Rockburn Team — Q&A with Tim Severne

As Rockburn is a boutique winery it's a hands-on set up. The whole team get involved and all of us are expected to muck in. It felt like a good time to get you more acquainted with everyone. 

When our General Manager, Tim Severne, isn't overseeing the daily running of Rockburn, you'll find him at home enjoying a cheeky glass of Chardonnay or Pinot Noir with his wife Hali. It’s a busy household with two toddlers under 5 so it's highly likely that 'cheeky glass' gets a cheeky refill in-between bedtime stories and doing the dishes. 

Growing up in Ponsonby, Auckland it's fair to say that Tim was raised on Prego Pizza. Living in one of the city's most bustling hospitality suburbs certainly proved to be a good grounding for a future in selling wine to Sommeliers. 


 Q — When did you know you wanted to work in the world of wine?

I really stumbled into it.  Growing up we had a Glengarry Wine store at the top of our street and I needed a job while at Uni.  Someone said “get a job doing what you love” at that time it was Music, Movies and Socialising (aka. drinking).  I had three CV’s & the DVD and Music store didn’t have any positions available. Glengarry offered me a job starting the very next day.

 Q — You grew up in Ponsonby, Auckland which has an amazing hospitality offering. How much do you think this inspired your career in selling wine to restaurateurs? 

I’m very fortunate to have seen Ponsonby evolve through the 80’s, 90’s & through today.   Memories of Empress Garden, Prego, Alhambra these were the places we went as a family.  They always busy restaurants with great hospitality teams who always knew you by name.   These relationships only grew as my career transition into selling wine to the same restauranteurs and grew with that role.

 Q — Rockburn was established in the early 1990s. How does a boutique winery like Rockburn define itself as the region continues to grow? 

More people are turning to Central Otago as they love the style and wines we create.  At Rockburn have insured that our wines are consistent from vintage to vintage. You can make great wine in a single year,  but to have a customers come back every vintage is the key.  We’re also very passionate about accessibility and making sure that you can find our wines easily. So I guess we’re “constantly accessible.”

 Q — When the borders reopen, where will you be taking Rockburn first? 

Our New Zealand domestic market has always been a big priority, I have always believed you build your brand in your home market before taking it to the world.  I’m very keen to spend more time in the New Zealand regions, working and connecting with kiwi wine lovers. Our Australian market is also a big part of our export success and once that trans-Tasman bubble opens we’ll be spending more time with our Aussie mates doing the same and connecting with Central Otago wine lovers.  The UK, US and China are also big supporters of Rockburn and I’m looking forward to spending time and growing these markets too.

 Q — The NZ wine industry has changed a lot while you’ve been working within it. What do you think is the next best kept NZ wine secret we share with the world? 

New Zealand aromatics are truly out of this world and we definitely need to bring more attention to the likes of Riesling.  However, personally I think Chardonnay is the variety that New Zealand needs to push forward with.  We find the Pinot Noir drinker is easily swayed to a glass Chardonnay & with the export growth that we’ve seen in Pinot Noir I think it’s only a natural progression.

 Q — Have you ever spent time working in the vines or as a cellar hand? 

You only need to look at my hands to answer that question.

 Q — What are your favourite things to spend time doing when you’re not tasting wine, selling wine and talking wine? 

I’ve got a young family and spending time with them is a huge priority.  Prior to COVID-19 I spent up to three months a year travelling overseas for work, and now we are grounded here in New Zealand with border closures, I really enjoy spending quality time at home.  

 Q — It’s a wonderful Summer day. You’re taking the family to the beach. What would be in your dream picnic basket?

With a young family you’ve gotta keep things pretty easy. I’d be looking to grab some fresh & soft baked bread with ham, cheese, mustard and a dollop of mayo. A bag big of salted chips, a punnet sweet juicy New Zealand strawberries, plus an ice cream from the local dairy.  All accompanied with a bottle of Rockburn’s Tigermoth Riesling out of a jam jar and some Antipodes for all.

Tim with a good and fellow wine friend, Kori Millar at Raffles Hotel Singapore