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Featured Publication
for week ending 7th February 1999

Vines in the Valley

The Development of the Wine Growing Industry
in the Alexandra / Clyde District of Central Otago

A Personal Perspective

Bill Bodkin

Cover of Vines in the Valley

This is a book of short stories. Stories about the people who've taken over the land that not even sheep would graze. Stories about people who have come for the second gold rush of Central Otago.

The first Otago gold rush is well documented in the literature. When Gabriel Read found gold in 1861 the word spread like lightning. Prospectors descended in droves to pan and sluice the rich rivers of Central Otago - the Arrow, the Shotover and the Clutha, especially the stretch from Cromwell to Alexandra, through Clyde and the Clutha Valley.

It was to be exactly one hundred and twenty years later, in 1981, when the seeds for the second gold rush were planted. But it was not that yellow metal, it was liquid gold the new wave of prospectors dreamed about.

The resurgence of the second gold rush - a rush of the viticultural kind - has been carefully researched by Bill Bodkin, and documented in his book Vines in the Valley. Bodkin's 'Valley' is the Clutha Valley and encompasses the area between Alexandra and Clyde.

Bodkin's family lived on the property named Monte Christo, the place where the region's first vines were planted in 1864 by Jean Desire Feraud, who later became the First Mayor of Clyde. The old winery still stands today, although grapes are no longer grown on the property.

Further accounts of the region's viticultural history are given, including reports of the grape growing trials during the 1960's and 1970's. The current resurgence began with the planting of the Black Ridge Vineyard in 1981 and it is with this vineyard's owners that the short stories start. Eighteen other growers tell their stories, their trials, their tribulations, their struggle with the harsh land and the weather and their successes. It makes a totally interesting read. There are plenty of photographs, many in colour, and a sketch map of the area.

This book is a must for anyone interested in the history of New Zealand, the history of viticulture and for anyone who is thinking of setting up their own vineyard.

Now a sequel is required, to tell the stories of the growers in the nearby regions of Queenstown, Wanaka and other Central Otago localities abandoned by the gold prospectors so long ago.

'Vines in the Valley' was published by A.W. Bodkin, 92 Newcastle Street, Clyde, New Zealand in 1997. ISBN 0-473-04521-4

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