Kumeu River winery invites wine writers to taste its latest releases each November and the tasting and accompanying lunch is a highly sought after ticket. It is an opportunity not to be missed as I discovered, not just for the chance to taste through one of NZ’s best winery’s offerings but also to enjoy Melba Brajkovich’s famous roast potatoes. Proof that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, I arrived at the winery, to find the tasting room positively groaning with NZ’s male wine writing fraternity wolfishly smiling. Whilst I didn’t spot anyone actually licking their lips in anticipation, there was clearly a heightened sense of expectation.
And so what of the wines ?
2008 Kumeu River Sauvignon Blanc; a wander down memory lane. An incredibly intense aroma, cut grass, nettle, box hedge, an absence of passionfruit but plenty of methoxypyrazene. Dry, crisp, Very slightly ‘grubby’, not pristine and quite interesting as a result. Plenty of flavour and weight. Sauvignon Blanc as it used to be and most enjoyable as a result.
2008 Kumeu River Pinot Gris; Much more retiring than most. Lightly aromatic, tight and subtle. The palate is creamy, very slightly off dry. Restrained on fruit, long on texture, with pretty good acidity keeping the palate bright.
Then onto the Chardonnays.
2007 Kumeu River Village Chardonnay; Pale straw. Nose is medium intensity, an absence of stonefruit, more in the lemon/lime spectrum. Very understated oak influence (old barrel), some bran biscuit, nutty mealiness. Immediate impression of acidity, bright and minerally, followed up by tight, ripe fruit. A degree of complexity. Impressive, especially at the price.Drinking well now.
2007 Kumeu River Chardonnay; a step up in complexity, delicious struck match, smokey aromas. Some lime but also stonefruit. A rich palate with intensity and ripeness and a beautiful thread of acidity running through.
2007 Kumeu River Single Vineyard Coddington Chardonnay; Slightly deeper colour. The nose is quite closed though with subtle tropical hints peeking through; some white peach, almost a hint of mango. Open and generous on the palate with an impression of richness. Again, a strong thread of acidity running through. Almost a touch opulent, not a characteristic that I usually associate to Kumeu Chardonnay.
2007 Kumeu River Single Vineyard Hunting Hill Chardonnay; Paler than the Coddington. Nose not as tropical, but more in the blossom, acacia, white peach spectrum. Delicate and subtle with a lovely silken texture. Good structure and excellent length.
2007 Kumeu River Single Vineyard Matés Chardonnay; From Mendoza clone vines, planted 1990. Pale lemon. As expected, the nose is the most closed of the three single vineyard wines, mineral, lemon, some blossom. Struck match and smoke. Very much in its infancy, acidity is there but seems less prominent, possibly because of the powerful fruit, the old vines giving a real core of intensity. Complex and powerful yet overall the wine has a very light touch.
I am not overly fond of describing wines as ‘the best’ or ‘NZ’s finest’, titles which seems to take the heart out of enjoying wine as a simple drink and turn bottles into competitors in a race. And goodness knows there are enough wine shows, medals and over-the-top plaudits already. But this latest vintage must cement Kumeu River’s reputation as one of NZ’s most inspiring wineries ? Not for the single vineyard wines, impressive as they are. But for the simple Village Chardonnay, a wine that manages to be uncomplicated yet interesting at the same time. It is everything that good Chardonnay should be and at under $20, must rank as an outstanding buy.
I didn’t stay for lunch though Melba insisted that I should. But my fellow tasters didn’t seem too bothered by my departure. One less person = more potatoes for everyone else . . . .