As the Seven Sisters appear in the winter night sky, the Māori New Year is born once again. This winter we celebrate Matariki, the passing of time and the renewal of another year here in beautiful Aotearoa.
- The best ways to celebrate Matariki in Auckland this winter
- Full waka to view Matariki star cluster from Auckland Harbour
- Everything you wanted to know about Matariki, but were too embarrassed to ask
Celebration and wine are frequently linked, and a quick glance at wine bottles would lead you to believe that quite a few New Zealand wines have Māori heritage.
A closer look beyond label, however, reveals that in a lot of cases, it's little more than a branding exercise.
But there are a few wineries with a proud Māori heritage and these are the ones, I think, you should seek out to raise a glass this Matariki.
The French word 'terroir' has become synonymous with wine throughout the world. It refers to the place that wine comes from: The culmination of soil, climate and any other factors which make that piece of land unique and gives the wine its identity.
In New Zealand wine professionals are now increasingly replacing the use of 'terroir' with 'Turangawaewae' - literally translated as "a place to put your feet". It is that, but also so much more. It is the land, soil, weather, heritage and the deep sense of connection that Māori winemakers feel for their land.
Vines are cared for by the guiding Māori principles of Kaitiakitanga: Guardianship, protection and preservation of the earth and the wine created as a result is the truest expression of aroha.
te Pā literally translates as "the home" and for owner Haysley McDonald of Rangitāne O Wairau and Ngāi Tahu Iwi, that's exactly what he wished to create: A place for people to gather and feel at home, to belong, eat and of course drink his remarkable wines.
There's significant history beyond the hei matau (Maori fish hook) logo that sits on each bottle. The vineyards are located at Wairau Bar in Marlborough, one of New Zealand’s earliest known settlements and the place where Haysley’s descendants arrived more than 800 years ago. In 2011 it also became the birthplace of te Pā wines, closely followed by sister brands Pā Road and Koha.
Located in Waipara, Tiki Wines is named in honour of Ngati Uenuku Chieftain Tiki Tere Mihi, owner Royce Mckean’s great-great-grandfather. The Mckean family says they strive to respect the Māori principle of land protection by ensuring the impact of their grape growing is as low as possible. This protects the land ensuring that always more is given back to the soil than is taken away. Traditionally when gifted, a Tiki is believed to bestow love and good fortune on the recipient. It is with this same spirit that Tiki Wines make their Estate, Single Vineyard and KORO wines, the latter being another nod of respect to their great ancestor.
The significance of geography at Ostler Wine in North Otago cannot be underestimated. An ancient geological faulting process raised a 38 million year old limestone seabed towards the sky overlooking the Waitaki River. This limestone soil is capable of growing grapes of great significance.
Combining this soil with the skill of winemaker Jeff Sinnott of Ngati TuWharatoa heritage, means that Ostler is producing wines of great distinction. Their multi-award winning jewel in the Ostler Wine crown is the 'Caroline' Pinot Noir. Named lovingly for a patient of Jim’s, a former doctor who passed away prematurely, Jim describes Caroline as an outstanding young woman of great vitality, intelligence and beauty - very much like her namesake wine.
In 2018 a Māori winemakers collective called TUKU was launched to celebrate Māori wine companies and their shared values of the land, whanau and hospitality. For more information on these and other Māori winemakers go to tuku.nz
Mary-Therese Blair, aka Mermaid Mary, is a wine writer and self-confessed enthusiast. She can be caught on MagicTalk, TV3, Cuisine Magazine, NZ House and Garden, Newshub Travel and Newshub Lifestyle.