Weekly wine talk is published every Friday and the occasional Monday
Kirk Bray is the founder, owner, winemaker and creator of the Georges Road Wine brand in the Waipara Valley, North Canterbury. A region where the late ripening Syrah grape can be as impressive as the great Rieslings for which the valley is best known.
Bray began his professional life as a chartered accountant, which helps with filing GST returns. He woke up one day wondering why would he would continue his career in accountancy so he changed tack to study a year-long post graduate course in winemaking and viticulture at Lincoln University. With a head full of ideas and no experience, he worked his first vintage in the Waipara Valley, which he followed by stint in the United States, in the Pfalz region of Germany and then, circuitously, returned to where it all began – North Canterbury.
“I went to Germany initially to find out what the secrets to making Riesling were all about and quickly realised that wasn’t what it’s about at all. It just makes itself once you’ve got the best raw material.
Meet Kirk Bray of Georges Road Wines
This is the 12th interview on this website based on the famous Proust questionnaire, which originated in 1886 – find out more here.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
It’s not fully achieved yet but the continuing evolution of Georges Road Wines is definitely the most satisfying thing for me. I worked in Germany as a winemaker prior to starting Georges Road Wines and the thing that struck me there were the small family owned wineries where they knew everything about their own operation. It’s exciting and enormously satisfying to be able to speak from the heart about every single wine. The first vines went into the ground in 2005. Our first vintage was 2009.
What is your current state of mind?
Nervous but hopeful. Most of my wine sells through restaurants and the cellar door. Those channels were turned off for a while so it’s been more challenging with Covid but we’ve got to put everything in perspective. We’re only making wine. As great as that is to me. We’re not living in a war zone.
What is your favourite part of being involved in winemaking?
The very last tasting sample before bottling the wine.
Do you have a most treasured wine?
The first vintage of Georges Road wine was a 2009 Syrah and I’ve still got a bottle of it. Two years ago a customer brought me some 2009 Syrahs which were dug up from her cellar underground in Christchurch where a digger brought them up after they were buried in the ground from the earthquakes.
Where is your favourite wine region?
It’s too hard to have one because all wine regions are in beautiful places. I guess Europe is where I think of when asked that question but I can’t go past North Canterbury because it’s at the start of its journey; small but growing. It’s very exciting to be a part of it.
When and where are you at your happiest?
On holiday with my family, preferably exploring somewhere new and interesting and it’s lunchtime. That’s my ideal day.
What do you most dislike in wine?
Mass produced cheap wine brands. They are the antithesis of what I know and love about wine. Mass produced brands are just alcohol to me; shame on those who use that stuff as a loss leader and on us for buying it. Wineries of my size can’t even grow grapes for that price. I get people overseas asking us if we can land wine in China for $30 a dozen. It’s just ridiculous.
What is your greatest fear?
Hard question. That the world will end without anyone knowing of a band I love called Trashcan Sinatras.
What is your greatest extravagance?
If I had money I would spend it on travel.
What is your greatest regret?
I’m a glass half full person and that glass is Riesling and it won’t be half full for long.
What talent would you most like to have?
I can’t sing, I can’t play an instrument and I can’t draw. Any of those would be a bonus.
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
The helplessness that some people find themselves in through no fault of their own; being a refugee and unable to find hope or a solution to such a dire situation.
What is the trait that you most deplore in yourself?
Stubbornness but usually I’ll never admit to it.
What do you most value in your friends?
Shared connection and history. Fun times.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
When I’m in the tasting room talking to people, I find myself repeating the same stories. They don’t know it but I have told certain stories thousands of times.
I also love a good comedy catchphrase.
What is your favourite meal?
I love spice. It’s not always wine friendly but I love it. And who doesn’t love Italian food? My favourite meal is a simple ethnic meal with a whole bunch of friends at the table.
If you were to die and come back as a person or thing what do you think it would be?
The world doesn’t need another person and I don’t aspire to be anyone other than myself.
If I could imagine a great thing to be, I would come back as the Taj Mahal. I would get a lot of visitors.