"If you have never tried these wines, then it is time you see for yourself what New Zealand is capable of" - Neal Martin
"Kumeu River is one of New Zealand’s great Chardonnays, with a rock solid, prestigious reputation" - Michael Cooper
The Brajkovich family and Kumeu River Wines is a story that parallels the New Zealand wine industry.
From the pioneering days to the establishment of the New Zealand wine industry to today, the Brajkovich family have been internationally recognised as producing world class wine. The Brajkovich family continue to harvest their grapes at Kumeu and refine their wine making skills.
The Brajkovichs are nationally recognised as a founding family of the New Zealand wine industry, and the current generation are internationally recognised as producing world class Chardonnay.
Kumeu River has some of the most qualified, experienced, and dedicated staff as a business in this industry.
“If you can taste history, duty, and family pride in a glass, it’s there in the Kumeu River Chardonnays...now producing some of New Zealand’s greatest Chardonnays, not to mention the world’s.”
- Lisa Perrotti-Brown, M.W./Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate
Kumeu River, our story of how the Brajkovich family came to New Zealand; brought wine making knowledge with them from Croatia to their new adopted home; and went on to be a founding family of the New Zealand wine industry.
Just as the Brajkovich family has grown, so too has the winery itself. Extensions and additions mark the milestones that have seen business adapt and expand over the years. Today, the winery produces around 250,000 bottles annually from 30 hectares of its own vineyards in Kumeu, and another 10 hectares from local growers.
The Chardonnay wines of Kumeu River have gained a strong foothold within the international market, receiving outstanding accolades. The vineyard has gone on to become the globally recognised benchmark for non-Burgundy produced Chardonnay.
But that is today; the Kumeu River Winery has been built on generations of hard work, belief, and a commitment to producing a world-class wine.
The story of Kumeu River Wines began to unfold more than half a century ago with the first generation of the Brajkovich family to arrive in New Zealand.
In their small Croatian village of Živogošće, Mick and Katé Brajkovich had also farmed small plots of land, and had experience tending vines and making their own wine. After a few years of working in the gum fields, the family moved to Henderson in West Auckland, where Mick, Katé, and son Maté worked in local vineyards and orchards. By 1944, they had saved enough money to purchase a Kumeu property with a small vineyard.
Although Mick died in 1949, Maté and Katé continued to work in the vineyard, which became known as San Marino Vineyards, tending the vines and making wine to sell.
In 1957, Maté met his wife, Melba, whose grandparents had also immigrated to New Zealand from Croatia. During the 1960s the couple had four children: Michael, Marijana, Milan, and Paul. For the children, being brought up around the winery established a strong foundation of industry knowledge and skill that would take the winery to a new level of success in the years to come.
Although the winery and Maté were steadily gaining a reputation within the industry, it was the late 1970s and early 1980s that saw a marked evolution in the style and direction of the winery. In 1979, the winery moved away from the hybrids used for the production of fortified and basic red and white wines to varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. All popular and commonly known varieties today, these wines were relatively unheard of at that stage, posing a bold and somewhat risky move for the winery.
During the 1980s, Michael, Milan, and Paul became more involved in the business and the winery took on a new focus: quality and reputation. The winery changed its name to Kumeu River Wines and began producing a Burgundy-influenced style of Chardonnay that featured indigenous yeasts, extended lees ageing, and malo-lactic fermentation. In the years since, the Chardonnays of Kumeu River have steadily gained international awards and accolades.
Today Melba, Michael, Marijana, Milan and Paul look forward to continuing to provide customers, both locally and further afield, with quality wine that is the result of time, tradition, and a love of the wine business.
Quality wine is a reflection of quality grapes.
Kumeu River Wines encompasses 30 hectares of vineyards, which are predominantly clay soils overlying a sandstone base. These soil types retain sufficient water at depth, even during the summer months, to ensure the deep vine roots continue to hydrate the vine without excessive vigour. Therefore, the vineyard doesn’t require irrigation, a factor that is critical to the quality of Kumeu River’s grapes.
Despite being situated well north of New Zealand’s other viticultural regions, Kumeu’s climate is kept cool thanks to its close proximity to the Tasman Sea, just 20km to the west and the Pacific Ocean 30km to the east. These two large bodies of water generate clouds, which help to moderate the climate, keeping peak summer temperatures below 30°C. These temperatures contribute to the conditions that enhance the fantastic aromas and flavours from early ripening varieties such as Chardonnay and Pinot Gris.
The vineyards are trained on a ‘Lyre’ trellis to help optimise exposure to light and increase grape maturity and quality. One of the distinguishing factors of Kumeu River’s wines is all of the grapes are harvested by hand. This allows the opportunity to remove sub-standard grapes by hand; the result is a net yield of purely high-quality grapes.
Kumeu River has been placed in Wine & Spirits Top 100 wineries for 2014.
It is 70 years ago that Mate Brajkovich and his family came to Kumeu and started to develop the property that is now known as Kumeu River Wines.
In anticipation of the release of the 2012 range of Kumeu River Chardonnay in October, Michael talks about the vintage and also a visit to one of the greatest producers of Chardonnay.