Grape Growing

Dear Peg and Family,
There is one area of my life that I haven’t mentioned to date, and that’s my association  with the Wine industry. When we arrived in Central Otago to work and live, there was very little grape being cultivated, and certainly no wine being made on a commercial basis. If you found a frost free area and you had water, in Central Otago you could grow almost anything. This was true for the most successful crops, that were now being grown in the area. However it was Frost that decided if you were going to be successful or not. Parts of the area if you were lucky enough to find an area where cold air was able to drain down the mountains into the river basin, as it rolled down the Mountains. This made the Gibbston Valley especially attractive, as it’s controlled the temperatures gave the area a microclimate, compatible to the growing of grapes in the area. After a faltering start, the few acres planted by Allan Brady thrived. Because of this act he was probably the father of the industry in the Lake District. Alan at the time was employed by the Otago Daily Times as their correspondent. He was brilliant at promoting the wine industry, but that didn’t make him an expert in managing a winery. In fact none of us did. A lot of mistakes were made in getting Gibbston Valley up and running, and operating as a successful financial enterprise.
Initially Alan wasn’t interested in growing grapes and making wine, but he decided to give it a go as at the time as it was extreme fashionable to do so. At the time he was strapped for cash, as we all were. To get the enterprise up and running, Alan formed a limited liability company. Some locals folk, and foreign visitors took up a large slice of the share offering. One overseas family who had a large holding, and were absent for most of the year, put me on the Company’s Board of Directors to represent their interests. It wasn’t a happy union, as I was a irritant, being more interested in the bottom line of the Balance sheet, while the other Directors in my mind, were more interested in the romance of being involved with growing and the making of a fine wine. What it did, was to prove that superior wines could be made in the area. The province owes these pioneers a vote of thanks for what they did for the District.
About this time Yvon Montagnat from New Caledonia decided that he too wanted to get into the wine business. He had about 50 acres in the Valley which he was going to develop. Fact! To start off a wine plantation, if you didn’t know it before, you were about to find out that it is a horrendously expensive operation. I became I suppose, Clerk of Works by default. Post and wire, as well as an irrigation system, were all in place, ready for planting. So far enough had been spent to keep you drinking fine wine for the rest of your life. Initial decisions, what variety are we going to grow? and what do we buy?  budded disease free or cheaper cuttings, with no guarantee that they are, or will remain free of phylloxera? I was surprised that Yvon didn’t know what I was talking about when I mentioned the problem of Phylloxera. I thought every Frenchman knew about the Aphid that almost wiped out their wine industry. However, Did he want cuttings or budded material on American stock, which would be aphid free. He opted for the cheaper cuttings. There was a local protocol where any new planting’s had to be dipped twice before coming into the area. The national Firm transporting the cuttings and meeting the protocol, changed the method of sterilisation without consultation, and used Methyl Bromide. This chemical killed any aphid but at the same time suspended any future growth in the plant material. Naturally we sued for the loss of a container full of cuttings, and a year or two of lost growth. I handled the court case up to the point where we were waiting on the trial date to roll up. At this point Yvon flew across from New Caledonia. He went directly to the Solicitors. Settled out of court, and went home. I found all this out by accident. My status of unpaid family friend, was not one I wanted to continue with. So terminated our relationship forthwith. Yvon had not finished being a pain in the butt, as his marriage also suffered a parting of the ways, at this time.
The loss of the cuttings, strangely was turned into an advantage. At this time Chardonnay was the preferred tipple of the wine buffs, but Pino Noir was picking up many gold awards. So there was a noticeable switch over to Pino planting’s. With this second chance, there was, with a price advantage in bottle sales too. Pino it would seem, was the way the smart money was going.
I’m afraid there is a lot of nonsense that goes with wine. The trade foster this, and I for one can’t be bothered with it. ‘After taste of strawberries’, ‘gives off the scent of wild flowers’. Or this, ‘Delightful fun style, light, dryish, and yet serious with a smile on it’d face’. Or Wine writers can carry on all day with their superlatives. They need it too these days, even to sell their product. Like, ‘Tasty and alive, a fine weekend sauv’. ‘Where bouncy flavours that fit in with the moment’. Best part for the consumer is the price, $6-99. With today’s price so low, the winery’s can’t be making a profit. Aided too with Australia growers dumping their product over here. It will be some time before order in the market is restored. I noticed in the Press this morning, two large winery’s are filing for bankruptcy. One has debts of $22 million to their Bank.
