Wakatipu wine pioneer Brady vows last bunch

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The founder of the Wakatipu’s famed wine region Gibbston is fizzing as he bows out of the industry.

Gibbston pinot noir pioneer Alan Brady, inducted into the New Zealand Wine Hall of Fame last weekend, vows next month’s vintage will be his last as a hands-on winemaker.

Brady, who first planted grapes in the area against ‘expert’ advice in 1981, leaves on a high – he’s now one of 29 Kiwi wine hall of famers and last week was filmed for a BBC documentary on Northern Irish migrants who made a big difference in NZ.

“I’ve been saying for three to four years it’s my last vintage and people say ‘Yeah, yeah’, but this time I’m saying this is it.

“They’re giving me this Hall of Fame thing so I think they’re trying to tell me something,” he jokes, adding he’s humbled to be included among some of the wine industry’s great names.

At last Saturday’s official function in Auckland, Brady acknowledged fellow inductee on the night Larry McKenna, a pinot noir pioneer of Martinborough: “He and his fellow Martinborough pioneers were role models when I planted my first grapes down here.

“Larry was John the Baptist preaching in the pinot noir wilderness back then and we watched and learned.

“None of us in this room is growing and making wine for the honour and glory. We do it because of our passion for everything about this ancient industry.

“We’re so focussed on the seasons of wine that time flies and when recognition like this happens they come out of the blue,” Brady told the function.

“The NZ wine industry is so young we are all pioneers. Most of us have planted grapes where none have gone before.”

Brady, who founded award-winning Gibbston Valley Wines in the 1980s and Mt Edward winery in the late 1990s, still runs boutique local label Wild Irishman which he calls his retirement project.

Brady can’t wait to muck and do a vintage one last time: “It’s hard work. I enjoy doing it because I enjoy getting my hands dirty. But I’m pulling the cork, in that sense.”

Brady hopes family members may continue Wild Irishman and while he no longer has any financial interest in Gibbston Valley Wines, is welcome on site anytime.

“They allow me to swan around and play the founder role – it’s nice to see it flourishing.”

Brady played host last week during several days filming for a four-part Northern Ireland BBC series on migrants who’ve made their mark in NZ. Others include Irishmen Bill Massey and John Ballance who did stints as Prime Minister, founders of well-known shoe store Hannahs and department store Smith and Caughey’s, plus recent arrivals helping rebuild post-quake Christchurch.

Series presenter William Crowley says Brady is a classic example of an Ulster, Ireland, personality: “They said ‘You can’t make wine here’, he said ‘I will make it’.

“They said ‘You definitely can’t do pinot noir’, he says ‘I’ll win awards for it’.”

It’s hoped the series will be done by the autumn.

By then, Brady will have made his last vintage and be busy selling wine from past seasons, doing some bottling and looking for another project: “There will be something. I’m a dreamer.

“I’m project driven, but at this stage I’m not sure what it will be. My current project is a big Europe trip to various wineries. I’ve got to take it a bit easier.”