Kumeu River: White Burgundy in Kiwi Clothing
“That Old World/New World conundrum is getting a bit old hat, don’t you think? Some commentators argue that the concept of the ‘New World’ is redundant citing the fact that countries such as South Africa, Australia and Argentina can trace their viticultural roots farther back than many European stalwarts. For this writer, this concept retains validity because it reflects the mindset of a majority of wine consumers, however blurred the lines are. It recognizes the fact that while the Old World has enjoyed continuous, uninterrupted wine production over many decades or even centuries, other countries’ viticulture was either diminished or halted under political duress, prohibition and simple lack of investment or market demand.
“New Zealand is a genuine New World country because there was hardly any viticulture until pioneers such as Alan Brady, Rolfe Mills and Anne Pinckney began cultivating vines in the 1970s, when nearly all grapes were used for fortified wines. Even then, New Zealand’s nascent wine industry did not take off until the 1990s with the explosion of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. These two grape varieties are still synonymous with New Zealand, but of course, the country also makes great Chardonnay.
“When I was covering the country for The Wine Advocate between 2008 and 2010, there was one estate that represented the pinnacle of New Zealand Chardonnay: Kumeu River. I regularly applauded their wines in my reports and Lisa Perrotti-Brown continued clapping after taking over reviewing duties. At that time I didn’t feel that Kumeu River’s Chardonnays were some of the best in New Zealand. No, they were some of the best in the world.
“Did someone choke on their glass of Montrachet just then?”
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