WanderCurtis Wine

Wine tastings, corporate events, reviews and recommendations

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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.

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Christmas shopping at Bennetts Fine Wine – Chipping Campden, Cotswolds

It was with great delight that I fell upon Bennetts Fine Wine in the lovely town of Chipping Campden. Whilst the family were  busying themselves way buying Christmas presents and coffee drinking, I luxuriated in the fantastic collection.

One of WanderCurtis’s favorites Kumeu River was represented in abundance as one of the first importers. I tried a 2008 Kumeu River pinot noir – smokey, rich, fruity and gorgeous with Christmas day roast beef and chicken in sherry and mango! Also went for Shaw and Smith M3 chardonnay 2008 –  highly rated. This shop has a superb collection, and highly recommended to anyone passing through this truly unspoilt area of green rolling hills of our beautiful country.

Boxing Day evening was complemented by ‘The Caracal’, a South African Bordeaux blend – shared with my brother and washed down with Muga 2007. Another slightly blurry, very merry, antioxidant packed festive season.

Off to Bistro d’Aix in Crouch End tomorrow to investigate venues for our January ‘Four Decades of Bordeaux’ tasting.

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Kumeu River Coddington 07 v Olivier Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet Les Enseignères 05 er cru

Can’t compete with Adam’s recent jolly, but on a Kiwi note we tasted the above blind on 29th December. One light, the other a darker golden colour. On the nose the lighter was more closed with a touch of furniture polish; the other more woody. On the palette, the lighter with nicely balanced acid, fresh and minerally, taut but a little short; the other richer, fruitier, with more wood and more length, though at first a little harsh.

By now I had recognised the darker, richer wine to be the Kumeu River Coddington. Having read about how often the Kumeu chardonnays are mistaken for top flight Burgundies such as Puligny or Mersault (see Farr vintner blog for a similar blind tasting) I was a little disappointed at how easily we had distinguished the New Zealand wine and how different it was in character: much more extravagant and effusive. However the way the two wines developed in the glass was perhaps most interesting.

The Puligny improved in the glass showing more intensity, filled out a bit and developed more length, all refinement and restraint. The Coddington remained for a while dominated by the oak on nose and on the palette, pleasurable but a bit harsh. However as the evening wore on, I found myself wanting more fruit intensity and some nuttiness from the Puligny.  The Coddington by contrast gained complexity and eventually completely dropped the oakiness in flavour of intense rich fruit, perhaps without as much balancing acidity as the Puligny, but nevertheless with just enough to keep it engaging. It continued to have good length and to be overall delicious.

The Coddignton was polished off that night and the Puligny the next day when it had really come together in a refined but more intense way.

Tasting the full line up of different single vineyard Kumeu’s at the Farr Vintner Xmas tasting the range of styles was apparent, from intense and steely like the Hunting Hill to luscious and perhaps a little flabby in the Mates vineyard. Perhaps one of the more steely vineyards would have matched the Puligny better, but for me the Coddington provided a good balance and delivered in terms of pure drinking pleasure all the way to the bottom of the bottle. It leaves me thinking that comparisons with aristocracy of burgundy are beside the point.