Christopher Adams

The Business Herald’s markets and banking reporter.

Asian win for Kiwi wine up and comers

Invivo Wines New Zealand founders Tim Lightbourne (left) and Rob Cameron. Photo / Dean Purcell
Invivo Wines New Zealand founders Tim Lightbourne (left) and Rob Cameron. Photo / Dean Purcell

An up-and-coming Kiwi wine label is toasting its success after taking out two awards in a major Asian competition last week.

Auckland-based Invivo Wines won the overall international sauvignon blanc trophy, as well as the best New Zealand sauvignon blanc trophy, at the Hong Kong International Wine & Spirit Competition.

Co-founder Tim Lightbourne said the awards meant a lot for the export-focused company, which was rapidly expanding its sales in China, Taiwan and Japan.

"It adds credibility to what we're doing," he said.

Lightbourne said the label was now selling 30 per cent of its wine in Asia, up from just 10 per cent a year ago.

China, where the company was currently negotiating a deal with a major new customer, was a challenging market, he said.

"You've got the different provinces and it's quite fragmented in terms of retail chains and restaurants."

Lightbourne said the Chinese needed a fair bit of education about New Zealand sauvignon blanc, and the company was carrying out tasting events all over the sprawling Asian super-power and getting exposure in the local media.

Until recently wine drinkers in China would only buy a bottle that had a French label on it, he added.

"But that's changing, especially with the younger generation."

Lightbourne said Europe - where the company secured a distribution agreement with Spanish wine giant Grupo Codorniu in January - was a major market for Invivo, but he expected half of the label's sales would soon come from Asia.

Invivo Wines was established in 2007 by Lightbourne and wine-maker Rob Cameron.

Lightbourne said Invivo would produce 360,000 bottles of sauvignon blanc, pinot gris, rose and pinot noir this year.

The company does not own any vines, but instead purchases grapes from growers in Marlborough and Central Otago.

Cameron produces the white wines on contract facilities in Marlborough, while the reds are made at his parents' estate at Mangawhai, north of Auckland.

- NZ Herald

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