Pinot Noir project ‘state of the art’

There’s a new kid on the winemaking block in the Alexandra Basin.

Wild Irishman Wines — the former Weaver Estate winery — has begun processing fruit from the 2024 vintage.

Weaver Estate was de-commissioned when the property changed hands three years ago but has now been extended and refitted as a small specialist Pinot Noir facility.

Central Otago wine pioneer and Wild Irishman founder Alan Brady said while the development was small, it was significant for the Alexandra basin.

Coming on the heels of the renovation and reopening of Monte Christo, the 150-year-old birthplace of the region’s wine near Clyde, the two projects represented a vote of confidence in the future of winemaking in the Alexandra Basin.

"Our project is low key but ‘state of the art’ in terms of winemaking equipment and know-how," Mr Brady said.

"Great wine does not have to come from behind glass and marble facades. With three Alexandra vintages from our home vineyard behind us, we are excited about what the Alexandra basin has to offer."

Wild Irishman Wines began as a "small retirement project" for Mr Brady in 2006 — he pioneered winegrowing with the Gibbston Valley and Mount Edward wineries in the 1980s and 1990s, and was a founding member of Central Otago Winegrowers.

Examining grapes from Kinross vineyard in Gibbston Valley are (from left) Wild Irishman senior...
Examining grapes from Kinross vineyard in Gibbston Valley are (from left) Wild Irishman senior intern Jerry Spencer, general manager Brian Shaw, owner Alan Brady and viticulturalist Brian Watson. PHOTOS: RUBY SHAW
In 2021 he and fellow Irishman and winemaker Brian Shaw registered a company to take the business into the future.

Until now, Wild Irishman wines have been made at Prophets Rock in Bendigo and at Alexandra Vintners.

Winemaker Brian Shaw said initially grapes from three Gibbston vineyards and one in Bannockburn would be processed in the new facility.

"We’ll continue our relationships with the other two wineries but with our tonnage increasing annually, it makes sense logistically and from a winemaking perspective to have our own winery."

Mr Brady and Mr Shaw were born in villages in Northern Ireland 50km and 50 years apart.

Viticulturalist Brian Watson rakes grapes into the destemming machine.
Viticulturalist Brian Watson rakes grapes into the destemming machine.
They first met 20,000km away in 2014 when Mr Shaw helped during harvest in New Zealand and a firm friendship developed.

Ten years later with vintage experience in Australia, New Zealand and England as a "flying winemaker", Mr Shaw is back to stay, with his young family.

"It was one of those things, meant to happen," he said.

"Alan and I share very similar grapegrowing and winemaking ideals – and an immense passion for Pinot Noir and Central Otago."

With a young partner in place, retirement is "almost a reality’’ for Brady (now 87) who said he had no desire to stop doing what he loves.

"Watching the magic of nature and the mystical process of grapejuice turning into wine has kept me healthy and happy for a long time."