We have some exciting news! We have secured a long term lease and full control of an historic 114-year-old winery south of Auckland in Te Kauwhata.
WATCH TIM AND ROB TALKING ABOUT THE NEW VENTURE: click here!
The winery was first designed and constructed by the New Zealand government in 1902 as New Zealand’s first viticulture research station and was originally headed by industry pioneer and viticulturist Romeo Bragato. Invivo cofounder Tim Lightbourne is looking forward to adding another chapter to the winery’s long history. “It’s exciting to be taking over the place where Romeo Bragato made some of New Zealand’s first export wines. The guy’s a legend. Winemaker, innovator and exporter. The history of the place and the great stories that have been documented also really appealed to us.”
The winery will give winemaker Rob Cameron even greater creative control and an on-site bottling plant will turn out up to 12,000 bottles a day of Invivo’s award-winning Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and other New Zealand varietals.
“I’ve also got my eye on the enormous copper still,” says Rob. “Who knows what we could make in that beast!” The winery’s still dates back to World War 2, when it was used to make medicinal alcohol.
The copper still that dates back to World War 2 when it was used to make medicinal alcohol
Romeo Bragato’s original tools on display at the winery at Te Kauwhata
In 1908, six wines made by Romeo Bragato at the winery were sent to the Franco-British Exhibition in London. An incredible five of the six wines won gold medals, the first international gold medals ever awarded to a New Zealand wine.
Both founders are pleased that the Historic Places Trust-listed buildings will continue to operate as a winery. “This is a piece of Southern Hemisphere wine history,” says Tim, “So it’s great that we can continue the winemaking story there and it won’t be used for any other means or property developments.”
Invivo winemaker Rob Cameron adds “We plan to respect the historic features but also add extra capacity to support our growth plans. We are honoured to keep this historic winery operating and continue the legacy, when otherwise it would’ve had to close its doors.”
The original winery at Te Kauwhata
After the New Zealand Government’s ownership, the winery was operated by Rongopai wines from the 1990s until 2007. It was then recently run as a contract winemaking and bottling facility where all winemaking and bottling equipment has been upgraded to modern winemaking specs.
As well as this new venture, Invivo is investing in product development, further staff and marketing, and is already working with Norton on the 2016 Sauvignon Blanc – which will be among the first Invivo wines to be made and bottled at the 114-year-old facility.
Invivo will still be taking its grapes from Marlborough, Central Otago and Gisborne but will be taken to the new winery where all the winemaking and bottling will occur.
A further note from Rob:
“Our business model has always been to invest in our brand and the markets we work in, and in doing so source our grapes and winemaking through contract growers, wineries and bottlers. This model has worked extremely well for us over the years but we always knew that at a certain size the economies of scale in having some or all of our production handled ‘in house’ would make sense financially.
We plan to grow the capacity of the winery significantly this year, and with this we expect the return on this investment to be substantial. Having our own bottling facility and centralised logistics around one site will also hugely increase our efficiency in production and getting wine to our customers. From a winemaking perspective, this is our new home, where all our wines will be made, where we can experiment and refine, and who knows what sort of fun we can have with that huge alcohol still!”