Who: Toby Buck
From: Te Mata Estate
Could you describe your company and its business profile?
Te Mata Estate is a winery and vineyard operation based in Hawke’s Bay. Established in 1896 we distribute internationally-recognised wines exclusively from our own vineyards to 45 countries. We are, and have always been, New Zealand-family-owned.
Our ambition is to produce the very best wines possible from our own sites, and control every step of production on site – allowing us to deliver a supremely hand-crafted product that reflects our corner of New Zealand as well as each vintage will allow.
What are the core values of your company?
Sustainability is a core value of our company, being multi-generational and involving the families of so many staff. We live on our vineyards and have a responsibility to Hawke’s Bay and New Zealand in terms of prudent resource use. The average staff tenure at Te Mata is 19 years, so we value the experience and knowledge that comes with that.
We are very much a ‘family’ company with everyone pitching in throughout the year – but the concept of working as a team is what makes us tick. When the harvest comes on everybody gets pushed to their limit but it’s the dinners together, the breakroom atmosphere and the support and good humour of our customers that always makes it worthwhile.
How would you describe the profile(s) of your (prospective) customers?
The Te Mata Estate customer is towards the top end of the consumer market. Someone who recognises the labels, and ideally knows how we make our wines. They tend to be critical about wine, and know that as a producer we don’t make certain releases if we don’t think the quality is there.
What we are seeing the most of now is ‘multi-generational’ buyers, who purchase Te Mata wines because their parents or grandparents did. Sometimes they are even gifting wine across generations – a gift for a godson to last 21 years etc. It’s unusual in New Zealand to see customers like that – and it’s sincerely heart-warming.
How do you engage your (prospective) customers?
We engage our customers via different channels. As a boutique producer, a lot is done by retailers, restaurant staff or fine wine dealers – so we work closely with a distribution team to make sure they are supported with solid information and a sense of how Te Mata operates as a business. We hold Showcase Tastings each year – the only winery to do so in New Zealand – where our winemakers go through every wine with a technical eye for detail, vintage and production.
We also hold tours, tastings, and Coleraine Club events for a small number of people who buy Coleraine every year.
The key for us is to be honest; to let the story of a wine or vintage emerge from the data. You cannot ‘market-speak’ someone into a wine. At the first point of communication they are invited to care about, or appreciate that wine or harvest, for the same reasons we do.
What were your challenges in finding sponsorship partners and how did you select them?
We’re often approached about sponsorship because wine goes with many things! But we have a select number of operations – Cranford Hospice, the Hawke’s Bay Opera House, and the Poet Laureate Programme – that we work with every year. Working with the National Library on the Poet Laureate Programme was a gift.
Peter Ireland and Chris Szekely have a superb understanding for the administration and implementation of the programme, and we couldn’t have found better partners. Continuing to hold the inauguration at Matahiwi Marae in Hawke’s Bay is an example of their very practical kind of wisdom and their feel for what Te Mata Estate started.
Could you describe the value shared and received beyond the dollars?
In a word – immense.
Dad, who I work with here, has always made a point that as a successful New Zealand business we have an obligation to give back. That is true. But as obligations go we seem to get so much pleasure from these projects I sometimes feel a bit guilty. Seeing the Poet Laureates able to speak in schools about language and reading is one of those pleasures; seeing a national position commence at our local Marae in Clive is too. A highlight last year was the Radio NZ recording of the full lineup of Poet Laureates at the Circle of Laureates event in the Wellington Arts Festival.
Being able to contribute to promoting literacy, the arts and the personal achievement required to be a Laureate is a privilege for us. Like the poetry we get to hear, it’s something that takes us into grander and wider realms – far distant from the small vineyards in Hawke’s Bay on which we grow our fruit.