This week's Wine of the Week comes from a family-owned winery that makes, what I consider, New Zealand's most outstanding Chardonnays - serious Chardonnays with a long history of international acclaim. It's a wine made by New Zealand's first Master of Wine, Michael Brajkovich.
It is Kumeu River Coddington Chardonnay 2007 with the grapes are sourced from Angela and Tim Coddington's vineyard a little north of Huapai. Last week, at a tasting of the new release Kumeu River 2007 vintage Chardonnays followed by lunch, this wine stood out for me, perhaps because of its rich, more intense aromas with a hint of that almost grapefruit-like character coming through. The powerful aroma is full-bodied, creamy and inviting and the grapefruit on the nose carries through to the palate to be joined by nut and nougat-like characters where all play a big role. French oak (just over 20% new) is beautifully integrated and acid drives the finish and leaves a bright aftertaste, all the while the nutty, creamy mealy flavours providing a delicious balance of savouriness to the citrussy fruit sweetness. My rating 5 stars. 13.5% alc. Screwcap closure. NZ$43-$45.
This wine, to me, was also the star match with the juicy sirloin steak cooked over a wood-fired barbecue and Melba Brajkovich's classic crispy, garlic infused potatoes.
But really, it was hard to pick a favourite from the four of the five stunning Kumeu River chardonnay wines and all could change on the next tasting, of course.
The flagship Kumeu River Mate's Chardonnay 2007 is a broader, fatter wine with a hint of peachy fruit over savoury notes on the nose. The palate is immediately rounded and showing its elegance and class. Made from Mendoza clone grapes with about 30% new oak, this has a fresh tropical fruit brightness. The fruit is bright, clean and juicy with the subtle oak strumming away in the background. It is a perfumed wine with a very dry finish and lasting flavours of lemon / lemon zest and lemon honey. There's so much indication that this is the keeper of the quintet. My rating 5 stars. 13.5% alc. Screwcap closure. NZ$50-$55.
Kumeu River Hunting Hill Chardonnay 2007 is quite steely on the nose yet rich and savoury smelling at the same time. The palate is dry with a mealy nutty sweetness, smoky oak and a noticeably grainy texture while the fruit, which is in the stonefruit --> peach --> orange zest spectrum, is expansive and bright. My rating 5 stars. 13.5% alc. Screwcap closure. NZ$43-$45.
Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay 2007 has a gorgeous aroma that emits a nutty barrel sweetness and mealy savoury scents and the palate is rich, full, savoury and spicy with oak playing a role and providing extra spiciness to the finish. Although the fruit is in the ripe peach spectrum with a nuance of lemon honey, this is the most savoury wine in the line-up and leaves behind a full rich mouthfeel. My rating 5 stars. 13.5% alc. Screwcap closure. NZ$36-$38.
Kumeu River Village Chardonnay 2007 is made is a completely different - more Chablis-influenced - style. The aroma is fruity with a subtle mealy intonation and acidity drives the initially savoury palate that becomes bright and citrussy with a nice touch of zest. My rating 3 stars. 13% alc. Screwcap closure. NZ$18-$20.
While 2006 may have been a riper vintage for Kumeu River's Chardonnays, 2007 may result in longer-lived wines. There were lower yields because of the cold weather in late spring and early summer but prior to vintage the weather was hot and dry with very little rain and low humidity - the latter factor is something not seen in Auckland that often.
Check out www.kumeuriver.co.nz for more.
© Sue Courtney
25 Nov 2008