A toast to a pioneer


Last month Alan Brady received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Queenstown Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Awards and well deserved it was. 

As is well documented, Alan is a pioneer of Central Otago wine, and it’s his perseverance, determination and downright stubbornness that we can thank for providing us with the internationally recognised industry that our wine region now is. 

When you look back to that period in the mid-eighties when Alan, along with the Mills of Rippon, Anne Pinckney, Bill Grant of William Hill and the eccentric Burgesses of Blackridge were starting out, there was all at 
once a co-operative that was able to share ideas, costs and equipment. 

If you had taken any of those components away, it might have collapsed. That collaborative spirit lives on in Central wine today. The stars aligned, as it were, and Brady is one of the brightest. I first met Alan at a get-together with some fellow wine geeks and we were playing that stupid game whereby you put the wine in a bag and everybody guesses, usually wrongly, what the wine is. 

I was astounded when Alan correctly picked the wines’ variety and region. Not because he picked it, but because of his reaction. He punched the air, and said ‘Yes!’, in the same way a rugby player would when scoring a try. It showed true passion, genuine interest, a lingering fascination and competitive edge that’s kept him, not only on top of his game, but still interested in it, all these years later. I can only hope I’m still as keen on my chosen subject in years ahead. 

Luck would have it that I got to try some of Alan’s early wines recently. 

This year the local industry celebrated 25 years of hard work and dedication with numerous tastings and events. His first venture, Gibbston Valley Wines, hosted an incredible tasting of pinot noirs going back to 1987, Alan’s first commercial vintage. It is inspirational that some of the old beauties were still alive and well, and some utterly delicious. In a time when, by Alan’s own admission, equipment was basic and knowledge thin on the ground, he and his friends created wines that have stood the test of time. 

And for the next 25 years? Let’s hope Central Otago pinot noir remains the premium brand and product it is. 

Let’s hope stakeholders get a return on investment. And let’s hope that, whatever innovations are needed for the future, we have amongst us characters that have Alan’s stubborn single-mindedness to create them.

Paul Tudgay is general manager of Northburn Station’s The Shed and a wine connoisseur