Tohu Wines: Celebrating 20 Years

12 Dec 2018
Bruce Taylor, winemaker at Tohu

In 1998, Wakatū Incorporation, in partnership with two other Māori organisations, launched Tohu Wines, recognised as the first Māori-owned and operated wine label in New Zealand and the world.

“Our vision in founding a wine company was to have a platform to share our culture, story and values with the world,” Rachel Taulelei, CEO Kono says. “Through Tohu Wines we get to take kaupapa Māori to the world every day.”

“We had very humble beginnings,” Rachel says. Our first vintage in 1998 produced only 3200 cases of wine.  Twenty years later we now produce over 220,000 cases, and our wine regularly wins awards both in New Zealand and internationally. In making our wine we are committed to upholding our deeply held values, which include rangatiratanga, manaakitanga and kaitiakitanga – excellence, kindness and guardianship.

Rewa Rose design

Tohu's chief winemaker Bruce Taylor has been planning for years to create a special celebratory wine to recognise this milestone.

They chose to work with artist Flox because she shares the same passion for the unique landscape of Aotearoa. They knew she would be the perfect artist to express and honour our connection to the land.

In Māori, rewa means to make liquid, to float, to be elevated.  Rewarewa is also the native honeysuckle tree, which light pink flowers are a food source for the korimako (bellbird). All of these are beautifully depicted by Flox’s distinctive illustrations.

In honouring their role as kaitiaki of our whenua, Tohu have linked up with Trees That Count to create a tote bag incorporating Flox’s design. For a limited time, when you buy this tote bag, a native tree will be planted.

The concept of kaitiakitanga, taking care of the land and water, is one of our fundamental values.

Tohu aims to make stunning wine while ensuring that their practices and management have minimal impact on the land, leaving the whenua (land) in a better state than they found it. They have been certified by Sustainable Winegrowing NZ for several years and being environmentally sustainable is an ongoing journey for them. At Kono they have a new programme called Whenua Ora, which is our land and water wellness programme.

They have two vineyards, one in the Awatere Valley in Marlborough, and one in the Upper Moutere. At both sites Tohu have been planting thousands of native plants, which are increasing the number of native specifies in and around the vineyards.

“Every Tohu bottle carries our distinctive logo, derived from a koru pattern. For Māori, the koru symbolises growth, life and the natural world, and our logo celebrates this iconic spiral. It represents the growth of our company and the journey of our people from the past to today. This koru signifies our long-term intergenerational goals and has become our tohu, our signature.” 

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