Quality, Individuality, Value

Our aim is to find wines that we believe in, so they must not only be good to drink but reflect the grapes and the soil from which they derive and the personal approach of the people who make them. We favour character and individuality, whatever the price level, so we don’t just list wines in order to fill a gap, nor are we content merely to trot out famous names or follow the latest trends, but constantly strive to unearth new and emerging talent so that we can bring you great wines at realistic prices.

2022 Kumeu River

Kumeu River Vineyards 

The magnificent 2022 wines from Kumeu River have been released and we’re very pleased to be able to offer a selection below. Are there better value Chardonnays from anywhere? I don’t think so. The Estate wines are such good value and the Village wines are rediculously inexpensive given their quality.

Kumeu River estate was established in 1944, when Mick and Kate Brajkovich and son Maté first came to the small country settlement of Kumeu, about 20 km north-west of Auckland. Despite being situated well to the north of New Zealand’s other viticultural regions, the Kumeu vineyards are cooled by the close proximity of both the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean, generating cloud cover that keeps peak summer temperatures below 30°C, enhancing the aromas and flavours during ripening. The family’s latest venture saw an exciting addition with the 2017 acquisition of a vineyard in Hawkes Bay. Rays Road, Raukawa, was originally a joint project between the well-known Sancerre producer, Pascal Jolivet, and New Zealand’s Trinity Hill, but things didn’t work out and they sold to Kumeu River, providing them with access to a superb vineyard site quite different from the Kumeu home vineyards. The soil is limestone and sits at altitude, the two factors that first attracted Jolivet as they mirror those of his native Loire. The results of the first harvests were impressive, and they just keep getting better.

2022 Vintage Report
2022 was yet another excellent vintage for Kumeu River (four on the trot now but if you’re getting bored, don’t worry, there’ll be very little wine from the 2023 harvest). The winter of 2021 was relatively mild, but quite wet, so the soil was well hydrated. Spring came early, but fortunately there was no frost damage. The spring growth was lush and rapid, requiring even more careful leaf removal, and flowering was ahead of usual, indicating another early harvest. January was quite dry, providing excellent ripening conditions. Temperatures were significantly cooler than in most years, but consistently above 25°C, allowing the grapes to develop aroma and flavour. Early February brought rain and high humidity over Waitangi weekend, but that soon cleared to allow picking to start in sunshine.

Harvest commenced on 15 February 2022, still very early by any historical standard, and the harvest period itself was free of rainfall. Harvesting finished on 13 March, thus avoiding the substantial rainfall that came a week or so later.  Once again, the Chardonnay wines, particularly the Single Vineyards, are shining examples of the Kumeu style. The terroir differences between various parcels are very distinct, really highlighting their individual personalities. Pinot Gris is also very strong this year with high sugar levels, and with some Botrytis influence producing rich and textural wines.
Price is GBP In Bond per case, size as indicated,  excluding duty, Vat and any delivery or transfer charges.
All wines offered subject to remaining available.  

2022 Estate Chardonnay  –  £170 per 12 x 75cl
What can one say about Kumeu’s estate chardonaay that hasn’t already been said?  I have sold this wine for something like 25 years and it has always been extraordinary value.  I really can’t recommend it highly enough and, at this price, it’s a steal.

Rating 93 Release Price NA Drink Date 2023 – 2033 Reviewed by Erin Larkin Issue Date Nov 30, 2023 Source
The 2022 Estate Chardonnay is nutty and svelte, with white peach, pastry, apricot kernel, brine and even a hint of malt biscuit through the finish. The wine has breadth and girth to it; it’s not at all compact, but it’s tight in texture. So, all things being equal, it’s an exciting Chardonnay. This is from six different sites in the Kumeu area, with wine aging on lees in 20% new oak (just about all François Frères) for approximately 11 months. Everything goes 100% malolactic fermentation, wild primary ferment, and malolactic fermentation is a mixture of inoculation and wild. From 2024, they will not be inoculating malolactic fermentation, as “the wild yeasts seem to be the most reliable,” explains Michael Brajkovich. Lovely acid. 13% alcohol, sealed under screw cap.

2022 Hunting Hill Chardonnay  –  £180 per 6 x 75cl
There are only 2 six packs of this extraordinary wine remaining, the difference in quality between HH and Matés these days is almost imperceptiable, certainly not worth the price difference.

Rating 95+ Release Price NA Drink Date 2023 – 2037 Reviewed by Erin Larkin Issue Date Aug 01, 2023 Source

The 2022 Hunting Hill Chardonnay is mouthfilling and obvious in its outlay of flavor in the mouth—yellow peach, apricot, Golden Delicious apple, beeswax/lanolin and ripe lime flesh. The flutter of acidity that feathers the fruit is compelling and alluring in its power and juiciness. An exciting wine. It’s a wine I want to drink (I will; the perks) and a wine I am enjoying considering too. It’s intellectual and sensorial/corporeal in equal measure. The Hunting Hill Vineyard was planted in 1982 and overlooks Mate’s Vineyard. This is a pleasurable, exciting, fleshy, complex, salty, kaleidoscopic wine. Excellent. Recommended. 13.5% alcohol, sealed under screw cap.

