What’s in the glass tonight July 22nd – Chardonnay

KR Estate Chardonnay 2015

Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay Kumeu 2015 – $$$

14% alc. Pale gold colour.

Clear, clean yet complex citrus on the nose, layered and sweet. Stonefruit. Fine and elegant.

The bouquet translates to fresh and crisp sweet citrus flavours, racey acidity, mouthwatering. Ripe peach and lemon sharpness, a brusque finish. Very moreish. Very long, with alcohol heat producing tingling in my gums.

This is a good food wine, and a great aperitif.

BTW this is the best photo that the Prisma app has produced for me so far. Do you agree?

Highly Recommended  91 points


What’s in the glass tonight May 21st –Chardonnay

Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay 2014

Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay 2014 – $$$

Brilliant Pale gold. 13.5% alc.

Smells fine and refined, mealy, light golden stonefruit characters with the warmth of oak and vanilla. Bounty and restraint in one. European in style.

Soft and full up front on palate.  Smooth mouthfeel lovely integration of fruit and acid with complexity in the mid palate. Great depth.  Citrus and golden apples at the finish

Totally moreish and immersive. Makes me want to come back to the glass. 93 points

Kumeu River Chardonnay vs White Burgundy Tasting: High-Def vs Old School – Sept 2015

Kumeu Tasting 2015

At a recent blind tasting in London arranged by Farr Vinters and attended by a select group of wine professionals, including Neal Martin and Jancis Robinson, Kumeu River Chardonnays were compared with some of the finest white Burgundy equivalents (not equivalent in dollar value, the Kumeu River wines being a fraction of the price). Of the four flights tasted – 2012, 2010, 2009 and 2007 – the Kumeu River wines achieved the highest score in all but one.

Here was a chance for L and I to attend a (sort-of) recreation of this tasting at Glengarry Wines new premises on the Old Hutt Road. The tutored tasting was hosted by Michael Brajkovich, winemaker at KR, and New Zealand’s first Master of Wine (MW) He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Oenology from Roseworthy College in South Australia, and is a member of the Institute of Masters of Wine in London.

Kumeu River vineyards are located 15-30kms from the ocean, west of Auckland. The climate is moderate, with a semi-tropical influence of rain and cloud cover on the vines. The first vineyard was established in 1944, but production has expanded to include grower sites that provide fruit for harvest by KR. Since the 1980’s there has been a move to lower-vigour root-stocks with less leaf growth so as to divert more energy to ripening the fruit, and the use of malolactic fermentation for biologic de-acidification of the wines.

The wines were presented in four non-blind paired flights:


Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay 2013 – $26.99 – This is a district blend from various Kumeu vineyards, and is a level above the KR ‘Village’ designation. Pale gold colour. Aromatic, clean nose, lightly oaked, a little closed. In the mouth I saw bright acid notes, fresh stonefruit and citrus flavours, mouthwatering, tight, and with a lovely finish.

Dom. Bellene Savigny Les Beaune 2010 – $49 – Produced by N Potel. Light gold vibrant colour. Aromas of honey and honeycomb, a mineral character, elusive, some botrytis perhaps. There was firmness and grip to my taste, with tannins and texture and bright ripe fruit. A sharp flinty finish. Redolent of foreign terroir. A lovely wine.


Kumeu River Coddington Chardonnay 2013 – $49 – Single vineyard wine. Aged in 50% new heavily-toasted oak Giley barrels. The forest provenance of the French oak for the barrels is important, but also difficult to prove. Michael told the old joke about how you can tell if a French cooper is lying: “His lips are moving”. Ha ha. KR aim for the ripest expression of fruit here. Pale gold colour. Peaches and apricots, firmness and purity on the nose, oak influence, delightful to smell and savour. The ripeness showed on palate, with purity of fruit concentration, ripeness, freshness and sharpness. A high-def wine. Needs another year minimum to soften. Superb. 5

Alex Gambal Puligny Montrachet 2011 – $79 – Light gold. Warm baking aromas, with vanilla, marmalade and buttered toast. Round, fully developed and ready. Mineral-y, and somewhat flat compared to the Coddington, but still immersive and delightful.


