John Hawkesby

John Hawkesby is a wine writer for Canvas Magazine.

Maori wisdom's powerful influence on winemaking

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The Tiki vineyards in Marlborough, Waipara and Gibbston Valley, are farmed under the Maori principles of Kaitiakitanga - guardianship, protection and preservation of the land. Photo / Thinkstock
The Tiki vineyards in Marlborough, Waipara and Gibbston Valley, are farmed under the Maori principles of Kaitiakitanga - guardianship, protection and preservation of the land. Photo / Thinkstock

New Zealanders know the tiki as a hand-carved Maori treasure which, when gifted, bestows good fortune and love on others. What better brand name, then, for a wine crafted with the same spirit in mind? Appropriate too, that founders and owners Royce and Sue McKean, named their new wine venture Tiki to pay homage to the wisdom of Royce's Maori ancestors. Royce's great-great-grandfather, Tiki Tere Mihi, was a chieftain of Ngati Uenuku, who revered the land and its significance to his people.

The esteemed tiki is also a powerful good luck charm and the family-owned vineyards are all certified sustainable and organically farmed under the guiding Maori principles of Kaitiakitanga - guardianship, protection and preservation of the earth. It's all about farming naturally, biologically and organically, with no agrichemicals, herbicides, insecticides or pesticides.

As McKean observes, "It's the way we used to do it."

His journey from the high-powered world of international banking (he has a degree in economics) to that of grape-growing is not an unusual one - many corporate types have swapped their brogues for gumboots to embrace an industry that, as McKean has discovered, is a lot harder work than banking and probably carries even more risk.

But he, his whanau and hand-picked team are relishing the challenges.

Highly regarded viticulturalist Dave Jordan has been involved in selection, site and grape clones; head winemaker Evan Ward has more than 30 years' winemaking experience and national vineyards manager Peter Kerdemelids has worked extensively in four of New Zealand's wine-growing regions.

Tiki has vineyards in Marlborough, Waipara and Gibbston Valley Central Otago. Currently the portfolio includes a number of pinot gris, sauvignon blanc, rosé and pinot noir.

Tiki's approach to winemaking is minimalist and natural. Says Ward, "We're looking for vibrancy, youthfulness, freshness and drinkability - we're looking for maximum fruit expression."

Tiki's first vintage was 2009, when it produced 700 cases. Last year there were 55,000.

Tiki is growing fast, in volume and quality.

Recommended

2011 Tiki Estate Pinot Noir Rosé, $20
Pinot grapes from Marlborough's upper Wairau Valley delivering a refreshing and mouthwatering sweet-fruited wine with intense strawberry and cherry flavours. Divine with seafood - especially blue cod.

2009 Tiki Pinot Noir, $35
Multi-award-winning wine from Central Otago grapes. A delicate, elegant wine with a cherry sweetness and gentle dried herb underbelly. Perfect with game or lamb.

- NZ Herald

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