New Zealand winemaker Invivo has moved into a historic 114-year-old winery south of Auckland after securing a long term lease and full control of the winery.
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 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," said Lightbourne.
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," said Cameron. "Who knows what we could make in that beast!" The winery's still dates back to WWII when it was used to make medicinal alcohol.
An incredible five of the six wines that were sent to the Franco-British Exhibition in London in 1908 won gold medals. This was the first international competition to award gold medals to a New Zealand wine.
Both founders are pleased that Historic Places Trust-listed buildings will continue to operate as a winery. "This is a piece of Southern Hemisphere wine history," said Lightbourne. "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."
"We plan to respect the historic features and history of the winery but also add extra capacity to support our growth plans," said Cameron. "We are honoured to keep this historic winery operating and continue the legacy, when otherwise it would've had to close its doors."
After the New Zealand Government's ownership, the winery was operated by Rongopai wines from the 1990s until 2007. It was then run as a contract winemaking and bottling facility where all winemaking and bottling equipment has been upgraded to modern winemaking specs.
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.