Māori winemakers have formed the TUKU collective to take their brands into the future – sustainably.
FOR MOST BUSINESSES, long-term planning means looking three to five years into the future. But for the Māori winemakers who make up the new TUKU collective, it means thinking about the next 300 to 500 years.
TUKU’s five members – Steve Bird Wines, Kuru Kuru, Ostler Wine, te Pā Family Vineyards and Tiki – have joined forces in the name of sustainability, both of their brands and of their land. “Not only do we treat each other like family and work together, we also want to grow our businesses so we can be here for the long term,” says te Pā owner Haysley MacDonald.
Together, they cover all of New Zealand’s main wine-making regions and, through TUKU, they hope to strengthen indigenous wine-making as a whole. “There are very few that work collectively in this industry, that will share ideas, share market resources, share a meal together.”
Before the launch last month, the five members signed a charter outlining the key tenets of TUKU: kaitiakitanga (guardianship), whanaungatanga (kinship) and whakapapa (lineage), all underpinned by manaakitanga (hospitality).
They agreed to be open and transparent in the way they dealt with each other and with customers, one of which is Air New Zealand, which serves te Pā sauvignon blanc and Kuru Kuru pinot noir in Business Premier.
In November, all five winemakers, along with the eight other companies that make up the Hui Māori Collective, will launch on the Chinese e-commerce site Tmall Global, part of the Alibaba Group. MacDonald says buyers are drawn in by TUKU’s story of a deep connection to the land across generations.
“There’s a push for authenticity behind brands and what people are buying. They want to know it’s not just a label. “As a collective, we all offer something unique to the group, and we’re finding that customers are very welcoming of that.”
In a world first, a group of small to medium Māori businesses has secured a spot on one of China’s main e-commerce sites, Alibaba Group’s Tmall Global platform.The Hui Māori Collective will have a Māori branded product suite to sell a range of premium products direct to the Chinese market.
Māori Development Minister Nania Mahuta says, “I think this it is really great to see Māori businesses expanding overseas into foreign markets.”
Thirteen Māori businesses now have a place to market premium food products to an estimated audience of 307 million Chinese consumers.
Products available include Miraka milk powder, Tuku Māori Winemakers Collective wines, Mānuka honey from four businesses and kawakawa softdrink.
Products will also be verified and subject to quality assurance measures.
Kai Ora Honey Director Mabel Murray says, “Most of the businesses on this platform can connect back to the grassroots which means they will be able to carry out the traceability process right through to the end consumer.”
The total project costs $770,000 with Te Puni Kokiri and the businesses contributing around 55 percent. The balance is covered by New Zealand Trade Enterprise, NZ Post, AsureQuality and Poutama Trust.
Mahuta says “This is only the beginning. If it is a success as far as I am aware there is the opportunity for other companies to participate.”
National’s Māori Development spokesman Nuk Korako says, “I think this is a fantastic opportunity for Māori Businesses but this reflects a lot of the work that was done over the last three to five years under the National government.”
The site launched today but the brand’s story is expected to be launched in Shanghai come November.
The first ever Māori winemakers collective will be debuting at Winetopia later this month.
“It’s a collective of like-minded people who think that we can achieve more with our business and our chosen careers by working together than by working individually,” said Tuku Māori Winemakers Collective chairman, Steve Bird
Steve Bird talks about the first ever Maori winemakers collective, Tuku.
The group came together after members realised it would be more cost-effective to collaborate in trying to showcase their wines overseas and at New Zealand events, and that they could share ideas and help each other.
The five wine companies are te Pā Family Vineyards, Tiki Wine & Vineyards, Bird Wines, Kuru Kuru Wines, and Ostler Wine.
“There’s a very strong sort of family feeling about it,” Bird said.
They had come together based on “certain commonalities”.
“We all whakapapa back to specific waka … we identify as Māori or Māori families.”
They are all artisan winemakers that share common values, such as a sense of whānau and a connection and understanding of the land.
“We all like to have a bit of fun, we all love wine, we’ve all been in the game for a long time, know each other and pretty much know where the bones are buried. We all have stories we can tell which pretty much shouldn’t see the light of day.
“You’re not going to come and sit around the table with any of the Tuku team, you’re going to come and share a meal.”
Each group contributes something different to the collective – te Pā Wines have owned and farmed the same piece of land for 800 years, while Jeff Sinnott from Ostler was “one of the most technically competent winemakers” in New Zealand, and Hayden Johnston of Kuru Kuru Wines has experience distributing wines in the UK.
They are also focused on sustainability and looking to the future for their families.
Bird said Tuku’s official launch is not until July, but they are debuting at Winetopia in Wellington at the end of the month.
Head chef at Boulcott St Bistro, Rex Morgan, will be running the event’s first pop-up restaurant, and is teaming with Tuku to create dishes to match their wines.
He will incorporate “subtle” Māori flavours in the dishes, he said.
Morgan focuses on showcasing Māori foods “without gimmicks”. Some of the ideas he wants to include in his dishes are seaweed, hangi and smoke.
Winetopia organiser Rob Elliot said there would be a few new things at this year’s event for people to experience.
There will be 60 wineries taking part, so visitors can sample all parts of New Zealand’s winescape.
They can attend food and wine matching masterclasses, sample a champagne Bollinger jelly, and talk to top winemakers.
He is expecting about 4000 people at each Winetopia event this year.
MANU Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2016 has been recognised as a ‘Best Buy’ by Wine Enthusiast magazine.
Prestigious United States magazine Wine Enthusiast has recommended MANU Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2016 as a ‘Best Buy’ and scored it 91 points in its soon-to-be published March 2018 edition.
Christina Pickard, a Contributing Editor who reviews wines from Australia and New Zealand at Wine Enthusiast, awarded a score of 91 points to MANU Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2016. Pickard’s work has previously appeared in publications such as Australia’s Gourmet Traveller Wine, James Halliday’s Wine Companion, Scoop Magazine, Decanter and Wine Enthusiast. She was the co-host of the popular podcast, The Crush, as well as a regular presenter on various TV shows.
In her review Christina said of the MANU…
“Aromatic and attractive, this wine spends a little time on its skins, causing it to burst with aromas of flowers, peaches, lime leaf and a bit of honey. The skins also contribute to the satiny texture, balanced by crisp acidity and finishing with a limey, saline tang. Best Buy.”
The MANU brand is imported into the US by Indigo Wine Group. Please click here to find our partner in your country.