Remarkable Old World Styled Chardonnay From New Zealand’s Kumeu River

Today’s Story: Kumeu River Wines

Kumeu River Wines is a highly regarded family-owned winery located near the town of Kumeu about 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) from central Auckland, New Zealand. The estate was established in 1944 by Mick and Katé Brajkovich, who immigrated to New Zealand from the small Croatian village of Živogošće in 1937. The Brajkovich family had practice tending to vines and making wine in Croatia, so they used this experience along with their son Maté by working vineyards and orchards in West Auckland until they could purchase their own small vineyard in Kumeu. Though Mick unfortunately passed away in 1949, Katé and Maté continued working their family property known as San Marino Vineyards and produced wines which they also sold. Maté and his wife Melba, whom he met during the late 1950s, had four children named Michael, Marijana, Milan, and Paul and they grew up amongst the vines on the family’s property. This instilled in them a passion for the family business, and they are all involved to this day.

During the 1980s, Kumeu River Wines really started to get its name and justifiable great reputation. Maté moved away from the hybrid varieties that produced rather basic fortified or still wines and shifted toward Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc which were uncommon in the region at the time. Following the 1983 vintage which Michael spent in France, the family business rebranded as Kumeu River Wines and started focusing extensively on an Old World (or “Burgundy”) style Chardonnay. The family started producing their Chardonnay with indigenous yeasts and whole cluster pressing, with the wines seeing extended aging on the lees as well. Accolades came pouring in, and to this day Kumeu River Wines is most famous for this Chardonnay which strikes up there with some of the White Burgundy greats in blind tastings.

Today, the Kumeu River Wines estate consists of 30 hectares (74 acres) though the family sources fruit from trusted growers on another 10 hectares (25 acres). Soil here is dominated by clay with a sandstone base, which makes water holding capabilities fairly strong and eliminates the need for irrigation. All the grapes are harvested by hand as well, ensuring only the highest-quality fruit makes it into the end product. At the end of the day, Kumeu River Wines produces about 21,000 cases per vintage with the bulk of the portfolio made up of exceptional Old World styled Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Today’s Wine: 2017 Estate Chardonnay

100% Chardonnay; 13.5% ABV

The 2017 Estate Chardonnay is pale gold in color. This really starts to sing given about 45 minutes to open up in the glass. The aromas are of pronounced intensity, with the rather deep nose showcasing notes of Meyer lemon, yellow apple, underripe pear, white lily, flint, popcorn kernel, seashell, mild smoke, and saline mineral. This comes across fairly reductive overall. Meanwhile the flavors are also of pronounced intensity, with the palate displaying notes of peach, lemon zest, green apple, mango, dried pineapple, crushed stone, wet flint, mild green herbs, and a hint of brine. This dry white is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. Certainly has a few years left, but this is very enjoyable now.

Price: $33. This offers great value, and you might be able to find it even cheaper depending on location. The intensity, complexity, and length here are all great which culminates into a very rewarding wine.

If this wine seems like something you might enjoy, you may find this link helpful in locating it.

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