Nicholas Thomas Nobilo

One Man’s Dream


Nick Nobilo’s passion for making wine has established him as one of New Zealand’s most respected wine authorities and he is regarded a pioneer of the modern New Zealand wine industry. Nick will celebrate 61 years of winemaking in 2021. The country’s emergence as a producer of premium, New World wines is due in no small part to his vision and innovation.

As head of Nobilo Wines Ltd, Nick took the family company to the forefront of the New Zealand wine industry. By developing new vineyards of classical vinifera varietals in the late 1960s and making these into premium wines during the 1970s he led New Zealand’s young wine industry away from fortified hybrid wines into classical vinifera styles that are the mainstay of the industry today.

The Story Continues

Awards and more Awards

From 1970 Nick’s growing list of prestigious wine awards secured Nobilo’s image as a serious wine producer. Among his impressive collection is the coveted THC trophy that he won twice for best overall New Zealand wine. The distinguished Master of Wine, Englishman John Avery, was so impressed by the trophy winning 1976 Nobilo Cabernet that he decided to import it. The year was 1979. No New Zealand wine had previously been imported commercially into the United Kingdom.

It was an extraordinary compliment to Nick Nobilo and his family’s wine business and a forerunner to the success of New Zealand wines in that market. The UK is currently New Zealand’s second largest wine market.

Runs in the family

As Nick puts it, “wine runs in the blood”. He was born into a winemaking family. Queen Elizabeth II honoured his father, Nikola, in 1995 with an Order of the British Empire for services to wine. He had immigrated to New Zealand from the Dalmatian island of Korcula in 1937 and, six years after arriving with his wife Zuva, he decided to test his European wine-making knowledge and skills on New Zealand’s climate and soil.

In doing so, he transplanted a three hundred-year-old family wine making tradition in the new country. The Nobilo family continues making wine on Korcula, which is the birthplace of the great explorer Marco Polo and Nick Nobilo still maintains a strong connection with the family there.

Into the 2000's - One Step Ahead

As New Zealand’s wine producing reputation grew Nick Nobilo always kept his family’s wine business a step ahead. His involvement was pivotal in taking the Nobilo’s from a small privately owned business to a large publicly owned company and to its pinnacle in 2000 when Nobilo’s sold to BRL Hardy, one of Australia’s largest wine producers, now part of Constellation Brands the world’s largest wine producer.

Today NOBILO is a leading New World wine brand in all the major international markets thanks to the tutelage of Nick Nobilo’s 40 year stewardship of the NOBILO brand.

The Nicholas Thomas Nobilo Story

60's to 70's - Beginning the legacy

His Pinotage, Cabernet, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines, which had been untried on a commercial scale in New Zealand, became collectors’ items. He was also first to produce commercial quantities of Gewurztraminer. Within a few years of producing New Zealand’s first German style Muller Thurgau in 1974, the wine had become the country’s vin-du-pays with the rest of the industry emulating its success. Nobilo’s Muller Thurgau became the leader in changing New Zealander’s beer drinking preference to wine. A bottle of his 1976 Muller Thurgau is on display in the Te Papa National museum in Wellington as testimony to this.

1970's - Vines and Barrels

Nobilo’s innovation continued over two decades both in the vineyard and winemaking as the industry evolved. He developed a T-Bar trellising system that raised quality of grapes at harvest and patented a field crushing system that he invented for greater quality and efficiency.

In the winery he became the first winemaker to use new French oak for reds and introduce barrel fermention for Chardonnays. In 1976 he introduced the technique of maceration carbonique (whole berry fermentation) for Pinot Noir the variety he pioneered commercially in 1973. The wine was formally tasted blind in Burgundy two years later comparing favourably with the top red wines of Burgundy. This was testimony to Nick Nobilo’s eponymous skills as a world class winemaker.

1980's - More Innovation

Other firsts were to follow. During the late 80’s Nick developed New Zealand’s first true generic wine style for the export market. The wine was a blend of the highly successful Muller Thurgau with Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. He called the wine ‘White Cloud’ after the Maori name for New Zealand, ‘Aotearoa’, which means ‘Land of the Long White Cloud’.

The wine became a huge success and large export markets in Europe and Asia were secured for Nobilo’s with this fresh tasting and aromatic blended white wine. Such was its popularity that Nick Nobilo received a pretigious Export Award from New Zealand’s Prime Minister at the time. Rt. Hon, Jim Bolger.

1990's - Bring on the British

In 1991 Nick Nobilo secured an international coup for the New Zealand wine industry. A Nobilo Chardonnay, grown in Gisborne, beat off stiff international competition to be selected by British Airways as the first New World wine to be served on all the airline’s European flights hitherto dominated by European producers. Winemaker Nick Nobilo had correctly gauged what would taste palatable at 35,000 feet.

So successful was this wine for British Airways that passengers started asking for the wine by name and the supply arrangement continued unprecedented for 15 years. Millions of quarter bottles were consumed and this single initiative by Nick Nobilo contributed immensely in developing New Zealand’s reputation as producer of premium quality wines internationally.

More Innovation

Friends with China

Nick’s rationale for developing the world’s best Gewurztraminer was to capture the burgeoning new wine market in China. The Chinese palate resonates appealingly with the spicy flavours of the grape. Gewurztraminer is perhaps the only variety to totally complement the many varied dishes of Chinese cuisine.

Vinoptima Gewurztraminer is now renowned in China as a Grand Cru class wine equivalent and as the brand’s creator Nick Nobilo is revered within connoisseur circles. The famous Tsinghua university is but one of these and Vinoptima Noble 2004 was toasted between Prime Minister John Key and President Xi Jinping.

Looking Across New Horizons

Vinoptima Estate is now with new owners and Nick sincerely hopes that the vision of Vinoptima and his passion within will live on in the future.

However, Nick Nobilo has a new vision on his journey through the vineyards of the New Zealand wine industry. At a young 78 years of age Nick Nobilo, who as a pioneer of the modern New Zealand wine industry of the 1960’s, has played a pivotal role in its development into a world class quality producer, is now putting his six decades of wine experience into a trustworthy wine brand that consumers will appreciate.

NTN Wines is born. With consumers in mind, Nick will seek out and procure the very best wines of the regions for quality and price and bottle these under the brand NTN WINES.  Nick has established a partnership with a long-time friend in China to target the opportunities that the China wine market offers.

One More Story

However, of greater significance is the six-year development of a unique infused spirit liqueur that he has called TOMKARI. Tomkari is produced from an elixir of Whey spirit (distilled from milk whey unique to New Zealand), that is infused with Gewurztraminer grapes and skins called Mistelle together with 6 secret Asian spices and pure natural Mandarin extract sweetened with NZ Manuka and Bush honey. Alcohol is 39% Vol. Aromas of spiciness and floral delights combined with honeycomb abound.

Flavours of Ginger, Honey and Orange pervade the taste buds finishing with a burst of Sultanas and Raisins. Overall impression is “Christmas cake in a bottle” and this flavour opens the door to a huge potential market of ready to drink cocktails in cans. Cocktails in cans is currently the fastest growing liquor beverage category globally and is predicted to grow at a compounding rate of 12.5% per annum for the next seven years.

The Future Looks Bright

The future looks bright for Nick’s relentless drive and passion for progressing the New Zealand Wine Industry.

In 2015 Nick Nobilo was awarded Officer of the Order of New Zealand (ONZM) by Queen Elizabeth II for his services to the wine industry.

Nick Nobilo has more unfinished business yet to do in the wine industry.