WanderCurtis Wine

Wine tastings, corporate events, reviews and recommendations

Leave a comment

New Zealand Wine Tour January 2020 – Part 1 Auckland Region – Kumeu


A Seat at the Table?

This is the title of the excellent, recently released film poses the question –  Has New Zealand earned a seat at the table  as a maker of the worlds best wines?

I think so, but I am biased. I’ve loved everything about New Zealand since I worked as a Junior Doctor here, at the Wairau Hospital in Marlborough a quarter of a century ago. It was then a fledgling region with most of the land in the Wairau and Awatere valley bare and full of sheep. How I wish I’d bought a few acres! A lot has changed since then with New Zealand showing itself as a world class producer of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay not just a mass producer of its most widely planted grape Sauvignon Blanc.

I had decided to take a sabbatical from work and what better place to be than in  New Zealand for Summer. My tour will span major regions in North Island, starting in Auckland, then to Northland, Hawkes Bay and ending up in Waiheke Island. I plan to review my favourite wines and give an up to date picture of the latest trends in the New Zealand wine industry.

Kumeu River Wines


The quality of Kumeu River Chardonnay is well know and I’ve been buying it for years from the wine society. The blind tasting in 2015  arranged by Stephen Browett of Farr Vintners in London confirmed their excellence when they scored higher than famed Burgundies.
This was one of the visits I was most looking forward to in New Zealand. The estate is close to Auckland city which is causing problems.
Paul Brajkovich our host for the afternoon explained that many local vineyards which used to supply fruit have been sold for property development from the encroaching city.
He talked us through the family history and how his grandfather escaping conscription into the army (Croatia was part of the Austro Hungarian empire) arrived in New Zealand in the early 1900s and starting planting grapes on this site.
We were lucky enough to be joined at the tasting by Paul’s brother Michael Brajkovich MW,New Zealand’s first Master of Wine and briefly met Melba the late Matés wife.
We tried the whole range of 2018 wines and a few treats to follow.
I was too busy speaking to Paul and Michael to make  tasting notes on all the wines. They were all of excellent quality, as Suzi demonstrated, they were too good to spit!
Kumeu River Estate Pinot Gris 2018
I really liked the texture here lovely textured mouthfeel with aromatics, florality and stone fruit.
Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay 2018
Well balanced citrus, stone fruit silky texture, consistently good and very good value
Kumeu River Hunting Hill Chardonnay 2018
More complexity with hint of florality citrus and stone fruit lovely texture and length too
Kumeu Village Pinot Noir 2019
This is the first vintage from Rays Road Hawkes Bay fruit
Lovely bright red cherry aromas red fruit on the palate nicely balanced
A very good value Pinot
Kumeu River Hunting Hill Pinot noir 2017
Classic Pinot nose with earth and gaminess but still some red fruits good length and mouthfeel
Kumeu River Hunting Hill Chardonnay 2103
This showed ageing potential of these wines after 7 years still plenty of citrus and freshness with added complexity and hazelnuts
The attention to detail and low intervention with techniques such as  hand harvesting, whole bunch pressing, barrel fermentation use of wild yeast, gentle racking and oak ageing really shines through and there is no doubt these wines are every bit as good as top Burgundy.

Leave a comment

Pinots of Central Otago New Zealand wine tasting trip – December 2010

I can’t imagine a more beautiful place in the world to have a vineyard – just awesome. Steep mountain ranges, valley floors, gorges, glacial waters of the Kawarau river, a fusion of light and landforms.

Aaron, Kiwi wine lover and psychologist and I started on our quest for the finest pinot in Central Otago at Bald Hills in Cromwell. Owner Blair Hunt showed us his lovely collection, after a long day on the road from earhquake hit Christchurch, via lunch at Riverside Kitchen.

The newly opened wine trail bike route in the Gibbston valley provided the ideal oppurtunity to explore Perigrine wines and Amisfield. More examples of superbly made beautiful, fruit filled sensuous pinots.

Alan-BradyDay 3 was the highlight. We met Alan Brady, who planted the first vines in the Gibbston valley over 30 years ago and was the instigator for the wine boom here. After the initial embarrassment of not having his recently released book ‘Pinot Central’ but the one by John Saker, we were treated to a delightful tour. First of Gibbston Valley Winery then Mount Edward, followed by lunch in the sun. Surprised myself by ordering a rosé. Not normally much of a fan, these are 100% pinot and just delicious, with the most vibrant floral nose and supremely balanced palate that I am at last a convert to these rather unpopular numbers.

Alan is a true gent, humble for a man who has achieved so much here. He also rang ahead for us to arrange a tour of Rippon Valley wines in Wanaka the following day.

Off then to Felton Road and unfortunately just missed much talked about charismatic owner Nigel Greening. However had a tour and tried the wines.

The Holy Grail was found after four days of searching and 20,000km with four flight changes. All had been worth it. The passion/organic/biodynamic/terroir all came through to deliver a palatal treat – a real assault on the senses – wines gushing with fruit, flowers and complexity and something unquantifiable. The sense that a perfect harmony was present – bottled beauty!

jane-dochertyWhile Block 3 was particularly good, we loved them all. Well done to Felton Road, and after this nothing really mattered (except Man Utd seeing off Arsenal the following day!) We still had some stamina, and well worth it too as Jane Docherty from Carrick was a great hostess to the fine wines of Carrick.

A great trip and now have the ammunition for a “Best of Kiwi Pinot” WanderCurtis tasting in the early summer!