The world's first Maori-owned wine company celebrates 20 years »

Tohu Wines reaches a major milestone and international recognition

Contributed articles and stories
Subscribe to
Tohu Bruce Taylor Kono Chief Winemaker

Tohu Bruce Taylor Kono Chief Winemaker [©Neil Smith]

Tohu winery Awatere Valley, Marlborough
Tohu vineyard in the Awatere Valley, Marlborough with Tapuae o Uenuku in the background
Tohu Whenua Matua vineyard, Moutere
Tohu Rachel Taulelei CEO Kono


Launched in 1998 by Wakatu Incorporation in partnership with two Maori organisations, Tohu Wines is recognised as 'He matamua taketake' – the original – as the first Maori-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,” Paul Morgan, Wakatu Chairman says.

“From the beginning we knew how important our brand and story were. Every Tohu bottle carries our distinctive logo, derived from a koru pattern. For Maori, 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,” Mr Morgan says.

Since 2002 Tohu Wines has been growing its own grapes, and since 2012, has been crafting wine in its own winery.

Tohu Wines is part of Kono, the food and beverage arm of Wakatu Inc.  “We are proud that we can take our own grapes all the way from vineyards, to the winery, all the way to our consumers’ hands,” Rachel Taulelei, Kono CEO says.

“Through Tohu Wines we get to take kaupapa Maori to the world every day. We strive to work in ways that are kind to people and environment without compromising quality and integrity.

We have a strong spiritual connection with the land and a responsibility to pass it on in good health to future generations.”

“Over the last twenty years, we have created internationally acclaimed wines, crafting wine that encapsulates a place and time, and reflects the unique characteristics of our vineyards. In making our wine we are committed to upholding our deeply held values, which include rangatiratanga, manaakitanga and hihiritanga – excellence, kindness and innovation,” Ms Taulelei says.

“20 years is a significant milestone for any business. It gives us the opportunity to reflect on our achievements and to acknowledge all those that have been part of our history and success, as well as to look forward to a positive future,” Mr Morgan says.

“We are thankful to all those who have worked tirelessly to take Tohu Wines from its humble beginnings through its current status as an internationally recognised and award-winning wine label.

Thanks to farsighted pioneers such as James Wheeler and Mugwi Macdonald, we were a relatively early entrant in an industry that has become one of New Zealand’s top export earners. Our wines are now exported and enjoyed by people all over the world, with significant markets in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia,” Mr Morgan says.

As part of their 20-year celebrations, Tohu is releasing a limited edition Methodé Traditionelle Rewa Rosé 2015 at a special launch event in October. “We wanted to create something really special to celebrate this significant anniversary. Our sparkling rosé is crafted solely from pinot noir. It’s an elegant yet complex wine with bright berry aromas and brioche notes,” Bruce Taylor, Tohu chief winemaker says.

Tohu Wines' milestones

  • 1998 Tohu Wines launched in partnership between the South Island-based Wakatu
  • Incorporation and Ngati Rarua Atiawa Iwi Trust, and Gisborne-based Wi Pere Trust.
  • First vintage of 3200 cases sold domestically.
  • 2000 First wine exported
  • 2002 Awatere Valley, Marlborough vineyard purchased and first vines planted
  • 2005 Whenua Matua, Moutere vineyard planted
  • 2008 Bruce Taylor starts as Tohu chief winemaker
  • 2010 First trophy awarded – Tohu Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010 wins Champion
  • Sauvignon Blanc and New Zealand Wine Cellars Spence Brothers Trophy
  • 2010 Wakatu Incorporation buys out NRAIT (Ngati Rarua Atiawa Iwi Trust) and the Wi Pere
  • Trust to become the sole owner of Tohu
  • 2012 Winery purchased in the Awatere Valley
  • 2017 Tohu Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2016 named in Air New Zealand Fine Wines of
  • New Zealand list – a compilation of the country’s most prestigious wines for 2017
  • 2018 Tohu Single Vineyard Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc selected to be served at former United States President Barack Obama’s invitation-only dinner in Auckland

About Kono

Kono is a Maori-owned, top 100 New Zealand food and drinks company employing over 400 staff, farming over 530 hectares of land and sea, and exporting to over 25 countries.

Brands include Tohu, Kono and Aronui wines, Kono mussels, Annie's fruit bars, and Tutu cider. Annie's has been owned by Kono since 2014.

Kono is an associated business of Wakatu Incorporation. Based in Nelson, Wakatu has approximately 4,000 shareholders who descend from the original Maori land owners of the Nelson, Tasman and Golden Bay regions – Te Tau Ihu, the top of the South Island.

Our Recommendations

To see our recommendations, ratings and reviews you must be a logged-in subscriber.

To subscribe please enter your email address in the "Subscribe Now - it's Free" box on the right and click the "Join" button, or fill in this form >

September 26th, 2018
Subscribe today - it's free
Subscribe Button

Subscribe now - for news and reviews, our newsletter (optional), to join our forums, and more.

Enter your email address and click the Subscribe button. We respect your privacy.

Log in

Enter your username...

Enter your password...

Log In Button

Forgotten your password?


Kerry's corner - your free benefits