World-first Māori-owned wine company Tohu celebrates 20 years

Tohu – New Zealand’s oldest Māori-owned wine label – is celebrating 20 years of wine-making history and achievements.

Launched in 1998 by Wakatū Incorporation in partnership with two Māori organisations, Tohu Wines is recognised as He mātāmua taketake - the original 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,” says Wakatū chairman Paul Morgan. “From the beginning we knew how important our brand and story were.”

Every Tohu bottle carries a distinctive logo, based on the koru pattern – a distinctive representation of the unfurling frond of a fern.

“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,” 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 Wakatū.

“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,” Kono CEO Rachel Taulelei says.

“Through Tohu Wines we get to take kaupapa Māori 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 20 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.

The 20-year milestone offered the opportunity to reflect on achievements and to acknowledge those who had have been part of the history and success, Mr Morgan said.

“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, Tohu was a relatively early entrant in an industry that has become one of New Zealand’s top export earners. Tohu wines are exported and enjoyed by people all over the world, with significant markets in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.

As part of the 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,” Tohu chief winemaker Bruce Taylor says.

Background: Tohu Wines milestones

  • 1998: Tohu Wines launched: 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 – Tohu Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010 wins Champion Sauvignon Blanc and New  Zealand Wine Cellars Spence Brothers Trophy
  • 2010: Wakatū Incorporation becomes 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 Māori-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, Annies fruit bars, and Tutū cider.

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