Kumeu River Hunting Hill Chardonnay 2013 – $56 – Single vineyard wine. Pale gold. This was a remarkable wine – salty, flinty, tangy. No botrytis. Picked first of all the sites. Rich fruit and ripe. Bouyant, and shows such energy! An explosion of bright citrus with charm and such persistance of flavour. Has such a great structure this will age well 8-10 years. 5

Chartron Clos de La Pucelle 2012 – $115 – A Puligny monopole. Light gold. A gorgeous nose – warm, enveloping, with hints of mushroom and botrytis, lightly oaked. In the mouth I tasted a round full wine, with all the delicious ripeness and golden fruit flavours I would expect from a fine chardonnay, and a good line of acidity to boot. Amazeballs really


Kumeu River Mates Vineyard Chardonnay 1er Cru 2013 – $69 – Single vineyard wine. Small berry’s of the Mendoza clone contribute to the character of this wine.  Light gold. A clear, linear expression of superb quality of winemaking, site and fruit. There is more texture, fruit weight and density here of all the previous KR wines. Outstanding. 5

Bonneau Corton Charlemagne GC 2010 – $189 – From a west-facing GC site on the hill of Corton – a site to make quality, age-worthy wines no matter the vintage. Light gold. Nose of phenols, waiting-room, nervosité, flintyness, life! A stunning wine. Round, immersive, rich. To describe is to lose the essence of this. 5

Wow. The Kumeu River wines showed well against the established French rock-stars.

They showed great freshness and typicity and sense of place, whereas the French examples showed that they were from all over the place. The more youthful Kumeu wines also showed great freshness against the older and more developed Burgundys, which were able to exhibit more character and complexity from a few more years in bottle. Perhaps screwcap closures have a part to play here? It would have been interesting to see them compared with wines of the same age, but perhaps that is for next time..

A superb illuminative tasting, and many thanks to Michael Brajkovich and the team at Glengarry.

What’s in the glass tonight Aug 4th

KR Coddington Chardonnay 2010

From the Cellar: Kumeu River Coddington SV Chardonnay Auckland 2010 – $$$+

At a long-ago KR tasting, this was my favourite Chardonnay, from the Coddington single vineyard, so I saved up and bought a bottle. I opened it tonight to celebrate putting my old house on the market…

Pale gold. 13.5% alc.

Fine and perfumed. Oily, even.

Tertiary flavours – unctuous. Fine line of citrus throughout. Biscuity. A sharp finish with apples at the death. Superb wine at a good age. Suited the Mac Cheese dinner. too.



This was where I picked up the pieces after my separation. Thanks for the good memories, House…

What’s in the glass tonight November 2nd

Kumeu Villages Chardonnay 2012

Kumeu Villages Chardonnay Kumeu 2012 – $

Here I am taking for a test-drive another wine selected for serving at my 50th birthday party:

From Kumeu River. Hand-harvested. 13% alcohol. Pale gold.

Honeyed-malo notes and fresh apricots on bouquet. There is enough citrus character to prevent the solid body evident in the aroma from being cloying or fat. It feels simply-handled in the winery.

Medium-weight to drink, with typical ripe golden stonefruit flavours. There is plenty of oak influence which shows itself on the back of the palate. Easy and rewarding to drink, well put together as I expected, and a good bet. 3+

What’s in the glass tonight October 17th


Kumeu River Estate Pinot Noir Kumeu 2009 – $$

Only a month ago I was reviewing my cellared 2009 KR Estate Chard, and up comes this pinot option for work drinking via my firm’s online supermarket order. I’ve never tried a pinot noir from this far north in New Zealand before, so couldn’t resist.

I would have thought the Auckland regional climate was too hot and humid to be that convincing a place to grow a correct cool-climate varietal wine? But what would I know right? The people at KR are good winemakers. They must think the local terroir is suitable, or otherwise they are jumping on the NZ pinot train.

From their website: 20yr vines; 100% hand harvested; indigenous yeasts. Let’s see…

Deep ruby colour. 13%. Nose of plums. I smell lanolin, underbrush. The wine opens up in the glass over 20-30mins to become appealingly aromatic.

In the mouth I am surprise how tannic the wine is after 5 years in the bottle. It has an assertive structure, bright with acid, almost ‘tingly’. Red plums and cherries, with some stalkiness. Hot and spicy on the back palate. Bitter final taste.

