The Heritage of Rongopai
The history of Rongopai revolves around the original site in Te Kauwhata - a small, picturesque town in the centre of New Zealand’s North Island.
The building on this site was first constructed by the New Zealand government in 1902, as New Zealand’s first viticultural research station. The aim of the research facility, which was headed by pioneer Romeo Bragato (see below), was to understand New Zealand’s soil and to implement a programme to establish varieties that would thrive in the diverse climatic conditions. This same site where Romeo’s groundbreaking work took place was used as Rongopai’s winery from 1932 to 2007. The building has been restored with extensive renovations and modern upgrades, however much of the building’s original features are maintained, and as the building is rated ’Class A Historical’ it will remain standing for many years.
In these years - particularly since the 1980’s, Rongopai has become one of the most celebrated and cherished labels in the New Zealand wine industry.
Italian Romeo Bragato came to Te Kauwhata in 1895 at the invitation of the New Zealand government, to head the Viticultural Research Station. Many of Romeo’s findings paved the way for the New Zealand wine industry; the results of his work still resonate and influence the way we grow wine today.
Romeo’s pioneering spirit and his passion for the highest standards influenced Rongopai throughout its history. Like so many pioneers Romeo Bragato’s story is not widely known, yet his impact on the New Zealand winemaking industry back then and now cannot be overestimated. He can rightfully claim the title of the founding father of the New Zealand wine industry.
Today, Rongopai’s established strategic relationships with growers throughout New Zealand continues, ensuring the best wine possible are produced from any given vintage, and to give a broad selection and diverse resource for the Rongopai brand.
In 2007, Babich Wines Ltd took over the Rongopai Wines brand, moving the winemaking to the Henderson site in West Auckland.