Auckland, New Zealand
Founded in 1944 by Mick Brajkovich, wife Katé and son Maté, Kumeu River was one of the early pioneers in Auckland, New Zealand, that helped to establish its reputation as a world-class wine region. In the years that followed the family tended grapes and other crops, and steadily built a reputation for their wines. By the end of the 1970s the brave decision was taken to plant the then new to the island and relatively untried varieties chardonnay and pinot noir, together with some sauvignon blanc and merlot. In 1982 Maté’s son Michael (who was to become New Zealand’s first Master of Wine) took up the reins and was joined by his brothers Milan and Paul, all of whom had grown up on the estate. They have transformed the business.
Much of Auckland lies on a narrow stretch of land between the Tasman Sea in the west and the Pacific Ocean in the east. Kumeu, 16 miles (26km) northeast of the central business district, and Waiheke Island in the Hauraki Gulf are the most prominent wine sub-regions. Matakana is an hour's drive north of the city center and Clevedon, in the southeast, is the most recently established sub-region. Auckland has a humid climate due to its coastal location and high rainfall, which makes grapegrowing a challenge. The more eastern parts of the region are sheltered from the prevailing westerly weather systems by the Waitakere Ranges in West Auckland and the city itself, particularly on Waiheke Island. During the growing season, the region experiences sufficiently warm temperatures to ripen the grapes, assisting in the production of some high-quality wines.
Best-known as the white grape of Burgundy and cornerstone of Champagne, Chardonnay is the world's most famous white-wine variety and also one of the most widely planted. Made in a variety of styles, Chardonnay wines can show fruit notes that run from citrusy and mineral to exotic and toasty.
Kumeu River has 30 hectares of their own vineyards in Kumeu and buy in fruit from 10 hectares of vines owned by trusted local growers. The soils here, clay over a sandstone base, retain moisture well so that the vineyards need no irrigation. All grapes are hand harvested and carefully sorted, before being gently pressed as whole bunches to extract the best juice.
The chardonnays are barrel fermented with indigenous yeasts and aged on the lees for 11 months in barrel, in the pursuit of restraint and finesse rather than power and weight.