Tohu, world’s first Māori-owned wine company celebrates 20 years


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,” Paul Morgan, Wakatū Chairman says.

“From the beginning we knew how important our brand and story were. Every Tohu bottle carries our distinctive logo, derived from a koru pattern. 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,” Mr 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,” Rachel Taulelei, Kono CEO 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 twenty 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.

“20 years is a significant milestone for any business. It gives us the opportunity to reflect on our achievements and to acknowledge all those that have been part of our history and success, as well as to look forward to a positive future,” Mr Morgan says.

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

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

Tohu Wines milestones


Tohu Wines launched in partnership between the South Island-based Wakatū Incorporation and Ngāti Rarua Atiawa Iwi Trust, and Gisborne-based Wi Pere Trust. First vintage of 3200 cases sold domestically.


First wine exported.


Awatere Valley, Marlborough vineyard purchased and first vines planted


Whenua Matua, Moutere vineyard planted


Bruce Taylor starts as Tohu chief winemaker


First trophy awarded - Tohu Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010 wins Champion Sauvignon Blanc and New Zealand Wine Cellars Spence Brothers Trophy


Wakatū Incorporation buys out NRAIT (Ngāti Rārua Ātiawa Iwi Trust) and the Wi Pere Trust to become the sole owner of Tohu


Winery purchased in the Awatere Valley


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


Tohu Single Vineyard Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc selected to be served at former United States President Barack Obama’s invitation-only dinner in Auckland

More information on Tohu Wines’ history and

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. Annies has been owned by Kono since 2014. More information about Kono  

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. More information about Wakatū

For more information, interviews and images contact:

Felicity Connell, Mātanga Kōrero, Communications specialist.
Mobile: +64 21 194 8033