That said, I do see it as a somewhat ‘one-note’ pinot noir. The current ’12 vintage is branded ‘Village’ so my reservations are well-founded. 3

What’s in the glass tonight September 7th

Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay 2009

From the Cellar: Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay 2009 – $$$

Kumeu River hails from Kumeu, just north of Auckland. It is one of NZs more humid winegrowing regions. From an earlier review of mine, “KR handpick, whole-bunch press and ferment with indigenous yeasts. The diacetyl that is produced is consumed by the malolactic bacteria during a long period of lees content, which reduces (deliberately) the ‘buttery’ character of the malo’d wines. They favour a cooper that produces quite heavy-toasted barrels, but leaves the heads as raw oak. During a low yield year, less new oak barrels are used, and more 1-yr barrels.”

Here we have a wine that is pale gold in colour, with alc 13%.The mid-level offering from this producer – one step below the Coddington or Mates single-vineyard wines – which you could say represents the  ‘house style’ of the brand. It had a rich oatmealy nose, with aromas of white blossom, vanilla, almonds, mandarin peel, lemonade, and oak. Good stuff.

It was full and ripe to taste. There was a fresh citrus tang that was very appealing. Full MLF, but was no butter-bomb. The oak was restrained. Mouth-watering and luscious. Secondary characters starting to protrude as well.

Opened at just the right time. I really liked it. Age-worthy. 4+

Straight to the Pool Room – January 2014

Pool Room Jan 2014

I’m keeping it cheap this month. Got a few other things to budget for (i.e. house refurbishment…!):

Kumeu River Village Chardonnay 2010 – $ – drink 2015 – this wine has been fantastic value drinking these past few months. Great citrus backbone to this chard. Got another year in them I think.

Thornbury Waipara Riesling 2011 – $ – drink 2016 – Off-dry.  Gold Medal winner. Wines from the Waipara are getting great press. High hopes for this.

The first wine in our new house


From the Cellar: Kumeu River Coddington Chardonnay 2008 – $$$

After a long tough day of last-minute packing,  organising, lifting and carrying we are finally in our house. We are sitting in the conservatory, the sun is out, and this wine is in our glasses.

Both the house and the wine is fantastic. 5


What’s in the glass tonight Sept 14th

Kumeu River Mates Vineyard Chard 2008

From the cellar: Kumeu River Mates Vineyard Chardonnay 2008 – $$$

While driving back from Turoa skifield today, L and I listened to the TED Radio Hour on RNZ National. TED stands for Technology Entertainment Design. It is the name given to an American non-profit organisation that arranges for very clever and passionate people to give an 18 minute ‘talk of their life’ to a conference audience, from one of those three subject headings above. Their talks are recorded, and made available for viewing for free on the Net. Extremely interesting and inspiring, check them out on TED.com.

The speaker today was Barry Swartz. He was talking about his research into the ‘secret of happiness’. He contended that the surfeit of choice available in modern western-style societies actually contributes to a reduction in peoples happiness levels.

His conclusion was that the secret of happiness lay in having Low Expectations. This struck a nerve with me.

You see, I plucked a special bottle from under the house to have with L up at the mountain in the weekend. Kumeu River Mates Vineyard Chardonnay it was…

The wine came with lavish praise from pundits, great provenance, from 18yr old vines, and had an impressive price tag. This is gonna be amazeballs, I thought. I even had a tasting of their 2010s, and loved them (tho the Mates was not my high point of the tasting).

I cracked the lid. The wine was light gold. Hmm. Should it have been darker? Light aged-wine bouquet of honey citrus and butterscotch on nose. Pear flavours in the mouth, restrained oak and malo. Very fine, but not particularly remarkable. And it was this lack of remarkableness that disappointed. L liked it, it was clearly a well-made quality wine, but where was the wow factor? The big flavours? I expected to be blown away, like I was by the first Sacred Hill Riflemans I tasted. Is this an example of marketing over substance? I’d have to taste it again to be sure, but at the current price per glass that is unlikely.

I will give it a 4, when it should have been a 5, and that makes me grumpily want 2 say 3.

One good thing is that I have a KR Coddington Chardonnay from the same vintage still to drink. That vineyard site scored highest with me in the earlier tasting, so I hope it delivers better.

This is the second high-price NZ cellar wine that has left me feeling flat in a month. I had a glass of 2011 Palliser Chardonnay earlier in the week which was sensational, and that was half the price of the latest KR Mates Vineyard offering.

I am going to drop my price ceiling, and seek wine happiness through modest expectations…