The world’s first Māori winemaker collective, TUKU brings together awarded Māori wine companies based on their shared values of the land, family and hospitality – offering a wide range of premium varietals from the most famous wine growing regions of Aotearoa New Zealand.

TUKU started out life in 2014 as a combination of Steve Bird (Steven Bird Wines) and Haysley MacDonald (te Pā Family Vineyards) – a small handful of Māori owned wineries. After conversations with Poutama Trust and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, they took a collaborative approach to international trade shows in Taiwan and Hong Kong, along with some honey and meat producers – all Māori owned businesses. There was nothing like it in the industry at the time. TUKU is comprised of five founding members: te Pā Family Vineyards, Steve Bird Wines, Kuru Kuru, Ostler Wine, and Titi Wine and Vineyards.

As a collective, TUKU is proud to represent some of New Zealand’s leading wine regions and varietals. “We’ve got Marlborough, which is, of course, world famous for its Sauvignon Blanc, Central Otago, best known for its Pinot noir, Hawke’s Bay, Waipara in Canterbury, and Waitaki in North Otago,” explained Haysley MacDonald from te Pā Family Vineyards. “Between us, we’ve got a wide range of varietals and having a nice spread of the regions means we can express New Zealand wine through each area’s and sub region’s unique terroir.”

A highlight for the business, the official launch in July at the Air New Zealand Customer Innovation and Collaboration Centre was a memorable moment in wine. “It was an opportunity to celebrate coming together, and to acknowledge the support we’ve had along the way from key partners like NZTE and Poutama Trust. We had a rousing korero from a representative from Ngāti Whātua, and a great performance from Moana and the Tribe. All in all, it was just a really great memory for us to have shared all together.”

The wineries of TUKU are all part of the Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand (SWNZ) initiative and have a series of best practice programmes to which they adhere. The programme is based on continuous improvement and adherence to recommendations and guidelines issued by the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV). These standards for sustainability practices do their bit for the environment while helping businesses and local communities to thrive.

“The New Zealand wine industry is very much at the forefront of the global industry. As Kiwis, we tend to embrace technology and new ideas, and we’re all very good at thinking outside the square, so we don’t tend to look so much to other countries – if anything, they probably look to us. Take Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc for example; that style and flavour profile cannot be replicated anywhere else in the world.”

TUKU has set goals to put Māori on the map in the wine sector. Māori are already strongly represented across forestry, tourism, and seafood; the company is keen to add more diversity to the range of businesses. The TUKU Collective aims to target opportunities with their portfolio offerings which represent most of New Zealand’s leading wine growing regions. The whole initiative is about creating a legacy through their respective brands and businesses for their kids and the generations to come, sharing resources and knowledge.

“Long-term, the goal is to leave a legacy for our kids, and their kids and their kids after them. It’s what drives us all to create and nurture sustainable businesses, and that’s a point of difference to other companies, who might be thinking ten or twenty years ahead. As Māori, we’re thinking inter-generational business growth and longevity.”

As far as the future for TUKU goes, the business is looking forward to adding new markets to the Collective and bringing people from overseas to experience Māori culture; embracing the full TUKU experience. As a Collective the members are bound by shared values of whakapapa, kaitiakitanga, whanaugatanga and manaakitanga and as a group are all passionate about working collaboratively to promote indigenous winemaking – celebrating their unique heritage and cultural identity.

“With the ever-changing ‘dining out’ landscape, we think TUKU has a really unique offering for cafes and restaurants. Our collective offers something special: a range of awarded wines, all made by Māori-owned businesses which are connected to the land and bound together by more than just business. Dining customers are always on the hunt for something different, and we think the strong labels and quality wines we offer as a collective, backed by our shared stories and whakapapa, is something that will interest and excite customers and trade alike.”