This autobiographical account by Alan Brady focuses on his move from a successful journalist and broadcasting career in Dunedin to Central Otago and establishing Gibbston Valley winery as one of the modern pioneers of grapegrowing and winemaking in the region. Sub-titled ‘a winemaker’s story’ it is an intensely personal account of his trials and tribulations and his not insignificant role in helping make Central Otago a world renowned vignoble.
The writing is in a frank and easy style, the prose often rising to include shades of poetic imagery, and this makes it a particularly entertaining read that will appeal to a wide audience. Brady doesn’t hold anything back when it comes to discussing and revealing his feelings, fears and dreams and innermost workings of his mind in recounting his purchase of a run-down stone ruin with his wife, and the ensuing struggle to establish a vineyard and winery against the advice of experts at the time.
Those with a sense of history of Central Otago, an interest in the produce of the land and a keenness for wine and how it is made will find Brady’s experiences fascinating. Readers will sense and indeed feel the passion, heartache and joy that Brady went through, and along the way, will learn about the not only the wine industry, but peoples’ passions and relationships with those around them. A strong concurrent theme is Brady’s marriage breakup, a result of his single-minded pursuit of his dream to make wine.
Gibbston Valley Wines grew to be the first and largest, most-successful winery in Central Otago, drawing the world’s attention to what is now regarded as a classic winegrowing region. Brady lost control and the hands-on involvement that initially drove him as the business grew to a monster that outgrew him. Yet Brady is not remorseful or negative of what happened. Rather, he is proud of the outcome, and simultaneously humble of his role. Credit is given to many of the people who stood by him on his journey.
For me as a reader, becoming interested in wine at this time, and having Central Otago as my recreational backyard, the book was a little nostalgic, the people we knew in common significant in both our lives. Brady was and remains a mover and a shaker, though nowadays in a quieter way. He established Mount Edward winery when many people have retired. That is a measure of his striving to ‘get a balance in his life’.
The book is illustrated with photography by Dale Gardiner and the author. It is excellent, and the beautiful warm and often strikingly spectacular Central Otago countryside is captured superbly with feeling.
– Raymond Chan,
Pinot Central, A Winemaker’s Story, Alan Brady, Penguin Books, North Shore, 2010