let him know the harvest was scheduled for Saturday, May 3.

A jetlagged Shaw, who works at local winery Amisfield, and Donnelly flew into Queenstown about 10am that morning and were harvesting Brady’s grapes for Wild Irishman sub-label Three Colleens very soon after.

“It meant an awful lot to me to do this harvest,” Shaw says.

“I got the wine bug when I was about 20, that’s why I left home – to come to New Zealand and work in the Central Otago wine industry.”

Brady is well-known in Irish wine circles, Shaw says.

“I knew of Alan Brady at home, wine people look up to him like you look up to a footballer.”

Shaw will send samples of the results of his labour to Ireland: “I’ll be sending more than a bottle or two of Three Colleens home, I can tell you.”

Shaw says he’ll be here “for a long time to come” – his main job is at Amisfield but he’ll continue to help out at Mt Rosa.

Wild Irishman is Brady’s retirement project, the wine pioneer reckons.