Sarah Jessica Parker’s Kiwi-made wine has flown off the shelves since the makers at Waikato’s Invivo vineyards partnered with the world’s most stylish television star. Some top-notch Sauvignon Blanc and Rosé later, the Sex and the City star and Invivo’s founders Tim Lightbourne and Rob Cameron are continuing to truck on in a Covid-impacted world – blending their latest drop virtually, with Tim and Rob linked up by a TV (that they drove in on a forklift) in their winery and SJP in New York. Tim chats to Capsule about the phenomenon that is celebrity alcohol – and when we can expect Sarah Jessica on Kiwi shores!
Capsule: This is your third virtual blend you’ve had to do thanks to Covid-19, how different is the process and what do you have to change to get the results you want?
Tim: Usually Rob – my Cofounder and winemaker – and I travel to New York to be with Sarah Jessica in person for our tasting and blending sessions, and we love that. But, given the ongoing international travel restrictions, we have now blended three vintages together virtually – two Sauvignon Blancs and one Rosé – and it’s definitely different to our in-person sessions for sure.
Although the medium is different – over Zoom rather than being in person – at the heart, our collaborative process with Sarah Jessica tasting and blending the wines is exactly the same. Rob and Sarah Jessica have a great shared wine language when it comes to tasting, which has definitely made the transition easier and Sarah Jessica is a pro now – she knows exactly what she likes stylistically and is so expressive with her language. We can’t wait to be together in-person hopefully for next year’s blending session but speaking with Sarah Jessica on a big TV screen on the back of a forklift at our winery in New Zealand this year was a lot of fun!
How much did SJP know about wine when you first started your partnership with her – were you surprised with her knowledge and enthusiasm?
From the beginning of our partnership it was super important to Sarah Jessica, and Rob and I, that she is involved in every aspect of the process. She loves wine and has always enjoyed drinking wine but she wanted to embrace a journey of education and discovery. She has remained true to do that and is constantly evolving. Her wines really have her hand-print on them –she loves mouthfeel and she loves chardonnay so you’ll see aspects of that in her Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. It has a beautiful soft palate and Rob introduced a touch of oak to some of the fruit. Her French Rosé is fresh and stylish and filled with subtle strawberry flavours. With every blending session her palate continues to evolve and it’s just such a pleasure being on this journey with her.
Has she managed to make it down to New Zealand yet?
Stay tuned for more details! She is keen to plan a visit. She can’t wait to meet our grower partners, the Invivo team, visit the vineyards and see New Zealand!
You have partnered with Graham Norton too – how different is it working with him than SJP, and what are the different characteristics of their blends?
The partnership with Graham Norton came about quite organically… we learned, back in 2011, that he was a fan of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc so we sent some for him to try, to see if he’d like it and nurtured the relationship from there. Then in 2014, we asked him if he’d be keen to make a wine with us. What started out as a small collaboration producing a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc has now turned into the range being in ten countries and we have two gins with him, five wines and more on the way this year! Graham is super hands on, really knows his stuff and it has been a lot of fun over the years. Graham favours aromatic and tropical fruit Sauvignon Blancs which are quite common styles for a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. He loves acidity, whereas Sarah Jessica loves mouthfeel and texture. Their wines are very different and reflective of their tastes.
Do you have a dream celebrity you’d love to partner with to create a blend?
Never say never to future partnerships! We are really happy with where we are at with Sarah Jessica and Graham and are focused on continuing to grow the ranges with them and take the wines to different countries. It has genuinely been a dream for both Rob and I to be making wines with Sarah Jessica and Graham and they are our dream business partners – hands on and passionate.
Invivo has come such a long way since you and Rob began the journey in 2008 – what’s been the highlight so far, and what’s the plan for the future?
What a journey it has been for Rob and I! There are so many highlights, from that very first bottle of wine we produced with Graham to presenting to some of the biggest retailers in the world like Costco, and turning up to the presentation with Sarah Jessica, surprising the buyers! The launch of Invivo X, SJP was a real pinch me moment for both Rob and I… seeing hundreds of metres of queuing fans lining up outside New York’s oldest wine shop to get a signed bottle of our Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc from Sarah Jessica! We are super proud of the wine quality – Invivo X, SJP was included in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 wines of the world in 2020 and has won multiple 90+ point ratings and Graham’s collection is the most awarded ‘celebrity’ wine range in recent years. We are always plotting our next big move and we can’t wait to share more with you!