Never before have I felt quite like I did as I finished reading the last paragraph of this book. James Halliday’s ‘A Life in Wine’, a kind of autobiography, is a tale of an extraordinary wine journey.
James Halliday is without doubt the Godfather of the Australian wine industry. Every winery or wine worth its salt proudly displays a high score from one of his tastings. Almost as soon as I began to discover the gems of Australian wine, I was made aware of the importance of this man. Consequently, I was very keen to learn as much as I could about him. You can imagine my delight when I found this book in my Christmas stocking this year!
James Halliday, nearly an octogenarian, has had a career in wine spanning half a century or so. From his early days of delving into his parents cellar full of Lindmans wines, his enthusiasm was exponential. His accolades now include The Maurice O’Shea award for Outstanding Contribution to the Australian Wine Industry and Membership of the Order of Australia for his Contribution to Wine. He is also a revered senior wine judge in Australia and overseas and has established two highly regarded wineries.
Recollections of James’ adventures in wine, from his wine club at college, sojourns in Bordeaux and Burgundy and his ‘Single Bottle Club’ dinners, left my head in a spin. So many wonderful sounding wines and incredible events. His wine cellar sounds beguiling. With no formal wine education, James’ refined senses were honed from his enthusiasm and experience. Those famous points now widely quoted, are based on his own system of judging the quality of wine.
James Halliday has founded two wineries. The first, Broken Wood in the Hunter Valley, was a team effort. Second came Coldstream Hills in the Yarra Valley. He still lives and works close by with his wife. The overarching theme I got from his stories of their creation, was one of hard work and uncertainty. There is no doubt that amongst the numerous awards and successes, James has had his fair share of nail biting moments and heartache. It made for edge of seat reading.
The Luckiest Man in Wine?
Despite all of his obvious hard work, James admits that at least a portion of his success is down to simply being in the right place at the right time and, most noteworthy, he bestows much gratitude on his friends. In my opinion, whilst this does sound a little lucky, it is just a reflection of his determination to make the most of life. He clearly says ‘yes’ to a lot of things and has worked hard to forge networks of contacts and deep friendships that have helped shape his success. On top of this, he clearly loves what he does and devotes a great deal of time and energy to it. In conclusion, he has discovered a perfect recipe for success.
What does this mean to me?
Since having the courage to quit my teaching job and go in search of a career in wine, there have been a few doubts in my mind I must admit. The start of the new school year has come and gone. Meanwhile, I still sit on the sidelines waiting for university to start. As I meander through the first few months of my own journey, I have been very busy shaping my visions for the future and seeking inspiration.
James Halliday has inspired me to embrace my enthusiasm for wine. I should make some of my own rules and get absorbed into the industry as much as I can. He has taught me to say yes to opportunities and be determined to reach my goals. Even though I can be sure to expect many hurdles along the way.