How Does Chardonnay Age Under Screwcap? Kumeu River Wines at TEXSOM
“When I attended TEXSOM, one of my goals as far as the seminars I signed up for was to embrace new experiences that would broaden my understanding about the world of wine. Actually, more like shine a light on a place, a person, and a process unbeknownst to me. This is why I chose to attend ‘Iconic Winery Retrospective: Kumeu River Wines’ led by Winemaker and Master of Wine Michael Brajkovich, who traveled a great distance to show a group of Maté’s Vineyard Chardonnays from 2005-2012 that knocked my socks off.
“I have to confess that I’m not a big fan of aged Chardonnay, at least to the point where it gets mushroomy and oxidized. I enjoy the presence of fresh fruit along with some of the secondary characteristics that start poking out at the 5ish year mark. The color of the wine starts to golden up a bit and show more nutty, caramel-y (yet dry) notes. And after tasting the Maté’s Vineyard Chardonnays of Kumeu River Wines, it’s like Brajkovich tailor-made these Chardonnays to suit my style. (Spoiler alert: He did not, has not, nor will he. Well, I guess I could ask.)
“The first thing that makes Kumeu River Wines unique is its location: towards the top of New Zealand’s North Island. Right by Auckland as a matter of fact. Besides where the winery is, another stand-out about Kumeu River Wines? A commitment to sealing wines under screw cap.
“An interesting way that Brajkovich framed the discussion over wine closures (for those not immersed or even versed in the subject) is to regard screwcaps as a seal especially adept at promoting bottle maturation while mitigating oxidation. And, hey, cork is no slouch in that department. But screwcap proponents would say regarding oxygen transfer that their closure allows more fine-tuning and consistency.
“Brajkovich also chimed in on the white Burgundy ‘premox’ (bottles that are prematurely oxidizing) controversy in response to a question from the audience. As far as the root of the problem, Brajkovich concluded his comments by stating he would paraphrase one of our American politicians: ‘It’s the cork, stupid.’
“Back to the Kumeu River Wines Chardonnays. The 2012 is chalky, with a perfect amount of oak, and plenty of zest on the finish. Very Chablis-esque. Brajkovich called the 2010 vintage the best ever. The 2008 was where I started to notice changes in color and flavor. Finally, the 2006 may have been my favorite of the bunch; it had a lemon curd quality that I can’t get out of my head.
“It was really painful to have to spit these wines during this TEXSOM seminar. And, at its completion, heart-rendering to dump the remaining Chardonnay into a bucket. Perusing the reaction to Brajkovich and his wines on Twitter, I can see I was not alone in feeling strongly and emotionally about the fruits of Maté’s Vineyard.”