Kiwi winery hires $23m taste buds

WINE AMBASSADOR: Angela Mount
WINE AMBASSADOR: Angela Mount

A set of $23 million tastebuds has been appointed brand ambassador to a plucky New Zealand winery that is making waves internationally.

The gold-plated buds belong to English wine expert Angela Mount, whose nose and throat were insured for $23m while she was employed as head wine buyer for UK retailer Somerfield.

At the time, it was reported that this made Mount's wine-tasting and assessing faculties the most expensive body parts in the world – compared to the $14.1m insurance taken out for Ugly Betty star America Ferrera's smile and the $8.5m valuation once put on Bruce Springsteen's voice.

To get the insurance she had to visit several medical professionals and complete a test where she was blindfolded and required to identify 50 different scents. She guessed 48 correctly. One of the scents she missed was an athletes' muscle rub she had never heard of.

Now running her own business, as well as working with top chefs such as Gordon Ramsay and presenting on the BBC, Mount is happy to be the UK face of Kiwi winery Invivo, which she describes as an exciting and compelling brand.

She was impressed by the company's marketing strategy and label (designed by Kiwi fashion label Zambesi) and the enthusiasm of the company's founders – 33-year-old school friends Rob Cameron (winemaker) and Tim Lightbourne (marketing) – whom she met at a London trade show this year.

But what do her tastebuds think of the wine?

"There is an inherent elegance about them. There is an intensity of fruit, but it's refined, it's subtle, it's lingering and it's not one of those 'it hits you in the face and then disappears' type of wines."

The winery, which launched in 2007, is enjoying a string of successes.

This month Cuisine magazine named the brand's sauvignon blanc the second best in New Zealand, and Air New Zealand has confirmed it will start serving it on flights next year following a blind taste test of more than 800 wines.

The sauvignon blanc, pinot gris, rose and pinot noir retail for around $20 in New Zealand and the winery has produced around 100,000 bottles in its second vintage. In the UK, Invivo has sold 14,000 bottles through wine merchant Averys in around a month.

Lightbourne said the success had all been a bit of a whirlwind.

"It's been better than we could have dreamed of."

Sunday Star Times