Grapevine Archive for Kumeu River
I have been privileged to meet Melba Brajkovich on several occasions, usually after tasting through the Kumeu River range with her winemaker son Michael at the family’s beautiful property just north of Auckland. On each occasion it was her energy, vision and direct approach that always made a mark on me, attributes which clearly serve her well in the achievements she has made, and continues to make, for both Kumeu River and the New Zealand wine industry as a whole.
So, I was delighted, though not at all surprised, to hear the news that Melba has been made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2014 Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to the wine industry and the community.
The winery had the following to say regarding this great news:
Melba has been the backbone and strength behind the Brajkovich Family at Kumeu River Wines since 1957. Originally very much in the background as Mate’s wife and partner in the business, Melba has always kept a watchful eye over the winery, especially when Mate was away on wine industry business in his various roles on the Executive Committee of the Wine Institute of New Zealand, including Chairman from 1982-1985.
Following Mate’s death in 1992, Melba assumed the position of Managing Director of Kumeu River Wines, with all her four children also in positions of responsibility in the company
She continues in that role today. Internationally she is a wonderful ambassador for New Zealand and New Zealand wine. For over 30 years Melba has travelled the world selling wine, initially with Mate, and for the last 20 years on her own. She tells the stories, not only of her own family and Kumeu River , but of the New Zealand wine business and the fantastic country which we live in.
Congratulations to Melba and the Brajkovich family.
Kumeu River in New Zealand have just started harvesting fruit from their vineyards which have supplied members with exquisite chardonnay for many years.
With harvest in full swing, and perfect weather, here are some pictures taken just a few days ago (the red grapes are pinot noir).
As we draw into autumn this side of the world, New Zealand is embracing the promise of warmer weather. Here is an update I just received, along with these wonderful photos, from Paul Brajkovich of Kumeu River. Spring frosts affect vineyard yield (but not final fruit quality):
‘Spring has sprung here and with some spring frost. There was quite a serious frost two weeks ago that did some damage and it looks like we could be in for another vintage like 2010 in terms of quantity. On the morning of the frost there was a photographer here so we got some good shots.’
They certainly did.
The 2009 Chardonnay, currently listed, is rich and plump with a lovely hint of smoky oak that adds to the structure, poise and complexity of this delicious wine. It will age with ease for five years plus.
The refreshing 2007 is subtle and elegant while the 2005 tantalises with its precision, hint of orange peel and creamy texture. The 2004 is extraordinary: perfumed and peachy with silky texture and beautiful balance, certainly the wine of the tasting. The ten-year-old 2002 is showing attractive mature flavours, discreetly nutty and buttery, still lively and bright.
What was most enlightening was the consistency across all wines: they all showed subtle differences (vintages matter in the rather challenging environment of north Auckland?s rather cloudy, irregular weather), testament to the quality focus of this distinguished chardonnay family.
Buyer for New Zealand
“I worry that screwcaps take the sense of occasion out of wine; I’d miss the ceremony and the romance of uncorking a bottle of wine.”
“Look mate, if you get your romance from opening a bottle of wine, you need to get out more.”
As well as being one of the very finest estates in New Zealand, Kumeu River was among the early pioneers of the screwcap in a country that now seals over 90% of its wines this way. When visiting The Wine Society, marketing director Paul Brajkovich recalled the above exchange from a tasting at his winery by way of further vindication.
He has a point: it is what’s inside the bottle that matters most. To that end, Paul was kind enough to come to Stevenage and guide us through seven of his wines, all of which are available through The Society.
Kumeu River is very much a family affair, with Paul’s mother Melba in charge of the business (sadly, her husband Maté passed away in 1992). All four of their children are involved in the winery, with Milan as vineyard director, Marijna working with Paul in marketing and Michael Brajkovich (New Zealand’s first Master of Wine) as winemaker.
Though their surprising proximity to Auckland places them well north of the country’s major winegrowing regions, the tempering influence of the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean mean their vineyards are ideal for early-ripening grape varieties. They continue to be best-known for their chardonnay, which accounts for around 65% of plantings.
Members may be familiar with Kumeu River as the people behind The Society’s popular Exhibition New Zealand Chardonnay. Grown from Burgundian clones, this elegant and Chablis-like wine continues to represent an excellent buy. The Village Chardonnay 2008 is what Paul likes to call ‘aperitif chardonnay’, and which I enjoyed for its ability to combine cleanness and complexity. A notch up in price is the Estate Chardonnay of the same year, which has a lively, nutty tang and offers a substantial mouthful of peach fruit with a beautifully-integrated, biscuity oak influence.
Though these three mid-priced wines affirmed why Kumeu River chardonnays are held in such esteem, the surprise of the tasting could not be called Burgundian by any stretch of the imagination.
Like Italian pinot grigio before it, much New Zealand pinot gris is a victim of its own success: the style’s popularity has resulted in an unfortunate amount of anonymous and confected wines made to meet demand. The personality of the Kumeu River Pinot Gris 2009 therefore surprised a lot of people. Versatile and food-friendly in the extreme, it will stand up to spicy dishes and make a delicious aperitif. The wine will appeal to those already au fait with Alsatian examples of the grape and those looking for something beyond sauvignon blanc and the like to enjoy in the warmer months.
The Village Pinot Noir 2008 (The Society currently stocks the 2009 vintage) was another pleasant surprise: served slightly chilled, it combines a recognisable nod to Burgundy with approachable and refreshing cherry-fruit flavours.
We also tasted two of Kumeu River’s three lauded single-vineyard chardonnays. The Coddington Vineyard 2008 is a beautifully-poised and energetic wine that will age with grace for some time, but which is drinking well now. By contrast, the intricate and intellectual Maté’s Vineyard Chardonnay of the same vintage is reticent (the 2002 is drinking beautifully, according to the boss). It is one for the patient, but it will certainly be worth the wait.
At £18 and £20 respectively, the quality of these top wines is outstanding. It’s an exciting time for New Zealand chardonnay. The wine world is beginning to see past the ‘oaky blokey’ styles of old, and long-overdue recognition is coming the way of these more delicate and refined wines: styles which Kumeu River have been doing as well as anyone for some time.