September 2010

The Tradition of Tohu

By: Rachel Burkons
In the Māori tradition, family, guardianship and the Earth Mother are guiding principles and a way of life. Tohu, New Zeland's indigenous winery that pays homage to the Māori way of life in everything from farming to community responsibility, is straddling the gap between ancient practices and modern winemaking at its finest. One of the most popular domestic wines in New Zealand, Tohu is finding incredible success stateside, thanks to not only its traditional roots, but also because of the fantastic fruit-driven nature of its wines.

Tohu winemaker Bruce Taylor believes that the brand's Māori roots and traditions are a large part of its success at home and abroad.
Tohu's Sauvignon Blanc leads the way for the portfolio, offering vibrant and expressive Marlborough fruit with minerally topicality and balanced acidity, reflecting the Awatere Valley's increasing reputation as a world-class growing region for this variety. "Very exposed to the wind, the vineyard has low disease pressure and provides extremely clean fruit in naturally low yields," attests Tohu winemaker Bruce Taylor. "The extreme climactic conditions of the vineyard make very concentrated, intense wines, which we handle with minimal intervention in the winery to retain the pristine fruit flavors that our vineyard is providing."

All Tohu wines are single-vineyard produced, a fact to which Taylor attributes their success. "Our move to single-vineyard wines over the last few years has provided a purer expression of our terroir and captured something unique," he says.

Additionally, Taylor and his team are able to focus on achieving success with many new-to-New Zealand varieties, thanks to a true understanding of the terroir. "We are pushing the envelope on our Awatere vineyard with new plantings of Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay," explains Taylor. "On our Nelson vineyard, we are pursuing some interesting new varieties, including Grüner Veltliner, Albariño and Gewürztraminer."

Currently, Tohu's portfolio also includes bright, cherry-driven Pinot Noir, full-bodied Pinot Gris with lovely pear and peach flavors, medium-dry and citrusy Riesling and unoaked Chardonnay, with a special barrel-fermented Kaumātua Reserve Sauvignon Blanc and a Merlot rolling out this year.

While each bottle tells the story of the vineyard from whence it came, at Tohu, the ties to Māori tradition reign. "Māori culture infuses most things we do as a winery," admits Taylor. "Māori believe that we are simply guardians of the land and have a responsibility to use the land sustainably for future generations to enjoy and utilize. This environmental awareness and the long view of relationships and business is key to many of our practices, from the vineyard through to how we work with our importers and distributors.

Tohu is imported by Total Beverage Solution.

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