Why should you care? Following an extended period during which chardonnay was relegated to second-class status behind the country’s cash cow, sauvignon blanc, the quality of New Zealand’s chardonnays, and the popularity of these wines in the home market, have risen steadily in recent years. The Brajkovich family, who emigrated to New Zealand from their native Croatia in 1937, has consistently been making New Zealand’s most decorated chardonnays under their Kumeu River label since the 1980s. These wines have justly earned a reputation for being among the world’s most Burgundian chardonnays made outside Burgundy.
What does it taste like? The 2011 Chardonnay Estate Kumeu (Kumeu is also the name of the tiny, relatively cool appellation north of Auckland), a blend of the best grapes from several sites, entices with aromas of apple and peach nectar complicated by sexy hazelnut. It’s sweet, spicy and generous on the palate, with nicely integrated acidity giving a light touch to the apple and stone fruit flavors. The back end is brisk, dry and gingery, with a saline nuance. You can spend 50% more on Kumeu River’s more minerally, ageworthy, top-of-the-line Maté’s Vineyard chardonnay, but over the next few years the Estate blend will give greater drinking pleasure. My score: 90 points.
How much does it cost, and where can you find it? $34; Wilson Daniels.