Understandably, when people think of whites from New Zealand, Sauvignon Blanc comes to mind; it accounts for more than 70% of all wines produced in the country and makes up a staggering almost 90% of wine exported, by volume. Meanwhile, Chardonnay plays second fiddle to many, though the quality of the variety remains not to be overlooked—particularly, the wines of the Brajkovich family at Kumeu River.
The family started the winery in the 1940s, with the current generation’s efforts catapulting it to the international stature that it holds today. Michael Brajkovich, son of Maté, became the first New Zealander to pass the illustrious Master of Wine exam in 1989 and leads the estate today, together with his brother Paul.
The Maté’s Vineyard Chardonnay pays homage to Maté Brajkovich, with the fruit coming from the original vineyard purchased in 1944 by the family, which was replanted by Maté himself in 1990. It is a barrel-fermented style that has completely gone through malolactic fermentation, spending 11 months in barrel.
The balance seen in the wines of Kumeu River make them very hard to place contextually in a blind tasting. These are certainly wines that demonstrate New Zealand’s potential to be more than just a one-trick, white-variety pony.