Eric Brand OAM remembered

COONAWARRA has remembered Eric Brand OAM as a community man following his passing on April 22, aged 96.

Eric Brand passed away on April 22, aged 96. He is remembered as a great comunity man and a pioneer of Coonawarra.

Eric Brand passed away on April 22, aged 96. He is remembered as a great comunity man and a pioneer of Coonawarra.

Mr Brand, the first patron of Coonawarra, was honoured at a public service in the township on Tuesday for his long contribution to the wine scene in not only the Limestone Coast, but Australia-wide.

Fellow Coonawarra patron Doug Balnaves spoke highly of Mr Brand, who he described as "the nucleus" of the strong community spirit in the wine district.

"I knew Eric for a long time - for most of my life I would say," he said.

"I would call him a quiet achiever

"He was quietly spoken, not given to long conversations and extremely sincere...a great community man."

Mr Brand's involvement in the Coonawarra wine industry started in 1950 when Eric, after serving in the RAAF in Papua New Guinea and Borneo during WWII, and his late wife Nancy purchased the Laira vineyards and renamed it Brand's Laira. 

Then with their young family they established the winery and in 1966 became one of the first small artisan winemakers of Coonawarra.

As Mr Balnaves recalls, Brand's Laira was the first winery in the region to open their cellar door to the public.

Mr Brand was also a mentor to many, particularly Mr Balnaves.

When Mr Balnaves was asked to be development manager of Hungerford Hill's vineyard it was Eric who encouraged him to take up the role and subsequently helped guide him in the industry.

"He was a community person," Mr Balnaves said

"There's no doubt about that."

Mr Brand and his sons produced wine at Brand's Laira until 1994 when McWilliam's Wines purchased the property. 

Living on-site, he visited the cellar door almost every day until he was well past his 90s.

Coonawarra Grape and Wine Incorporated secretary Bruce Redman, also Mr Brands' nephew, paid tribute to the man who started Brand's Laira almost from scratch but also had a big role behind the scenes in the whole region.

"He was a prime mover in setting up the Coonawarra Vigneron's Association," Mr Redman said.

"Which was a precursor to Coonawarra Grape and Wine Incorporated."

Mr Redman said his uncle was "a doer and not a talker" with a wry sense of humour.

He was also a founding member of the Viticultural Society of SA.

Outside of his work in the wine industry Mr Brand was also involved in various community groups.

He was involved in the start of the Coonawarra Community Club, of which he is a life member, and the building of the Penola Swimming Pool.

The Lions Club of Penola and the Penola Bowling Club were also strongly supported by Mr Brand, a life member of both.

Mr Brand was farewelled at a small burial ceremony on Tuesday followed by a memorial service at the Coonawarra Hall, packed with family, friends and wine industry members from SA and interstate.

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