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Innovation with Invivo & Co: The rise of sparkling wine

It’s out with the Champagne and in with the Prosecco for Kiwi wine company Invivo & Co and long-time partner Graham Norton. The two have teamed up to cater to the growing number of consumers seeking an affordable, quality sparkling wine. Following the success of the ‘Graham Norton’s Own Prosecco’, launched in 2018, the duo have recently released a sparkling Rosé wine from Italy just in time for summer.

Graham Norton’s Own Italian Sparkling Rosé‘ is the fifth addition to the celebrity’s award-winning range of sparkling and still wines, and like its twin the white Prosecco, is crisp, fresh and delicately structured. A sign-off by the Italian Government last November, which has allowed wine producers to create pink Prosecco, meant the Rosé needed to be made using the Glera grape (Prosecco grape), and 15 percent of Pinot Noir grapes. Invivo founder Tim Lightbourne says this lighter, drier style of sparkling Rosé is the perfect compliment to the Kiwi summer.

“We’ve noticed customers really enjoying that lighter style of rose, having a chilled bottle on a summer’s afternoon. You don’t really want a sweet or dark red on a hot day, it’s the more lighter fresher styles that people are after.

“We’ve seen that trend come down from the Northern Hemisphere through to Australia and New Zealand, the lighter styles, the lighter sugar content, not only in wine but in ciders and other categories too.”

Rob Cameron (right) alongside Graham Norton and Tim Lightbourne (left)

Lightbourne says that another huge trend, which began to emerge in the UK three to five years ago, is the choice of Prosecco over Champagne. The ISWR’s 2018 report placed Prosecco as driving a substantial 90 percent growth in the UK between 2011 and 2021. Sales of Prosecco in New Zealand have also increased by more than 40 percent in the last year, and it is believed that the country is still 12-24 months away from peak consumption.

“Prosseco is a quality piece, it tastes great and is affordable – we’re hitting between $15 to $25 for a lovely bottle of sparkling. If you’re looking at champagne, a bottle is usually $50 plus.

“It has also evolved a fair bit in terms of style. The Prosecco’s now, and our Prosecco, are quite dry, whereas previously they’ve been quite sweet. It’s important to give the consumer the right style as trends evolve over the years.”

No matter what trends are emerging however, the final decision comes down to Graham Norton, who is heavily involved in the wine making process. Each year the Invivo team meet with Graham to go over a range of samples which is then filmed for consumers to see. Last year, due to Covid-19, Invivo couriered samples to Norton, and had a zoom call where both parties could both taste samples at the same time.

“Graham never wanted to be just a name on the label. Its authentic because he’s signing off the blend every year and he’s turned down samples and styles he doesn’t like. He doesn’t like Whiskey, so we won’t make a whiskey, but we have made a pink and white Gin with him, he likes Gin.”

Graham Norton and Invivo & Co already produce a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand Rosé, Aussie Shiraz and a Prosecco from Italy that are growing exponentially here in New Zealand, the UK and Ireland.

Invivo also produce two gins (one Pink and one Irish) in collaboration with a boutique distillery in West Cork in Ireland under the Graham Norton’s Own Wine and Spirits brand.

Zoom call with Graham Norton

Unique approach to winemaking

Founded in 2008 by Lightbourne and his school mate Rob Cameron, Invivo & Co has truly been built from the ground up. Unable to afford vineyards or wineries, the duo leased space with growers to grow their grapes and would make wine using other people’s gear. Unique to other wine brands in New Zealand, the company is now recognised in several countries around the world and boasts not only a collaboration with Norton but also actress Sarah Jessica Parker. The brand has over 20 growers in New Zealand, as well as growers in Australia, France, Italy and a distillery in Ireland.

“We’re proud New Zealanders, always will be. We have two wineries in Te Kauwhata, south of Auckland, where our production is but we are also working globally as well.”

Tim Lightbourne (left) alongside Sarah Jessica Parker and Rob Cameron (right)

To appeal to customers, the brand has rolled out multiple initiatives over the years that highlight Invivo’s authenticity. Along with behind the scenes of Graham tasting wine samples, the brand has also had live chat’s with wine.com where thousands of consumers engage from across the world, and Sarah Jessica Parker has participated in calls with the public and retailers to give insight into their latest creations.

“We use the PR machine all around the world for insight into the partnerships and collaborations. Our marketing campaign, every year around the same time, is focused on the blending process of the wines before we release them.”

Looking forward, Lightbourne says the Prosecco category is only going to get bigger with the addition of the pink Prosecco.

“I see more and more Prosecco wines listed by the glass and it’s such a great price point, as oppose to $30-$40 for a glass of high end champagne.”

In 2020, the partners also celebrated producing their 10 millionth bottle of wine with Graham Norton since their partnership began in 2014.

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