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New vintage releases: 2020 Kumeu River Chardonnays

The latest 2020 vintage Chardonnays from Kumeu River in New Zealand have just been released for sale, in advance of their landing in the UK this autumn.  Kumeu's Paul Brajkovich describes 2020 as "...a vintage that we rank at the very top of anything we have seen over the past 40 years" and Jancis Robinson gives them a superb review.  As ever, quantities are very limited, particularly for the top wines.

If you have missed our previous offers of the 2017, '18 and '19 vintages, Kumeu River makes superlative Chardonnays at their vineyards on New Zealand's North Island, just outside Auckland, as well as at their new Ray's Road vineyard in Hawke's Bay.  The wines have a uniquely balanced, complex style that echoes white burgundy at village, premier and even grand cru level (for the top single-vineyard wines).

The 2020 growing season at Kumeu began with an early flowering, allowing for an extended ripening period, without extremes of heat, resulting in perfect levels of phenolic ripeness.  The Rays Road vineyard produced the best fruit yet from this unique site, whilst the Estate Chardonnay has superb citrus fruit character and complex, multi-layered aromas and flavours.  

Of the single-vineyard wines, we think Coddington is under-rated. In 2020 it has rich, ripe peach and apricot flavours which will flesh out with a couple of years in bottle.  Hunting Hill has piercing lime fruit character, floral notes on the nose and fine acidity and minerality which give it its Puligny-esque character.  New Zeaand wine expert Rebecca Gibb MW (now writing for Vinous.com) scores it 95 points.

Mate’s Vineyard is the last site to be picked each year (as befits its status).  When we tasted the 2020s, Kumeu pointed out to us the importance of the Mendoza Chardonnay clone in this vineyard, known for its propensity to develop Mendoza millerandage.  More usually a malady that produces numerous small berries alongside the normal-sized ones, with the Mendoza clone it produces a rich texture, balanced by a complex phenolic make-up.  We find the same layered complexity when tasting grand cru white burgundy after village and 1er cru wines.  Relatively closed on the nose just now, this vintage of Maté’s is clearly destined for greatness and it duly receives 97 points from Rebecca Gibb.

Always in demand, this brilliant vintage is sure to sell out once again, so do please send us your order as soon as possible.

Offered en primeur, available autumn 2021.

 

2020 Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay

Spontaneous fermentation of hand-picked grapes, whole-bunch pressed.  Lightly but not excessively reductive on the nose. Already quite expansive on the nose with beautiful impact on the palate: citrus, blossom and really neat acidity without much astringency. Elegant and racy – almost lightweight on the mid palate and then it is impressively persistent. A thorough delight already. VGV 13.5%.  Drink 2021 – 2025.  17 points."  Jancis Robinson, Jun 2021

£155 per dozen bottles in bond

 

2020 Kumeu River Ray's Road Chardonnay, Hawke's Bay

"From a limestone, north-facing, dry-farmed hillside at 180 m. Spontaneous fermentation. Aged in old French oak.  Neat and well integrated, quite restrained. And already very accessible though with light, fine tannins and quite opulent fruit on the front palate. Sprightly. Lemon-pastille flavour. Very long. Beautifully made. 13.5%.  Drink 2021 – 2027.  17 points."  Jancis Robinson, Jun 2021

£175 per dozen bottles in bond (LIMITED AVAILABILITY)

 

2020 Kumeu River Coddington Chardonnay

"Pale greenish straw colour. Broad, rather floral nose with some light chewiness on the end. Not quite ready yet. Hint of lemon peel on the finish. Not the most intense Kumeu Chardonnay but very 'pleasant' for now! It will surely bloom in bottle. 13.5%.  Drink 2022 – 2028.  16.5 points."  Jancis Robinson, Jun 2021

£120 per six bottles in bond (VERY LIMITED AVAILABILITY)

 

2020 Kumeu River Hunting Hill Chardonnay - LAST FEW CASES REMAINING

"Really nervy nose. Truly burgundian, if one is allowed to say this. Great fruit and great tension. Just the job and amazingly vibrant and persistent on the finish. You could drink this already but it will clearly last really well – though winemaker Michael Brajkovich is consistently cautious with his suggested drinking windows; 'will improve with bottle age for four to six years'. A hint of Puligny here. 14%.  Drink 2021 – 2028.  17++ points."  Jancis Robinson, Jun 2021

