Invivo Wines to make Graham Norton wine at historic 114-year-old winery
A Kiwi wine company, part owned by British talk show host Graham Norton, is moving into a historic 114-year-old Waikato winery, with plans to centralise its operations.
Invivo Wines has secured a 10-year lease with owners BAA Holdings for Te Kauwhata winery.
The winery was designed and constructed in 1902 by the New Zealand government as the country's first viticulture research station.
It was originally headed by government viticulturist Romeo Bragato.
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Invivo Wines co-founder Tim Lightbourne said he was looking forward to 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."
Invivo wine is currently made and bottled in a small winery in Auckland, and at a contract winery in Marlborough.
They would continue making, and bottling, wine in Marlborough for the next 12 to 18 months, before centralising its operations at Te Kauwhata, Lightbourne said.
"It will just give us a bit of a home."
The winery would give co-founder and winemaker Rob Cameron greater creative control and an on-site bottling plant, which could turn out up to 12,000 bottles a day, Lightbourne said.
Norton's 2016 vintage wine will be among the first to be made and bottled at the 114-year old winery.
They were pleased the Historic Places Trust-listed buildings would continue to operate as a winery, Cameron said.
"This is a piece of Southern Hemisphere wine history.
"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."
Cameron said they had plans to expand the winery by adding more tanks, but would respect the historic features and history of the winery in the process.
"We are honoured to keep this historic winery operating and continue the legacy, when otherwise it would've had to close its doors."
In the early 1900s, the Government sold the winery to Rongopai Wines, which operated it until 2007.
It was then bought by BAA Holdings, which is owned by Mark Anderson and David Babich.
The Babich family own New Zealand wine company Babich Wines, founded by Croatian immigrant Josip Babich in 1916.
Te Kauwhata winery has been leased by TK Vinters and Bottlers - also owned by Anderson and Babich - who have run it as a contract winemaking and bottling facility.
Invivo Wines will shift into the winery in March and the property would remain for sale, being marketed with Invivo as the tenant.
The move comes off the back of a the company's $2 million equity crowdfunding campaign.
As well as the winery, Invivo Wines would invest in product development, marketing and increasing staff numbers.