Matthew Jukes - Wine Notes

Kumeu River 2021 Vintage Launch

Kumeu River 2021 Vintage Launch

5th September 2022

2021 marks Michael Brajkovich’s 40th vintage at Kumeu, and his pithy assessment of this vintage is, “I have never seen a run of vintages of this quality before”.  Michael’s brother Paul Brajkovich presented the wines today at 67 Pall Mall, London.

NV Kumeu River, Kumeu Crémant RRP £30

Based on the 2015 vintage.  It is made from 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir and the first vintage was made in 2012.  Ripe and unusually full on the nose, this wine is akin to a still Chardonnay, with bubbles, as opposed to a genuinely rapier-sharp sparkler.  16/20

2021 Kumeu River, Pinot Gris RRP £14.25

Made with wild yeast and lees maturation, this is a juicy, silky style with plump Gris fruit and a fruit-salad feel.  There is a fair amount of residual sweetness here, balancing the richness of the mid-palate.  Not a heavy wine, but a sweeter wine than one might expect, this is a curious fellow and one with a faithful following.  16/20

2021 Kumeu River, Village Chardonnay RRP £16.25

The 2021 vintage was dry and not too hot, so the grapes came in clean and in perfect shape.  Sadly, frost affected many sites, so yields are down 35%.  Village is now a blend of Hawke’s Bay (around 35%) and Kumeu fruit and it is 39% barrel fermented in 5-year-old+ barriques and 61% stainless steel.  There is no doubt that this is a lean, bright, classically-shaped wine with a beautiful fruit theme and gentle acidity. Drinking now and looking fresh and lively, this is a glorious substitute for a perky, young Mâcon. 17/20

2021 Kumeu River, Ray’s Road Chardonnay RRP £29.00

Ray’s Road is a Hawke’s Bay vineyard (a 30ha site with 180m of elevation), and this wine is whole-bunch pressed, 100% barrel fermented and 100% malolactic fermentation, too. It spends 11 months of maturation in barrel.  This vineyard was initially planted to Sauvignon Blanc (with a dribble of Chardonnay) by Pascal Jolivet (of Sancerre fame) and Trinity Hill (local heroes).  The Brajkovichs are in the process of pulling out the Sauvignon, yet the taut, limestone feel and mineral-flintiness remain in this wine.  I like the spiciness on the finish, with hints of ginger and momentary exoticism.  This is a delicious and involving wine, and it bears a Kumeu signature in spite of the fact it comes from Hawke’s Bay.  17.5/20

2021 Kumeu River, Estate Chardonnay RRP £27.00

This is another hand-harvested wine, whole-bunch pressed, wild yeast fermented in 100% oak, and it spends 11 months in barrel (25% new) after malo.  ‘Estate’ is a big step up from the preceding white wines, and please remember that this vintage is a little shorter, so there will inevitably be pressure on stock.  It is drawn from six sites, and they are the strongest in the portfolio.  This is a terrific wine and one that sums up the history, determination and high standards of this estate and the family who have worked so hard to build its reputation.  It is the pick of the line-up if you are after a forward-drinking but grand-feeling wine (hence my earlier mention of inevitable stock pressure).  The stunning nose and raspy finish bookend silky, layered, kindly fruit, making it a joy to taste. It also has enough acidity to build over time, and this wins it a ‘+’, too.  18+/20

2021 Kumeu River, Coddington Chardonnay RRP £37.75

Tim and Angela Coddington own this vineyard, and it is another wine that is hand-harvested, whole-bunch pressed, wild yeast fermented in 100% oak, and it spends 11 months in barrel (25% new) after malo.  There is always a more solid feel about this cuvée, and it is less expressive on the nose and chunkier on the palate.  I like it less than the others, but great pals of mine, whose palates I admire, often pick it out as a favourite!  One thing is sure, it has a couple of years to go before it will start opening up and drinking well.  17.5+/20

2021 Kumeu River, Hunting Hill Chardonnay RRP £49.75

The winemaking regime is identical to the preceding wines – hand-harvested, whole-bunch pressed, wild yeast fermented in 100% oak, and it spends 11 months in barrel (25% new) after malo.  This time, a piercingly fresh bouquet is driven along briskly by a strident citrus theme.  Super-tasty, really long and with an amazing volume of flavour, this is my favourite of the ‘Premier Cru’ wines.  Grab some now, for fear of missing out.  You can drink it today without the wine police visiting you, but it will sing in a couple of years and hold easily for a decade!  18.5+/20

2021 Kumeu River, Maté’s Vineyard Chardonnay RRP £52.25

Again, hand-harvested, whole-bunch pressed, wild yeast fermented in 100% oak, and it spends 11 months in barrel (this time, 30% new) after malo.  The persistence, energy and purity of flavour are staggering, yet this is a refreshing, uplifting wine.  The power-to-weight ratio is staggering.  It is like ripping out the seats, the instrument panel, the entire interior, the wheel trims, the wing mirrors and all other irrelevant items from your favourite sports car and understanding that this will only improve performance!  And it does.  This mightily impressive wine is a baby, but there is no pressure here to crack on and open this wine.  Take your time.  The moment will come, and it will race away across your palate to cheers and whoops of joy.  18.5+/20

2021 Kumeu River, Village Pinot Noir RRP £16.25

Again, 100% hand-harvested, 100% de-stemmed, wild yeasts and a 2-week cuvaison form the recipe and then seven months in tank keep it pinpoint accurate and very much on its toes.  It is made from 65% Ray’s Road Vineyard fruit and 35% Kumeu fruit.  I am very slowly starting to appreciate this Pinot.  It tends to seems a little too tart and slender for my tastes, but this 2021 has a more pronounced colour and also a slightly more lifted perfume and I am sure it will endear itself to fans.  Saying this, it is not a wine on which I can confidently hang my hat.  16/20

FIN