John Hawkesby

John Hawkesby is a wine writer for Canvas Magazine.

Wine: Focus on global tastes

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2011 Bella Invivo Sauvignon Blanc, $22. Photo / Sarah Ivey
2011 Bella Invivo Sauvignon Blanc, $22. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Some fine winemakers are often baffled why their excellent, often competitively-priced wine doesn't fly off the shelves and on to the tables of discerning customers.

It's a trifecta: distribution, branding and marketing. When it comes to the latter two, you'd be hard pressed to find anybody doing it better than old school friends Tim Lightbourne and Rob Cameron, whose brand Invivo was conceived in 2006 over a few drinks.

They buy carefully selected grapes from around the country. Cameron is the winemaker and Lightbourne spearheads marketing, and together they bring an innovative, contemporary creative approach to selling wine.

Their distinctive, modern, Invivo label was designed by Neville Findlay from the fashion house Zambesi.

Aggressive brand advertising includes sponsorships with New York artist Eric Orr, Sydney's Gaffa Gallery and exhibitions at the 53rd Venice Biennale in Italy.

The mantra seems to be "think globally, act globally". Not that the local market has been ignored - their wines pop up at fashion shows, sports and various cultural events, while Invivo sauvignon blanc can be found on Air New Zealand's flights, both domestic and international.

They currently export to 10 countries and have just landed a deal with high-end English stores, Harvey Nichols. They have gained a lot of attention with their initial 2010 release of a Marlborough sauvignon blanc with just 9 per cent alcohol and 30 per cent fewer calories than their standard sauvignon. It's called "Bella by Invivo" and was officially launched at New Zealand Fashion Week last year.

When researching the concept, marketing director Lightbourne says, "We looked at trends in other categories, such as demand for mid-strength and low-carb beer, growing consumer interest and an awareness of alcohol levels, busy lifestyles and responsibility around the enjoyment of alcohol."

The upshot was creating a lower-alcohol, lower-calorie premium wine that targeted health-conscious consumers.

"To create a 9 per cent alcohol sauvignon blanc throws up some challenges," says Cameron. "The aim has been to achieve an explosive, fruity but balanced, not overly acidic wine combined with great texture and body. So we've selected a vineyard parcel that always produces ripe flavours. We changed the management of the canopy to allow more sunlight in the mornings and ripen the fruit without higher sugar accumulation ... so it doesn't become overly sugar-ripe or alcoholic."

Recommeded

2011 Bella Invivo Sauvignon Blanc, $22
Hard on the heels of the 2010 initial vintage, which sold out in 6 weeks, this one is still holding at 9 per cent alcohol with ripe tropical flavours. Obviously a winner - volume has been upped by 1600 cases.

2010 Invivo Pinot Noir, $30-$32
Using Central Otago fruit, this is, according to Cameron, "our most serious pinot yet". It has huge intensity full of dark brooding blackfruit flavours with fine tannins. Real value for money.

- NZ Herald

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