This month we’re back in Marlborough where in 1998, Tohu Wines established the world’s first Maori-owned wine business. Since then, they have focused on creating internationally acclaimed wines from sub regions in New Zealand’s premier grape-growing regions. The Tohu wine-making philosophy is to create wines that capture the flavours of each region’s unique environment, while upholding respect and protection of the land for future generations.
“Tohu Wines are part of a family business and business of families. Our tupuna were kaitiaki of whenua and moana – farmers, fishermen, planters and providores. They were astute, creative and entrepreneurial. It is our responsibility to uphold their legacy, and enhance the resources they passed down to us, now and for future generations.”
Today they create internationally recognised award-winning wines while remaining true to their deeply held values, which include rangatiratanga, kaitiakitanga and manaakitanga – excellence, guardianship and kindness. Every Tohu bottle carries their distinctive logo, derived from a koru pattern.
For Maori, the koru symbolises growth, life and the natural world, and their logo celebrates this iconic spiral. It represents the growth of their company and the journey of their people from the past to today. This koru signifies their long-term inter-generational goals and has become their tohu, their signature.
Tohu Wines is part of Kono, a Maori, whanau-owned company based in Te Tauihu, the top of the South Island. With approximately 4000 owners, who descend from the customary Maori land-owners, the whanau and hapu of the Whakatu, Motueka and Mohua rohe, their purpose is to preserve and enhance these taonga for present and future generations.
Bruce Taylor is the Chief Winemaker who together with Anna McCarty Winemaker produce a wide range some excellent wines.
Read more about the people of Tohu Wines: https://www.tohuwines.co.nz/who-we-are
Marlborough is New Zealand’s most famous wine region. World-renowned for its Sauvignon Blanc, it is also recognised for other classic varietals that thrive here such as Riesling, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Whenua Awa, their Marlborough vineyard, was planted in 2002. Whenua Awa means ‘land by the river’. It is an idyllic spot nestled in the upper reaches of the Awatere Valley, sitting 200 metres above sea level on stony river terraces. With views out to the Pacific Ocean and the mighty mountain Tapuae-o-Uenuku rising behind it, the vineyard is not only naturally beautiful, it also produces some of the best Sauvignon Blanc grapes in world.
With a cooler and drier climate than other parts of Marlborough, the growing season in the Awatere Valley is longer, and is ripening slower. Combine this with dry, free-draining soil – an important feature of the terroir in Awatere – and the result is intensely flavoured fruit and exceptional wines. Read more about the Tohu Marlborough Vineyard.
Whenua Matua translates to ‘significant land’. True to its name, this land holds a special place in their hearts. Situated in the Moutere Hills area of the Nelson region, the vineyard sits on ancient Maori tribal land that has been handed down through their tupuna, ancestors, for hundreds of years. We like to think the wine grown here is not only a gift from the land, but also from our tupuna.
The Whenua Matua vineyard was planted in 2005. It is a spectacular site for growing grapes – particularly the Pinot Gris, Pinot Rose and Pinot Noir and varietals Nelson is recognised for. The land is gentle, rolling country, with clay soils laced with layers of gravel. The vineyard predominately faces north and the climate is warm with high sunshine hours.
Its sloping hillsides experience excellent airflow during frost-prone periods of the growing season. Soils found on some areas of Whenua Matua are heavier and composed of clay, which is ideal for growing the succulent grapes used in our award-winning Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris wine. Read more about the Tohu Nelson Vineyard.
Tohu have been producing their own wine since 1998 (when they sold their first 3200 cases) and growing their own grapes since 2002. In 2012, they bought their very first winery. Based near their vineyards in Marlborough’s Awatere Valley, the winery marked the beginning of a new era for their expanding wine business. For the first time, they could control the entire wine-making process – from vine to bottle.
The modern, fit-for-purpose facility is overseen by their exceptionally talented chief winemaker – Bruce Taylor, who joined them in 2008. Having a dedicated winery set up to his own exacting requirements enables Bruce and his team to ensure consistency, as well as to control and optimise all aspects of the winemaking process – from growing and sourcing the grapes to making and bottling the wine.
“Kaitiakitanga (guardianship) is one of the core values that directs our business and our relationship with our environment. We are collectively responsible for protecting and enhancing our precious natural resources that are our life force. Our grapes are grown with the soil knowledge passed down from our Maori tupuna (ancestors). We have a deep and inextricable connection to the land, to prosper, our environment must be well and healthy, full of life and vitality.”
“The concept of ‘caring’ for our lands as well as their rich and fertile condition create wines of personality and purity. We adhere to the strictest of standards. Our vineyards and winery are certified by Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand. In November 2023, Tohu, alongside parent businesses Wakatu and Kono, achieve Toitu certification.”
Read more about the Tohu journey to Bio-Gro certification and Toitu certification here: https://www.tohuwines.co.nz/sustainability
Tohu wines are inspired by the values they hold close. They are made for sharing, and their practices from the vineyard to your hands are guided by their culture. Their dedication to producing outstanding wine is deeply engrained in their duty to care for the land. They care deeply about people and place, and their promise to the world of love for the land, respect for the sea. Each range has been crafted with aroha (love) and is a gift from their land.
The Tohu Manaaki range offers contemporary, approachable wines made for sharing and entertaining, including Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot and a Rose.
The Tohu Whenua series are single vineyard wines from the Whenua Matua vineyard which sits among the sun-drenched slopes of upper Moutere, Nelson, and the Whenua Awa vineyard situated high on the remote terraces of the upper Awatere Valley, Marlborough.
Each wine is an expression of the uniqueness of the place, and Tohu’s enduring connection to the land. The Whenua series includes Albarino, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling & Pinot Noir.
The Tohu Rewa series of Méthode Traditionnelle, includes Chardonnay ‘Blanc de Blanc’ and a Sparkling Pinot Rosé.
I hope this has provided a little insight into the Tohu brand, the people, the place and the wines – To find out more about the Tohu Wines Story and to purchase wine online visit:
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JB’s Tasting Notes
Tohu Wines ‘Whenua Awa’ Single Vineyard Riesling 2019, Awatere Marlborough NZ
Light golden colour with a pale green tinge. Intensely aromatic nose of fresh lemon & lime, sweet apple, honey & beeswax aromas, just a hint of ‘kero.’ The palate is juicy & crisp, filled with flavours of tart lemon / lime citrus, green apple & ripe stone-fruit. Nice grip / acidity & textural elements with a long zesty finish. I tasted the 2018 vintage in 2019 & it proves that a few years in the cellar certainly benefits Rieslings. Excellent! Recently awarded a Trophy medal at the Global Fine Wine Challenge 2023. RRP: $26.00
Tohu Wines ‘Rewa’ Blanc de Blancs, Méthode Traditionelle 2016 Rapuara Marlborough NZ
Deep yellow gold in colour, creamy mousse on pouring a fine persistent bead; has a nice oily viscosity too. Freshly baked bread & toasted nut aromas initially, then bright lemon citrus & green apple notes follow. Luscious palate with a crisp citrus acidity, slight wet-stone minerality & creamy lees mouthfeel adding texture and complexity. Beautiful long & refreshing off-dry finish. This fabulous aged Marlborough Méthode was awarded the NZ Wine Centre Legacy Award, sponsored by Marlborough Research Centre, at the Marlborough Wine Show 2023. 100% Chardonnay aged for 54 months in bottle before disgorgement then 5 more months before release. RRP: $40.00