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2014 Kumeu River Coddington Chardonnay, Kumeu, Auckland
Maté Brajkovich, a Dalmation by birth, arrived in New Zealand in 1938. In 1944 he and his parents purchased a property with a small vineyard and Kumeu River wines was born. However it was not until Michael, Mate's son, took over in 1982 that the true potential of the vineyards began to be fully realised.
Michael, the first New Zealander to become a Master of Wine, vastly improved the quality of the fruit though improved drainage systems, the growing of grass between the vine rows and by the introduction of the Lyre trellis system. Its two Chardonnays, the Kumeu River Chardonnay and the Matés Vineyard Chardonnay, are arguably the best in New Zealand and have been consecutively named in the Top one hundred Wines of the world by the Wine Spectator.
Chardonnay is the "Big Daddy" of white wine grapes and one of the most widely planted in the world. It is suited to a wide variety of soils, though it excels in soils with a high limestone content as found in Champagne, Chablis, and the Côte D`Or.
Burgundy is Chardonnay's spiritual home and the best White Burgundies are dry, rich, honeyed wines with marvellous poise, elegance and balance. They are unquestionably the finest dry white wines in the world. Chardonnay plays a crucial role in the Champagne blend, providing structure and finesse, and is the sole grape in Blanc de Blancs.
It is quantitatively important in California and Australia, is widely planted in Chile and South Africa, and is the second most widely planted grape in New Zealand. In warm climates Chardonnay has a tendency to develop very high sugar levels during the final stages of ripening and this can occur at the expense of acidity. Late picking is a common problem and can result in blowsy and flabby wines that lack structure and definition.
Recently in the New World, we have seen a move towards more elegant, better- balanced and less oak-driven Chardonnays, and this is to be welcomed.
At the head of North Island, the Auckland region brims with a disproportionate amount of wineries (17 percent of New Zealand's total), even though it is planted with just two percent of the country's vines.
Despite being on the doorstep of an affluent Auckland, the fairly humid, near-tropical climate and fertile soils makes fine wine little more than a pipe dream – the notable exception being Kumeu River Wines, where the tireless work of the Brajkovich family in taming the vines while honing their winemaking has resulted in the country's finest Chardonnays.