For her part, Sarah Jessica Parker was simply intrigued:
“I thought it was absurd. I’d no business messing around in the wine trade. My husband and I are consumers and I wanted to meet the men bold enough to even produce the idea.”
A long conversation followed: “They convinced me that they would share all their information and experience and let me learn. I could ask questions and be wrong; be inspired, be informed and it’s just been an extremely unexpected, lovely delicious experience. It’s been such a treat and I have grown to be so fond of Tim and Rob and the way they conduct their business.”
Celebrities have been putting their names to wines since Greek and Roman times because they enjoy wine and/or as an investment.
In the United States, Francis Ford Coppola, Arnold Palmer, Joe Montana and Mario Andretti all have vineyards in the Napa Valley while other famous Americans with wine-growing interests include Drew Barrymore, Johnny Depp, Madonna and Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie with a winery in France they bought in 2011 for NZ$60 million. Unlike their marriage, the Rose they produce in Provencal has gone from strength to strength, with a magnum of Muse de Mirival fetching almost NZ$5 million at a charity auction.
Other stars lending their names to the wine industry include Sting, Mick Hucknall of Simply Red, Olivia Newton John, Cliff Richard, Gerard Depardieu, Boz Scaggs and Mick Fleetwood along with golfers Nick Faldo and Greg Norman and ice hockey great Wayne Gretzky.
What’s different with the Kiwi connection to their stars is the degree to which Graham Norton and Sarah Jessica Parker are involved in the whole process.
SJP had in fact been a guest on the Graham Norton Show and ironically she discovered she’d already been a solid customer of the Invivo brand. She has a house in Ireland and bought it all the time from the above-mentioned local grocery store.
Tim again: “We wanted someone who would give us a shot so she’s been amazing in the creative process, working on the label.
“I sat in there and presented different concepts and it was great just working with her but also in the blending process as well… working with Rob and not always agreeing with the samples we were presenting to her… which is exactly what we wanted from her.”
The label is a very personal creation. She signs off letters in her own hand or emails with “X, SJP” and it was Tim’s idea to use the signature as the label.
Teal – for the sauvignon blanc label - is her favourite colour and she bought the paint and spent hours on getting the “X,” just right. The paint was acrylic and dried quickly leaving a ridged texture which they left on the label.
The attention to detail was carried into the wine-making process and as Tim says: “Blending the wine with her was a hugely fun experience.” The Invivo co-founders and SJP expanding on the experience in a global virtual wine tasting with Wine.com via Zoom.
Rob: “The way you were describing the wine and the way you talk about it… the styles that you like: texture, elegance. That was a great brief you gave me to go and blend some components that we could then put a blend together. Sarah Jessica was 100 per cent the director of that movie for sure!”
The USA is New Zealand’s largest export market for wine with $422 million USD in sales… an impressive statistic considering that NZ produces less than 1% of all the world’s wine, and the data shows there is room for further growth.
For Invivo, having Sarah Jessica Parker on board was aimed at using her profile to raise that of their wine but her involvement went far beyond being a figurehead.
Rob to SJP: “We’re not living in America, we’re not eating what you guys do. How fitting is it to have someone in your country help us design a wine that’s going to be a little bit more tailored to your palette?
“It’s what Tim and I founded our business on. It’s not all about us. It’s actually about bringing our consumers and people into the actual process. “
Cue the jousting as the Kiwi palette engages with the American to create a new NZ Sauvignon Blanc…
Rob: “With any wine you have to respect where it comes from. It’s still going to be screaming of Marlborough, it’s still going to have massive amounts of citrus and tropical fruits and be bursting with fruits. But there’s an element of the process that’s very much down to human hands and that’s the little bit of magic that SJ put into this blend and it’s her style and sway on it which we think is such a fun thing.”
But as Rob recalls, the collaboration during the blending wasn’t always plain sailing. “I kind of liked some of the components and she really did not,” explains Rob. “One aroma she really didn’t like was a passionfruit /papaya aroma. For the layman at home this particular chemical compound is detectable down to parts per billion. It’s something that SJ’s nose is so attuned to we took it out of the blend.”
“I personally liked it and we try to put some of it in our wines but this was her blend and it was really good fun, a little bit of creative tension there.”
Nothing to worry about according to SJP: “It was so nice. You were always so gentle about it. You never seemed offended. There wasn’t fisticuffs or anything. We didn’t bust out about it. It was like really good sword playing negotiations.”
The results speak for themselves with the wine winning a slew of awards and accolades and opened up New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc to female wine drinkers in the US.
After arguably the biggest global wine launch of 2019 SJP’s Invivo X from Marlborough created headline news around the world with fans in New York queuing for hours to meet the star and have their bottle of wine autographed.
Mike Osborne, Founder and Executive Vice President of wine.com – America’s biggest online wine retailer - describes the wine as “one of their most successful launches ever.”
And on that Wine-com forum Sarah Jessica Parker is seen adoringly stroking a bottle of Invivo X, SJP and fondly commenting: ”It’s been so great. She’s been so well received. She’s won awards. It’s been so nice.”