Paul Dunleavy – the driving force behind Te Motu

Paul Dunleavy’s first contact with wine was as an altar boy, “Christianity has been great for wine marketing.” (Photo: Bob Campbell MW)

I’ve known Paul for nearly as long as I’ve lived in Devonport. He doubles my shopping time when we bump into each other at New World. Paul is very bright and has an incredibly active mind. We might cover 10 topics during a 10-minute chat in the vege section. The big challenge during our interview was to keep Paul on track. While the National Party, the NZX and Maori culture are interesting I really wanted to focus on wine.

“Heritage. I’d like to do for my family what Maté Brajkovich did for his family when he established Kumeu River.” – Paul Dunleavy

Paul is the major shareholder in Te Motu, a Waiheke winery and restaurant that he owns with his extended family. He’s also the driving force behind, and dominant shareholder in a 128-ha Marlborough sauvignon blanc vineyard. Paul is chairman (but not an investor) in Bartletts Creek Vineyard, a “My Farm” development, which aims to invest in existing vineyards when the owners want to stay involved but ease back and sell a share in their business.

Paul’s father, Terry Dunleavy MBE, was the inaugural CEO of the Wine Institute of NZ (WINZ), later re-formed into NZ Winegrowers.

Paul’s first contact with wine was as an altar boy, “Christianity has been great for wine marketing.” When he was 13 he made wine under his parent’s house and built a whisky still the following year. At secondary school, he got a holiday job with Montana Wines and during his first year at university delivered wine to Montana’s chain of wine stores.

Paul studied computing, maths and law, qualifying as a lawyer.

Together with his brother John Dunleavy, Paul bought land on Waiheke in 1987 and after planting their vineyard produced Te Motu’s first commercial wine in 1993. The established winery restaurant and vineyards were late sold but subsequently bought back when the purchasers’ other business interests ran into difficulties.

What was his motivation, I asked, in establishing a small Waiheke wine producer, given Paul’s obvious business acumen?

“Heritage. I’d like to do for my family what Maté Brajkovich did for his family when he established Kumeu River.”

What then, was the motivation for buying a large sauvignon blanc vineyard in Marlborough?

“If any Kiwi is into wine and keen to become a producer then Marlborough sauvignon blanc is an obvious choice. I’m passionate about large-scale production of the world’s most reliable white wine using state-of-the-art vineyard technology.”

Is there a risk that the current high demand for Marlborough sauvignon blanc could end?

“I don’t think demand will soften soon. Big companies like Constellation are doing a great job of selling price-friendly, reliable sauvignon blanc to the whole of the US, now our biggest wine market. They are stimulating demand. The challenge will be to keep up with demand. Marlborough sauvignon blanc cannot keep growing at its current rate. There must inevitably be a shortage. When supply gets short there is a danger that unripe or sub-standard grapes are used to make poor wine that will be marketed as Marlborough sauvignon blanc. That would be a tragedy.”

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