Kumeu River – Reigning King of Chardonnay

For over two decades, Kumeu River has reigned as ‘King of Chardonnay' in New Zealand. There are highly successful Chardonnay wines on the show circuit, and there are certainly bigger, fruitier or more oaky examples around, but only Kumeu River has the pedigree of innovation and sense of style that transports you to the southern Cote d'Or, reminding you of the great white burgundies of Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet. The Brajkovich family behind Kumeu River are reticent in making such comparisons, but most experienced wine enthusiasts who have tasted the French benchmarks and the Kumeu examples are happy to draw parallels. The 1987 Kumeu River Chardonnay employed indigenous yeast, full-barrel fermentation and maturation, lees work and full malolactic conversion. Winemaker Michael Brajkovich continues this two decades on, refining the style ever so subtly, and the rest of the country is heading that way too. I review two 2009 vintage wines, forerunners to the single-vineyard wines. Following the exceptional 2008 harvest for the Brajkovich family, the region experienced a short period of wet and humid conditions in 2009 which resulted in some botrytis, but the quality of the Chardonnay fruit was very high. www.kumeuriver.co.nz

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