When one thinks of Sauvignon Blanc, they may think of the green-skinned white wine grape that originated in France. However, i think of Sauvignon Blanc and New Zealand as being practically synonymous, as this is the varietal that put New Zealand on the wine map. One winery that is known for producing stellar Sauvignon Blanc in the region is te Pā Winery. te Pā is based at the top of the South Island in the beautiful Marlborough wine region of Aotearoa-New Zealand.
In advance of #SauvBlancDay, #WiningHourChat sat down with Mikela, the marketing manager for te Pā Wines. We are always happy to have a taste of New Zealand and learn what’s new with te Pā. Here are some highlights from our vinous conversation:
#WiningHourChat: Please tell us a little bit about the origins and history of te Pā Winery.
te Pā Winery: We take huge pride in the unique heritage and history of te Pā. To give a brief history of te Pā, the founder, Haysley MacDonald, traces his lineage (his whakapapa, as the concept of lineage / ancestry is known in Maori), to some of the earliest Maori arrivals to Aotearoa-New Zealand, around 800 years ago. The iwi (tribe) lived in the lower Wairau Valley area, on the Wairau Bar, ever since those early landings. The area became one of the first human settlements in this country, pre-dating any European settlements for centuries.
Haysley’s iwi (tribe) and whanau (family), therefore, have a deep and long-standing connection to this area. They have farmed the land here for generations, and have been sustained by this ‘food bowl’ region ever since the historic landings almost 8 centuries ago.
In the 1990s, Haysley’s family were prominent potato growers, on the family plot near the settlement, as the land here is fertile and productive. In 2003, Haysley MacDonald planted the first grapes on the family land, converting it from potato plots, and then the te Pā brand was launched to critical acclaim in 2011.
#WiningHourChat: Wow! The origins and history of te Pā is quite interesting. What an incredible lineage!
I know that New Zealand has done really well with the pandemic and eliminating COVID-19 cases. How has the pandemic impacted your brand and/or the winery?
te Pā Winery: Yes, we have been fortunate here in New Zealand to have come through Covid in a strong position, and none of us take that for granted.
We harvested our grapes under a strict Level 4 national lockdown in 2020, which was hard on our amazing team, as well as many other wineries, so this year was quite a different picture with no/fewer restrictions on movement and social distancing. In fact, 2020 was an outstanding vintage year for us in NZ. While we did bring in the fruit under strict Covid lockdown, the weather gods were good to us and the fruit was exceptional!
We’ve had strong demand for our wines in New Zealand and around the world. Wine is a great comfort during challenging times and the simple pleasure of a glass of your favorite vino with a home-cooked meal has been a blessing for many people staying home over the last 12 months.
We were SO grateful and fortunate to have the Kiwi summer with some of the world’s only live concerts and festivals, and we send all of our aroha (love) and support to our wine friends all over the world who are still in the throes of Covid.
#WiningHourChat: It’s good to hear how well you guys have fared. I hope the rest of the world can get it together and learn from your example.
Speaking about changing times, how has te Pā adapted to climate change? How has your brand evolved over the last 10 years in general?
te Pā Winery: We are a proud member of SWNZ (Sustainable Winegrowers New Zealand) which is widely recognised as a world-leading sustainability program and was one of the first to be established in the international wine industry in 1995. All of our wines bear the SWNZ logo on the back label.
We are focusing more and more on sustainability in our vineyards and operations, as we know that everyone has a part to play to combat climate change. It’s also key to our company value of kaitiakitanga, which is the Maori concept for caring for the land and people.
As part of our sustainability efforts, we do inter-row planting in the vineyards to promote soil health and biodiversity, we focus on water conservation, we spread grape skins and pruning clippings back onto our vineyards as healthy compost.
We also graze sheep in the vineyards during the winter months to assist with weed control and adding organic matter to the soil (the sheep have just arrived this week actually) and we even use bio-degradable plant-based tasting glasses at our events.
