Kumeu River

Kumeu River - The Grand Cru From New Zealand

By Adam Bilbey | February 9, 2019

Last November I made the pilgrimage 30 minutes' drive northwest of Auckland to the iconic winery Kumeu River. This was over a decade in the making, having drunk and sold these great wines for most of my working life!

Owned by the Brajkovich family, Kumeu River has a rich history, starting with Maté Brajkovich. A Croation by birth, his family moved to New Zealand in 1938 and his parents planted their first vineyard in 1944 – there Kumeu River was born. Initially making sweet and port wines that were the fashion of the day, it was not until his son Michael took over the winemaking, in 1982, that the true potential of the vineyards and its marriage with Chardonnay was realized. Today the estate Chardonnay and single vineyard Chardonnays are considered to be not just New Zealand’s finest, but a match for the very best Burgundy has to offer.

It is wonderful to see that this great estate is still such a family business, with Paul’s mother Melba and siblings Michael, Milan and Marijana actively involved. I spent the morning with Michael in November where I got to taste first hand just how special these wines are, and can be enjoyed young, but age so incredibly well. Each Chardonnay is very distinct in style with the flagship Mate’s vineyard the richest and almost Meursault in style, whilst the Hunting Hill Vineyard possesses a linear, more mineral, steely character – think Puligny Montrachet! The Estate Chardonnay is a blend of vineyards and tends to offer a bit more up front fruit and approachability when young.

I am pleased to offer the recently released 2017’s, which is another very good vintage. The season was a touch colder than normal, which gave the wines a fresh crisp acidity with great mineral driven fruit. Still full of youthful energy, they will benefit from a year or two in the cellar but if you want to enjoy now, decanting will help.

I urge you to pick up a few bottles and try these fantastic wines. I have served them blind against very serious competition from the Côte de Beaune and Kumeu River always stands tall!