Kaitiakitanga: It’s a word the Māori, the indigenous people of New Zealand, use to describe their guardianship of the land, its people and its culture. It’s also the key value shared by a wave of Māori wineries that’s recently begun to swell across the country.
“It’s sustainability on steroids,” says Lina Stroud, business manager of Tiki Wine & Vineyards, a Māori-owned winery in Christchurch. “We see ourselves as caretakers of the land and try to keep our footprint small to make sure that everyone gets to experience the magic of New Zealand.”
With fewer than a dozen Māori wineries established, numbers are still small. But last year’s formation of Tuku, a Māori winemakers collective, combined with increased interest from across the country has proven these producers are poised for their moment on the world stage. Here’s a look at three of the most prominent.
Though several New Zealand wine brands bear a Māori name, this was the first truly Māori-owned winery. Today, it has the farthest reach, and thousands of descendants from tribes that inhabited what’s now recognized as the Marlborough wine region serve as its shareholders. Bottles, like entry-level Kono Sauvignon Blanc and premium offerings in its Kaumātua Range, are available across the U.S.
Steve Bird Wines
Steve Bird Wines is rooted in manākitanga, “a generosity of spirit toward the land and each other.” The producer traces its Māori roots back more than 800 years and sources from vineyards in Hawkes Bay, Gisborne and Marlborough. Two of its ranges are available stateside, the signature Steve Bird bottlings and Manu, which includes Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, a rosé and a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
Tiki Wine & Vineyards
Evan Ward is the winemaker at sustainably focused Tiki Wine, where the principles of kaitiakitanga are applied in the vineyard to ensure that quality comes first. “You can make up a good story to promote a poor wine, but in the end, people will see through [it],” says Ward. Two Tiki ranges are available in the states: the flagship Tiki Estate and Maui, named for a Māori demigod.