New Zealand winemaker Invivo – creator of UK chat show host Graham Norton’s Own Sauvignon Blanc – is about to move into a historic 114-year-old winery south of Auckland after securing a long term lease and full control of the winery.
The winery was first designed and constructed by the New Zealand government in 1902 as New Zealand’s first viticulture research station. The winery 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, 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.
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. This was the first international competition to award gold medals 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 and history of the winery 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.”
Invivo’s move to the historic winery follows last year’s $2 million equity crowdfunding raise, the first New Zealand Company to reach the $2 million statutory crowdfunding limit. The company now has 444 shareholders, including Graham Norton. As well as the winery, 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.
As Graham Norton would say, “cheers to that!” – a sentiment wine pioneer Romeo Bragato would probably agree with.