After more than a century making great wine, Babich Wines has begun to harvest its stories as well.
It is a fascinating read, not only because of the family achievements since 1916, but also because the book gives a very concise history of New Zealand wine as a whole.
It got me thinking about how much has been achieved in such a short time frame, and how we owe a great deal to those early pioneers.
There have been many trials and tribulations in the past 100 years, highlighting how the wine industry has never been an easy one to survive in. Taxes, imports, prohibitive licencing laws, bureaucracy, disease and gaining market share have all been experienced by companies trying to make their mark. Some of those hurdles are still there. But if The Next Vintage showed me anything, it was that working together is the key to success. In the Babich case, it has been very much a family affair, from Josip, to Joe and Peter and now David running the show. The extended family has also played a major role in the company's success. As have friends and fellow wineries.
Everyone within the wine industry can learn from the Babich story. We are small enough (on a world scale) to consider ourselves as just one family. While blood is not the common denominator between us all, what flows through the wineries and ends up in the bottle is.
As with all families, there will be weaknesses and strengths. There will be those that shine and those that feel they have not received the credit they deserve. There will be sibling rivalry and rifts that require gentle handling. There will be those who want to rush headstrong into the world, regardless of consequences and those that take a more careful measured approach. But at the end of the day, the family unit is what brings everyone back together – it means more than anything else.
Would Babich Wines be the powerhouse it is today, if family members hadn't been able to work alongside each other with like-minded goals? I doubt it.
That could well be a lesson New Zealand's wine industry should take on board as we head into the future.
Just ask the Nooyen family, owners of Vilagrad Wines, who suffered a devastating fire earlier this year. They were overwhelmed by the support and thoughts of so many within the wine industry. While they lost 100 years of history in the fire, they are now moving forward, adding this terrible chapter to their history. They will survive, and they will do so as a family, helped by the larger wine family from throughout the country.
In this country, the greatest competitor to any winery or region is not the one living down the road, it is the one living across the sea. New Zealand wine stands or falls as a unit or family – not as an individual.