Love from Christchurch,
Wally
There is one area of my life that I haven’t mentioned to date, and that’s my association  with the Wine industry. When we arrived in Central Otago to work and live, there was very little grape being cultivated, and certainly no wine being made on a commercial basis. If you found a frost free area and you had water, in Central Otago you could grow almost anything. This was true for the most successful crops, that were now being grown in the area. However it was Frost that decided if you were going to be successful or not. Parts of the area if you were lucky enough to find an area where cold air was able to drain down the mountains into the river basin, as it rolled down the Mountains. This made the Gibbston Valley especially attractive, as it’s controlled the temperatures gave the area a microclimate, compatible to the growing of grapes in the area. After a faltering start, the few acres planted by Allan Brady thrived. Because of this act he was probably the father of the industry in the Lake District. Alan at the time was employed by the Otago Daily Times as their correspondent. He was brilliant at promoting the wine industry, but that didn’t make him an expert in managing a winery. In fact none of us did. A lot of mistakes were made in getting Gibbston Valley up and running, and operating as a successful financial enterprise.
Initially Alan wasn’t interested in growing grapes and making wine, but he decided to give it a go as at the time as it was extreme fashionable to do so. At the time he was strapped for cash, as we all were. To get the enterprise up and running, Alan formed a limited liability company. Some locals folk, and foreign visitors took up a large slice of the share offering. One overseas family who had a large holding, and were absent for most of the year, put me on the Company’s Board of Directors to represent their interests. It wasn’t a happy union, as I was a irritant, being more interested in the bottom line of the Balance sheet, while the other Directors in my mind, were more interested in the romance of being involved with growing and the making of a fine wine. What it did, was to prove that superior wines could be made in the area. The province owes these pioneers a vote of thanks for what they did for the District.
About this time Yvon Montagnat from New Caledonia decided that he too wanted to get into the wine business. He had about 50 acres in the Valley which he was going to develop. Fact! To start off a wine plantation, if you didn’t know it before, you were about to find out that it is a horrendously expensive operation. I became I suppose, Clerk of Works by default. Post and wire, as well as an irrigation system, were all in place, ready for planting. So far enough had been spent to keep you drinking fine wine for the rest of your life. Initial decisions, what variety are we going to grow? and what do we buy?  budded disease free or cheaper cuttings, with no guarantee that they are, or will remain free of phylloxera? I was surprised that Yvon didn’t know what I was talking about when I mentioned the problem of Phylloxera. I thought every Frenchman knew about the Aphid that almost wiped out their wine industry. However, Did he want cuttings or budded material on American stock, which would be aphid free. He opted for the cheaper cuttings. There was a local protocol where any new planting’s had to be dipped twice before coming into the area. The national Firm transporting the cuttings and meeting the protocol, changed the method of sterilisation without consultation, and used Methyl Bromide. This chemical killed any aphid but at the same time suspended any future growth in the plant material. Naturally we sued for the loss of a container full of cuttings, and a year or two of lost growth. I handled the court case up to the point where we were waiting on the trial date to roll up. At this point Yvon flew across from New Caledonia. He went directly to the Solicitors. Settled out of court, and went home. I found all this out by accident. My status of unpaid family friend, was not one I wanted to continue with. So terminated our relationship forthwith. Yvon had not finished being a pain in the butt, as his marriage also suffered a parting of the ways, at this time.
The loss of the cuttings, strangely was turned into an advantage. At this time Chardonnay was the preferred tipple of the wine buffs, but Pino Noir was picking up many gold awards. So there was a noticeable switch over to Pino planting’s. With this second chance, there was, with a price advantage in bottle sales too. Pino it would seem, was the way the smart money was going.
I’m afraid there is a lot of nonsense that goes with wine. The trade foster this, and I for one can’t be bothered with it. ‘After taste of strawberries’, ‘gives off the scent of wild flowers’. Or this, ‘Delightful fun style, light, dryish, and yet serious with a smile on it’d face’. Or Wine writers can carry on all day with their superlatives. They need it too these days, even to sell their product. Like, ‘Tasty and alive, a fine weekend sauv’. ‘Where bouncy flavours that fit in with the moment’. Best part for the consumer is the price, $6-99. With today’s price so low, the winery’s can’t be making a profit. Aided too with Australia growers dumping their product over here. It will be some time before order in the market is restored. I noticed in the Press this morning, two large winery’s are filing for bankruptcy. One has debts of $22 million to their Bank.
No ShoutBacks yet. (Be the first to Shout this post)

Comments are closed.