Shocking, fascinating and unputdownable books are hard to come by so it is great to find that the new biography of Allan Scott provides all three ingredients of a rollocking tale of a new wine region, Marlborough.
Even the name of the book is sure to cause controversy among the many who would lay claim to being the first to plant grapes, build a winery, plunge a tank or sell a global success story. But Allan Scott’s humour and candid honesty shine through in this book.
He confess that the book’s title is “a bit of a joke”, adding that: “It’s one that no wine drinkers are in on, yet seemingly everyone in New Zealand’s wine industry loves to tell. Several Kiwis who have made their living – or their fortunes – from fermented grape juice are all too happy to portray themselves as the Marlborough Man…”
And regardless of all who may wish to claim the name, Scott’s stories certainly lend the book’s title plenty of street cred’. He was there when the first vines were planted (many of them upside down, so they died). He was there when Cloudy Bay Winery began (and brokered the deal for the land). He was there when the Stoneleigh brand came into existence and his take on these stories – and more – make this book one of the most honest, refreshing reads ever published about the foundation stones of the modern New Zealand wine industry.
Tales of new vineyards, big brands, private jets and extravagant living are intermingled with stories of those who got their hands and feet dirty right at the start of Marlborough’s dramatic conversion from farming to grape growing.
The book is a collaboration with North American journalist Eric Arnold, who once worked vintage at Allan Scott Wines and wrote his own book, First Crush, as a result.
This story is all Scott’s, however, and it starts at the kitchen table over a difficult discussion with Cathy, his wife, who looked uncomfortably at him about a decision they were about to take and came to regret. In typical Scott style, they learnt from their mistake, changed course and began again, but the beauty is in the reading, so I won’t divulge details here.
If you’re looking for a holiday read or a book for the wine lover in your life, Allan Scott lives up to the name Marlborough Man in his eponymous new biography, published this month in time for the silly season. It opens a few cans of controversial worms and, knowing many of those in the book, I can only say that the whole thing rings true. It’s a great story of humble beginnings, romance and big business.
Marlborough Man by Allan Scott and Eric Arnold is published by HarperCollins NZ, RRP $59.99.