#WiningHourChat: I just marvel at how everything is so lush and green. Beautiful!
te Pā Winery: Yes, even during the grapes’ ripening period on the vine, the huge temperature shifts between night and day here in Marlborough, NZ play a role in building and locking in the incredible flavours of the zingy, expressive Sauvignon Blanc.
Here’s the grape marc (the skins leftover after pressing the juice out) that we spread thinly over our vineyards. This photo was from our 2021 harvest just a few weeks ago.
We’re so lucky to live in this beautiful region – and the cute sheep and delicious wines are just the start. Scenery, kai moana (seafood), local cheeses, skiing…we have it all!
#WiningHourChat: Awww, I want to come and see the sheep…and drink some wine. Absolutely beautiful!
So, as we know, this year represents te Pā Winery’s 10th Anniversary. This week, we also celebrate #Sauvblancday! Will you guys be pouring anything special?
te Pā Winery: Great question! We’ll be sipping on our gorgeous te Pā 2020 Sauvignon Blanc to celebrate #sauvblancday #tenyearsoftepa and #nzwine!
Once you taste a zingy NZ #SauvBlanc, you’ll never forget how alive your taste buds feel. Bursting with ripe gooseberry, passionfruit, capsicum & a refreshing ‘cut grass’ flavour profile, NZ Sauvignon Blanc is world famous for a reason.
#WiningHourChat: While we have had the pleasure of tasting many of your wines, including your delicious Pinot Noir…we, of course, poured some te Pā Sauvignon Blanc to celebrate as well. I always appreciate the freshness and bright acidity. Koha Sauvignon Blanc is crisp and refreshing. Citrus and tropical fruit aromas. Clean finish.
As you have reached this ten year milestone, are you celebrating with any special events? Parties? Any special bottles? Or labels?
te Pā Winery: That’s right #WiningHourChat whanau (family)! 2021 marks the tenth vintage of our flagship wine, with our first bottling of our te Pā Sauvignon Blanc back in 2011.
In the lead up to #SauvBlancDay we’ve been sharing heaps of great stories and photos, wine flavor profiles and, of course, delicious food matching ideas, which we think marks our ten years of Sauvignon Blanc in fitting form. We’re also planning a celebration for early October, which marks the date of our 1st bottling back in 2011!
We released a limited edition run of beautiful t-shirts for our team and friends of the business, to mark our 10th harvest this year (we finished harvest early April). The front of the shirt, which features our distinctive map of the Wairau area, has been home to Haysley’s family for 800 years, sitting proudly on our te Pā front label. #tenyearsoftepa
As one of just a few Maori-owned, NZ and independently owned wineries, it’s a real point of pride for us all to see our beautiful wine doing so well on the world stage!
#WiningHourChat: It is pretty awesome to see what you guys have accomplished in 10 years! Any new wines or projects in the works?
te Pā Winery: We’ve been focused on a few new wines in the last 12 months, particularly around the launch of our te Pa Signature Series range with Tesco into the UK in August last year, which was our 1st major UK listing.
And we’re steadily building our brands and availability of te Pā & Koha in the USA, so for anyone who is keen to try our wines, which are all sustainably-grown and vegan friendly, we can provide a local stockist!
Thank you so much for having us on tonight’s #WiningHourChat. Ma te wa (goodbye for now). I’ll leave you with a beautiful Maori proverb, which speaks to the power of these wine conversations and to all of us around the world:
“He waka eke noa.”Maori Proverb
The quote translates to “A canoe which we are all in, with no exception”. According to te Pā New Zealand, the traditional Māori fishhook is considered taonga or sacred and a symbol of life source and strength. Mikela explained, “Quite simply, we are all in this together.” Well said.
#WiningHourChat: Mikela and te Pā, thank you so much for speaking with us and for sharing your wines and rich heritage. I really love hearing and learning Maori words! We wish you the best, and Happy 10th Anniversary to te Pā Winery!!!
“Superb wine borne from ancient lands.” That is te Pā Wines. You owe it to yourself to open a bottle today.