Winemakers who led the field

In any industry or endeavour there are people who stand out, who lead the field in new directions, push boundaries, or contribute to the community.

In her new book, The Wild Bunch: Movers, shakers and groundbreakers of the New Zealand wine industry (New Holland), Joelle Thomson profiles 18 New Zealand winemakers and industry leaders. They range from those who first made their mark in the 1960s and '70s, such as Peter Babich, Terry Dunleavy, Sir George Fistonich and Nick Nobilo, to younger ones who have come to prominence in the past couple of decades such as Blair Walter of Felton Road, Mat Donaldson and Lynette Hudson of Pegasus Bay, Patrick Materman of Pernod Ricard and Gordon Russell of Esk Valley. There are pioneers of particular regions such as Alan Brady and Rudi Bauer in Central Otago, Clive Paton and Larry McKenna in Martinborough, the Goldwaters on Waiheke Island, Ross Spence, the first to plant sauvignon blanc in New Zealand, and James Millton, who pioneered organic and biodynamic viticulture in Gisborne; Tim and Judy Finn of Neudorf who started their Nelson vineyard in their hippy days and built it to one of the most respected in the country; Kevin Judd, founding winemaker of Cloudy Bay who went on to do his own thing in Greywacke, and Michael Brajkovich who took the family winery to new heights.

Each one's story is told and their opinions about the industry and the future given and achievements summarised, as well as incidental snippets like what wine they would take to a desert island.

It's a timely summary of some of the leaders of the industry as it comes out of a cycle of oversupply, and a welcome profile of some of the important figures who have helped it become the success it is.

The book is an interesting, if sometimes repetitive read.


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