Established in 1998 as the world’s first Māori-owned wine business, Kono NZ has a rich history in New Zealand that has evolved around place, people and culture.
Kono NZ is an associated business of Wakatū Incorporation, a family-owned Māori food and beverage producer.
Now in its 25th year, Kono NZ exports its wine to over 20 countries and has more than 250 shareholding families. The business is led by a unique 500-year intergenerational plan called Te Pae Tawhiti, which focuses on preserving and enhancing the taonga of the regions in which it operates.
As part of this plan, Kono NZ has six values which are informed by Māori culture and translated into the business: Rangatiratanga (quality and excellence); Manaakitanga (care and hospitality); Whanaungatanga (relationships); Kaitiakitanga (duty, heritage and legacy); Hihiritanga (innovation); and Pono (integrity and honesty).
Dan Taylor, International Sales Manager – Beverages at Kono NZ, says the business wants to honour kaitiakitanga (guardianship and protection of the land) and create beautiful wines along the way.
“Kono NZ prides itself on investing back into New Zealand, our shareholding families, and nurturing our peoples’ cultural identity, knowledge, and strength. In an industry with fierce competition, our core values of traceability and authenticity are becoming increasingly meaningful,” says Taylor.
Two of the business’s successful wine brands, Kono™ and Tohu™, are good examples of this.
“One of my favourites is the Tohu Whenua Series Wines, which are developed as an expression of the contours and complexities from special corners of each of our vineyards”, Taylor says.
“The Whenua Matua vineyard is set amongst sun-drenched slopes in the Upper Moutere region of Nelson, and the Whenua Awa vineyard is set on the remote terraces of Upper Awatere Valley in Marlborough. Each wine has its own distinct tasting notes, unique to its place and story.”
To compete with larger players in the global market, Kono NZ invests time in its relationships with importers and distributors to ensure the business’s values and enduring connections to the land are well understood.
In 2018, Kono hosted nearly 50 staff from US-based Total Beverage Solutions at the outset of a new partnership, where the group spent valuable time and energy immersing themselves in the values and practices unique to Kono.
“We love to host our overseas partners, give manaaki, share the things that make us different, the stories of our people, the scents and sights of our vineyards in the magnificent Awatere, and the work we do towards being more sustainable. It’s important we have them connect with what it means to be a Māori business”, says Taylor.
“They in turn take our wonderful stories home with them, sharing and adding to the mana and depth of knowledge of our wines overseas.”
When it comes to the FernMark Licence Programme, Taylor says the seamless alignment between Kono NZ and New Zealand Story’s business practices and values – Pōtikitanga (a curious spirit), Manaaki (respect, care and reciprocity), Tiaki (care for people, planet and future) and Pono (integrity and honesty) – made it a simple decision for its Kono and Tohu wines to join the Programme.
“The FernMark instils confidence in the market about the quality of our products. It bolsters the traceability and authenticity of our Kono and Tohu wines, which has created opportunities for new partnerships that work in harmony with Kono NZ’s 500-year vision, Te Pae Tawhiti.
“In addition to the Sustainable Wine Growers Mark, we are proud to carry the FernMark on our Kono and Tohu wines. It shows a commitment to our New Zealand heritage, to sharing authentic stories on the world stage, and speaks to our core value of Whanaungatanga – we are better working together.”
To find out more about Kono NZ, visit kono.co.nz