Chablis – Nothing Compares

Gilles and Nathalie Fèvre, Fontenay-Près-Chablis
Back in the 1980s, I once bought a parcel of 1967 Hunter River ‘Chablis’, Lindemans if I recall correctly, which I think was mainly Chenin Blanc with Verdelho and it was very enjoyable although not, absolutely not, Chablis.

There is nothing quite like a good Chablis, it is unique. It has everything that one would expect from a White Burgundy, and at exceptional value compared to equivalent wines from the Côte d’Or, but also a unique quality that has never been replicated anywhere else in the world. There is nothing to compare it with, and it is thus tantalisingly difficult to describe, from the mysterious green reflections at the centre of the glass to the unusual flavours and the refreshing, pebble-like feel in the mouth. This last quality also makes it a more versatile wine than its more illustrious neighbours — it will go equally well with seafood, chicken or pork, or one can just forget the food and indulge in pure pleasure.

So I was very excited when a few years ago I came across the wines of Gilles and Nathalie Fèvre, which immediately strike one with their pure and stylish quality. Gilles and Nathalie met at university, where they both qualified as oenologists, and took over the running of the estate first created by Gilles’ great grandfather over one hundred years ago — Gilles takes charge of viticulture whilst Nathalie oversees vinification. They have now been joined by their daughter, Julie (a qualified agricultural engineer and oenologue).

The 50-hectare estate is based in and around the village of Fontenay-Près-Chablis, all the vines being planted on Kimmeridgian limestone —  33 hectares are village Chablis,  14.5 hectares are 1er Cru vineyards and they are also lucky enough to have 2.5 hectares of Grand Cru Les Preuses.
They do everything properly and pay attention to detail. Their wines are the very epitome of Chablis, and my notes are always riddled with words like ‘pure’, ‘focused’, ‘mineral’ and ‘mouth-watering’.

Exceptional quality from an estate that is increasingly being recognised as one of the region’s top producers.

Price is per 6 x 75cl inclusive of VAT but all wines are available under bond and all wines offered subject to remaining available.    E & OE 

10% Discount on 2 cases of six or more

The 2020 vintage was an excellent one for Chardonnay, with good quantity and exceptional quality. The grapes achieved a high degree of ripeness, producing rich, full-bodied wines but balanced by the extraordinary acidity that keeps them fresh and exciting.

2020 Chablis Vieilles Vignes –  £126
Best as an apéritif or with simple fish and shellfish dishes.

2020 Chablis 1er Cru Montée de Tonnerre  –  £213
Perfect with seafood, but also with poultry (suprême de volaille) and mushroom-based dishes (try veal chops in cream and morel sauce), and great with soft cheeses.

The 2021 vintage was characterised by the severe frosts that hit all of France south of Champagne. An exceptionally warm March caused an early bud-break and almost all the shoots were killed off. Quantity was thus always going to be small, and wet weather during the summer caused large outbreaks of disease, further reducing it. A warm, dry September nevertheless allowed the surviving grapes to ripen and harvest began at the end of the month. The low yields mean that the wines are concentrated, but  they have an elegance unmatched in recent years.

2021 Chablis 1er Cru Fourchaume  –  £204
The Fèvres recommend Ham cooked in Chablis (a local speciality) or curry dishes (try crab in curry sauce)
This well-known vineyard lies just to the north of the town of Chablis on the eastern banks of the Serein river,  it has a southerly aspect and sits on high-quality limestone. This is 100% steel tank, no oak at all. Fresh nose, aromatic with citrus notes and white flower. In the mouth it has nice weight and feel, clean, lemon zest, apple, nice ripeness and good balance. Mouth-watering with persistent, balanced finish. Classic Fourchaume and delightful.

2021 Chablis 1er Cru Mont de Milieu  –  £231
One of the region’s finest vineyards. Very rich but delicate, it accompanies sauced fish dishes and delicate meats, like quail risotto or osso bucco.

2021 Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses  –  £396
Preuses is, perhaps, not as well known as some other Grand Cru vineyards but it can often be my favourite. This is youthful, of course, but a quite outstanding wine and you can’t buy a Grand Cru of this quality in the Côte de Beaune for anything remotely like this price. A bargain. Can’t go wrong with this. Young, it’s best with seafood, as it gets older it will team up with a fine goose or turkey, or rich pork and veal dishes.

The 2022 vintage is looking very promising, with good quality expected and, for the first time in several years, a full harvest (though don’t expect prices to come down).

2022 Petit Chablis  –  £126
I’ve always had a soft spot for PC, usually excellent value and this is no exception, and it has more complexity than most. Great as an apéritif, but also accompanies chicken or tuna salads and simple seafood dishes.