Tue 05 Jul 2016

Kumeu River’s World-Class Chardonnays: Interview with Michael Brajkovich MW


Michael Brajkovich MW is one of the most talented, and modest, winemakers in the world today.

Recently I had the chance to sit down with him and talk about his Kumeu River chardonnays, and couldn’t resist asking how he felt about them trouncing a clutch of eye-wateringly expensive white Burgundies in a blind tasting last year. This is not the first time Michael’s Auckland chardonnays have performed such a feat, and the sort of result that, were I a winemaker, would probably see me running delirious laps around my barrel hall.

‘Whenever we’ve put our wines against some top white Burgundies, we’ve been very happy just to be on the same page,’ Michael replies. ‘We’re happy to be considered at the same kind of level because we’re considerably cheaper; and when the results come through and we’ve done very well… it’s really nice!’

Michael Brajkovich MW in The Wine Society's tasting room

Michael Brajkovich MW in The Wine Society’s tasting room

‘But it’s not the main reason we do it,’ he hastens to add. ‘We’re here to say ‘hey – here’s something that’s not exactly the same, because it’s from a different terroir, a different country – but the quality level is comparable, the style is comparable, and we are better value.’’

Kumeu River’s new 2014 wines,  have recently been released in our current New Zealand offer, provide a further testament to the outstanding quality and deserved following the Brajkovich family’s wines have achieved.

‘Everything went perfectly in 2014. There was no rot, harvesting was easy, the fruit was in perfect condition and as the juices went through fermentation, we thought to ourselves, ‘this is something pretty special.’ It was pretty much a perfect-weather vintage leading right up to the end of it. It’s a generous, richer, more giving vintage than 2013. And they’re actually really good early on.’

He’s not wrong. The 2014s are truly world-class chardonnays, imbued with approachable richness and delicate refreshing balance throughout the Kumeu River portfolio.

But not quite everything went perfectly, Michael chuckled. Their top plot, Mate’s Vineyard, which is the last to be picked, became the subject of a scramble to get the grapes in before a tropical cyclone threatened to destroy the crop before it could be harvested.

'It really is our grand cru.' Mate's Vineyard.

‘It really is our grand cru.’ Mate’s Vineyard.

All whilst entertaining the visit of New Zealand’s Prime Minister – and their local MP – John Key, and the Croatian Prime Minister, who was visiting at the time!

Thankfully the grapes were harvested – and the Prime Ministers entertained – and the fruit reached the winery in perfect condition. ‘It was during the fermentation we realised how good it was. Ok, so it was picked a few days earlier than we’d have liked but it didn’t make any difference: the vineyard matters more than the few days. It’s one of our oldest vineyards. It’s quite low-yielding, even in terms of this bumper crop, and the wine is fabulous. It really is our grand cru.’

Enter stage left: The Society’s Head of Buying, Tim Sykes, and buyer for New Zealand, Sarah Knowles MW, who visited Kumeu a couple of months later.

You can read Tim’s account of the visit here; but having tasted the 2014s in barrel, Sarah instantly began negotiating an increase in The Society’s allocation.

Kumeu River are, of course, also the source of our Society’s Exhibition Chardonnay (£13.50). This exclusive single-vineyard wine has long been popular with members, but the 2014 vintage offers something particularly special. Having picked up the Best New Zealand Chardonnay Under £15 Trophy at both the Decanter and International Wine Challenge awards, the wine offers further delicious proof of 2014’s quality here. The below video from our archive shows Michael talking about this wine, and sums up both the wine and his outlook on winemaking very well.

Kumeu River’s 2014s are available now in our current New Zealand offer. Despite securing a good allocation of these wines, supply is still limited so please don’t delay in ordering these special wines to avoid disappointment!

Martin Brown
Digital Copywriter

Categories : New Zealand


  1. Melville Jones says:

    I met Michael at the New Zealand stand at the London International wine Fair some years ago. We spoke about winemaking, for quite a long time, as at that time I was President of Scottish Amateur Winemakers, and we realised that there were amazing similarities in our winemaking, though, Michael starts with the great advantage of superb Chardonnay grapes.
    I was delighted to find that a superb winemaker from New Zealand was quite happy to speak about winemaking to an amateur like me.
    I should point ou, I was at the show, as the owner of a small wine merchants firm in Scotland!

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