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Interview: Harpers sits down with SJP and Invivo

Published:  12 October, 2023

On the cusp of the launch of Sarah Jessica Parker’s low alcohol wine ‘Sevenly’ in Sainsbury’s, Harpers caught up with the actress-turned-wine-mogul to find out what drew her to dip her toe into vinous waters.

Back in 2018, Parker teamed up with New Zealand producer Invivo – the same company which produces Graham Norton’s wines – to bottle her take on a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.

Dubbed Invivo X by SJP upon its release in 2019, since then, a Provence rosé has followed, along with a very soon to be launched 7% abv low alcohol, low calorie wine, thus helping to cement Parker’s footholds in those key demographics in which she has long held a firm following.

As the newest addition prepares to launch into one of the UK’s biggest retailers, it is clear the collaboration has successfully managed to leverage Parker’s celebrity with the help of Invivo’s core duo and long-term friends, co-founders Rob Cameron and Tim Lightbourne.

Parker, meanwhile, has been on a voyage of discovery. This started at a tasting in New York, where marketing mastermind Lightbourne and winemaker Cameron brought along samples of wines from around six vineyards in order to whip up a new blend.

“During that very first tasting when they came to New York, I was afraid of being wrong – making a mistake or not being able to find a shared language that was specific to wine and helpful to Rob,” Parker told Harpers during a recent sit-down.

“I didn’t want him to just capitulate to me. Not only would that not be polite, it also wouldn’t necessarily produce the best wine we could make together. But I think we all arrived at something we were really, really excited about.”

The result was something quite different to Invivo’s own style of Sauvignon Blanc. While “intimidating” as a grape to Parker at first, she described how the trio managed to find light and shade with the variety’s flexibility and thus create Parker’s own style.

“From what I understand, a Sauvignon Blanc from this area is usually pitched higher [in terms of acidity]. It’s just more architectural than mine, which I would say has a fuller figure. It has a bit of oak and Rob treats the skins totally differently. I was looking for a tiny bit more body,” she said.

Invivo currently has 70ha of its own vineyards, alongside growers dotted around the Wairau and Awatere valleys.

So far, both celebrity partnerships have been successful. Brought in by Benchmark Drinks in the UK, which also represents the Ian Botham and Kylie Minogue wines, Invivo has sold 18 million bottles of Graham Norton’s range over the past 10 years, with total of 20 million forecast to the end of 2023.

The Invivo X by SJP partnership, meanwhile, has sold 10.5 million glasses worldwide as of earlier in 2023. The SJP Sauvignon Blanc is also currently the fastest growing New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc in value in the $15+ category in the US according to Nielsen. Listings on Delta and American Airlines and most major retail outlets are now firmly in place.

Though, success “hasn’t been overnight”, Lightbourne insists. “It’s been a lot of work and meeting with distributors.”

Part of the approach has also been to open up the wine process to consumers. Videos can be found on social media of the SJP blending sessions, which offer insight into both the mysteries of winemaking and access to a well-known celebrity in a different light.

On Parker’s side, she admits that she had no real ties, personal or financial, to wine prior to the Invivo partnership. Her tastes have instead been formed on the road while travelling and also from memories of a trip travelling from Paris to the south of France with husband and fellow actor Matthew Broderick.

On her own journey to demystifying wine, she now hopes to do the same for others.

“I think I bring a willingness to learn and enthusiasm… and as time goes by, I’m becoming more conversant in winemaking and its various styles. I thought winemaking would be closed to someone like me… In the beginning, I thought it’s something that only generations of families get to participate in. But Tim and Rob said ‘no’, you can learn. We’re willing to teach you. This can be a process that’s really fun and also informative,” she said.