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Collaboration leads to export success for The Family of Twelve winemakers

Creating a collaborative approach to marketing wines to the world

The Family of Twelve is a fraternity of 12 of New Zealand’s most prestigious and enduring artisanal wineries. Founded in 2005, the Family’s vision is to nurture long term relationships with an emphasis on education both at home and in their key export markets. The promotion of New Zealand wine at its best is paramount.

The 12 wineries span the full breadth and depth of New Zealand’s prestige wine regions and are Kumeu River, Villa Maria (a Te Hono partner), The Millton Vineyard, Craggy Range, Ata Rangi, Palliser Estate, Neudorf Vineyards, Nautilus Estate, Fromm Winery, Lawson’s Dry Hills, Pegasus Bay and Felton Road.

The New Zealand domestic market is highly competitive with about 700 wineries, so virtually all New Zealand producers are dependent on export sales for growth.

The Family of Twelve saw a need for differentiation in a cluttered sector and realised there was strength in numbers. Collaboration is more effective than going it alone, and reduces the overall marketing costs for individual wineries.

The connection isn’t merely intellectual – on a practical level, the Family of Twelve share information, best practice and even secrets! Contrasting personalities, different wine regions and styles make up the Family and allow for one voice, one purpose and clarity in a crowded wine world.


Benchmarks of success

Showcasing our backyard
A key pillar of the Family’s cultural identity and marketing drive is to leverage ‘brand New Zealand and brand New Zealand wine’. Their multi-regional coverage allows them to showcase this in-house. Educational tastings across the 12 wineries compare and showcase the diversity of their portfolio at the same time as leveraging the New Zealand wine story. Their inbound visitors are key sommeliers, retailers and wine buyers, who tour New Zealand visiting each of the Family wineries. This gives each visitor a great overview of New Zealand, the wine regions and what they do individually.

The Family of Twelve Wine Tutorial

Unique in New Zealand, the Family of Twelve Wine Tutorial is an annual immersive residential workshop held over two days. Just 12 spaces are open globally by application to those working with New Zealand wine, in the areas of sommelier, retailer or wine educator.


Tutored by Family winemakers, the tutorial challenges participants in the way they approach wine appraisal and communicate their thoughts. Participants are pushed to the limit, learning and tasting in an intensive environment. Family wines are presented alongside benchmark examples from many of the world’s great wine regions. At the tutorial’s conclusion, one participant receives ‘The Family of Twelve Award’.


Having now hosted two tutorials in New Zealand, the Family has realised the benefits and objectives that they planned for in committing a significant proportion of our annual marketing budget.


While the Family was always confident of creating effective global ambassadors, they have in fact enjoyed outcomes far greater than anticipated.


The depth of commitment by the professionals is ongoing and has resulted in not just new listings but these being championed by sommeliers and retailers more comprehensively and passionately than is usually the case. The Family’s commitment to bringing the participants to New Zealand has encouraged in them a great level of ongoing reciprocity. These mutual benefits allow the Family enhanced access to opportunities within their businesses i.e. the tutorial’s reputation has enabled them to garner a terrific response to a series of offshore virtual tasting events in Sydney, Melbourne, Hong Kong and Shanghai, with more to come.


“I think this is a truly special and valuable tutorial which, if nurtured, could turn into a global institution,” said Stephen Wong, Master of Wine, following the 2019 tutorial, which he attended as external moderator.

Taking it to the world
Outbound marketing activities have covered San Francisco, New York, London, Dublin, Chicago, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Singapore, Hong Kong and the major European trade fair Prowein in Dusseldorf. Events are educational for both consumers and the wine trade. These activities can include some or all Family members, but wherever they go there is a real interest in competitors collaborating and working together.


Market outcomes

The United Kingdom is one of New Zealand’s key wine export markets. The Family’s UK ambassador project saw them employing a consultant educator as an ambassador with the aim of penetrating the higher end of the fine wine market.


As a sophisticated but challenging market, the Family believe that education and awareness is not just critical but most effective when delivered hands on and in person by professionals who can truly engage this discerning audience. Through a series of consumer educational tasting events, the ambassador was able to secure new wine listings in outlets new to the Family.


Additionally, the activity generated additional sign-ups to their consumer database and allows them to communicate directly to add value to the listings, driving sales and contributing to the momentum of the ongoing conversation.


Research and development
The Family of Twelve meets three times each year at a member winery. They host an annual viticultural and winemaking day and have workshops to collaborate and share information on export and health, safety and environment (HSE) issues.


Next steps

The first 15 years have been a tremendous success and the Family are developing plans for the next 15.


The members say they are confident about the value of events to promote the Family of Twelve and as an example have developed ‘The Family of Twelve Family Feasts’. These popular wine dinners are held over winter and spring in New Zealand and give local diners the chance to hear the Family stories in fine restaurants across the country.

Continuing to grow their individual consumer databases as well as their group database and social media following is central to their future, as well as continuing to increase media coverage and awareness.


Collaboration has bred confidence and their cohesion gives them a well-oiled sense of purpose. With many milestones under their belt, the Family can step confidently into the future.

“We’re a family of collaboration, of sharing and inspiration – and this helps us raise the bar.”
The Family of Twelve
“New Zealand wine today has found itself on the world stage, punching above its weight, and that’s where we want it to be. But we want it to stay there by design, not accident. To stay there because it’s good. Great. Exceptional. We are about taking New Zealand excellence to the world. Everything we do must reflect that.”
The Family of Twelve
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