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Our Gift from the Land: Tohu Wines

January 8, 2011

Tohu (pronounced Tor-who) is the world’s first Maori owned wine company.  The Maori are an indigenous (native) people of New Zealand who have inhabited the island nation for over 1,000 years.  Since the European colonization of New Zealand the Maori have struggled to maintain their foothold on the land they have called home for generations.  Somehow, the Maori have managed to maintain their rich culture and traditions even despite Europe’s dogged conquest and attempted domination.

Only now, about 250 years after Europeans first explored and settled New Zealand, are Maori people beginning to command the respect they have long been owed.  After decades of brutal wars killing tens of thousands of Maori at the hands of the settlers, the Maori and British people finally signed a treaty in 1840 agreeing to peacefully cohabitate New Zealand; Ancient and existing Maori land ownership, however, was not honored and the Europeans continued to exploit the Maori people and their land.  It was not until the 1970’s that many of these land claims passed through the court of law and traditional Maori lands became rightfully theirs once more.

Today, Maori people account for approximately 15% of New Zealand’s population and are a vital part of the country’s national identity.  In 1998, Tohu began producing wine as New Zealand’s first Maori owned wine company.  Adhering to Maori philosophies, “Tohu (meaning sign or signature) wines are a sign of our integrity as wine producers and custodians of the rugged yet fertile soils of our country.”

Tohu’s vineyards are certified by Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand (SWNZ).  Established in 1995 and managed by New Zealand Winegrowers, SWNZ is an integral part of Tohu’s values; the Maori believe that the earth is the giver of all life and that protecting the land for future generations to enjoy and benefit from is their responsibility as humans.  The strong spiritual connection the Maori feel with everything they grow and produce ensures that only the purest and best winemaking methods are employed.  They do not strive to overpower or control the natural way of things but rather work in tandem with their environment without sacrificing quality or integrity.

This awareness of their place in the grand scheme of things and austere respect for the natural world shines through the finished product.  Tohu’s 2009 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is a knockout.  Pale straw in color, the nose offers up intense lemongrass, passion fruit and tomato plant aromas.  The herbaceous grassiness of the nose is typical of New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs but the palate will surprise you with its slightly savory, rich and luscious qualities. The palate does not mirror the nose but rather supports it with full, bright acidity that seems to fold back into the wine and round out the finish.  The acids are balanced by the rich lemon, passion fruit and even guava fruit flavors of the palate.  This Sauv Blanc manages to be at once crisp and tart without leaving the mouth burning from too much acidity.

In Maori culture, nothing is taken for granted.  Although Tohu wines are cultivated and crafted by people, these Maori winemakers recognize each grape and each bottle of wine as a gift from the land not to be squandered, but to be appreciated.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Linda permalink
    January 8, 2011 8:30 pm

    Thank you, Maggie! The wine is wonderful and I love the idea of supporting the Maori.

  2. Catie permalink
    January 9, 2011 12:27 pm

    Not only is wine good for your health, It’s good for your brain too!! I had never heard of the Maori before…….I feel so smart! Maggie, is that the SB that I had on Sat in Andrea’s office? If so, then I must say it was quite nice. And I am not a SB fan.

    • Maggie permalink
      January 9, 2011 12:49 pm

      That’s the one! Thanks all for the comments 🙂

  3. Pam Griset permalink
    January 22, 2011 3:11 pm

    I feel really privileged to have been given a gift of this wonderful wine. I have been a wine drinker for decades, but I have never had a New Zealand wine. To have it associated with the Maori makes it even nicer…..The taste is really surprisingly mellow and refined. I do not usually drink SB, but this wine has made me rethink my choices. Thanks Maggie for bringing this to me and all your customers.

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