"Possibly the most complete Hunting Hill Chardonnay I've tasted in youth, the 2020 provides a harmonious, melt-in-your-mouth impression. It has breadth and concentration but retains a sense of elegance on the midpalate before finishing with precision and length. Yes, there's a little bit of flint character too, but then Hunting Hill is known to be reductive; give it time. Like Forrest Gump, it runs through a finish line and keeps on going effortlessly. There's no box of chocolates here, though; it's all white nectarine, citrus, white flowers and a touch of smoked nuts. Drink 2023 - 2035. 95 points."  Rebecca Gibb MW. Vinous.com

£170 per six bottles in bond (VERY LIMITED AVAILABILITY)

 

2020 Kumeu River Maté’s Vineyard Chardonnay - SOLD OUT

"Pale gold. Quite an opulent nose. I must say the nose made me think involuntarily of some Corton-Charlemagnes. Really precise and mealy with perfect balance. You could already enjoy it but it will surely become even more complex in bottle. Long and satisfying, a wine designed to soothe sore throats. Quite a triumph; easy to see why it's the most expensive in this range. 13%.  Drink 2021 – 2028.  17.5 points."  Jancis Robinson, Jun 2021

"The Chardonnay Mate's Vineyard, appears to have gone on a yoga retreat in 2020: not only is its usual powerful self, but it's remarkably zen too, exuding a sense of calmness. It is full-bodied, round and offers fruit ripeness, but the propensity of the Mendoza clone to hen-and-chicks means that it retains a sense of nerve, with powerful citrusy acidity providing the needle that pulls a tight thread through this wine's core. The 2020 is still far too young, and it is aromatically shy, but even in its full mature glory, it won't exhibit aromatic fireworks – nor should it. This is Chardonnay. Okay, you might detect lemon and limes, white flowers and just-ripe white nectarine, with 30% new oak imbuing an additional layer of savoriness, but when it comes down to it, this wine's trump card is in its shape, texture and persistence. Drink 2023 - 2035.  97 points."  Rebecca Gibb MW, Vinous.com

£180 per six bottles in bond SOLD OUT

 

 

Kumeu River, New Zealand

Producer Profile

Kumeu River, New Zealand

Winemaker Michael Brajkovich studied at Roseworthy before training under Jean-Claude Berrouet of Chateau Petrus and at Domaine Leflaive, becoming New Zealand's first Master of Wine.  Maybe it's this classical background and an MWs grasp of classic wine styles which allows Michael to match the elegance and balance of classic white burgundy.  However he achieves it, the results are remarkable.

"World class: two words loaded with import and used too liberally these days. Apropos of Kumeu River’s Chardonnays, those two words are apt." Neal Martin, Vinous.com Feb 2019

At a tasting in London in 2015 Kumeu's wines were pitted blind against domaines including Leflaive, Lafon and Sauzet, with Kumeu's wines winning across the board.  

The Wines

Kumeu's five Chardonnays neatly offer themselves for comparison with the pyramid of classifications on the Côte d'Or

The Village Chardonnay is sourced from both Kumeu's own vineyards and from local growers and it reminds us of Bourgogne Blanc from better domaines. The Estate Chardonnay compares with village-level wines from the Puligny and Meursault, whilst the single vineyard Coddington and Hunting Hill show the distinct, precise influence of terroir (clay soils in the case of Coddington, more iron rich mineral soils for Hunting Hill).  

Maté's Chardonnay, named after Michael's father who founded the estate, has distinctive white grape tannins and an intensity that invites comparison with Corton-Charlemagne

WHITE 2020 13 cases Kumeu River - Ray's Road Chardonnay 75cl £175 per case of 12 Kumeu River
2020 / 13 cases / 75cl
£175 per case of 12
IB
Tasting Notes"From a limestone, north-facing, dry-farmed hillside at 180 m. Spontaneous fermentation. Aged in old French oak. Neat and well integrated, quite restrained. And already very accessible though with light, fine tannins and quite opulent fruit on the front palate. Sprightly. Lemon-pastille flavour. Very long. Beautifully made. 13.5%. Drink 2021 – 2027. 17 points." Jancis Robinson, Jun 2021

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