Kumeu River Mates Vineyard has been judged to be the best Chardonnay in the world. My friend Keith Prothero (who also provided this bottle – many thanks Keith) put on a competitive beat off where the best old world Chardonnays were served alongside the best new world Chardonnays (all blind, and in a random order) and this came out top!
I normally do not believe tastings like this, but in this case I make an exception. One reason is I know all the tasters in the judgement and they all have excellent palates.
The main reason is that I know Keith chose the new world wines and my friend Paul Day chose the old world wines. If I am a Grand Wizard of the Wine Illuminati (and I am, you know?), Paul is Supreme Warlock. He has access to and regularly drinks wines of such coruscating brilliance I have only had passing encounters with them. He drinks and would have served at this Chardonnay beat off wines of such effulgent quality the bottles would have glowed. I wish he would invite The Editor and I to lunch…
So the old world wines would have been the very best of the best, and the new world wines would have been chosen with equal skill. The panel of tasters voted five new world wines top above the first old world Chardonnay and then I seem to recall another four new world wines finished off the top ten.
If you want to read about this you will have to sign up for the www.wine-pages.com forum and search for the posts about it on there. Wine-Pages.com forum, for some unknown reason makes me go dangerously psychotic, so I cannot go and find the posts for you. Could a friendly reader who is a member of the forum can post links to them in a comment, perhaps?
I have tried many vintages of the three single vineyard Chardonnays from Kumeu River (and the Hunting Hill Vineyard Pinot, that is delicious) and Mates is the best, but since about 2015 Hunting Hill Vineyard seems to be producing Chardonnay of comparable quality.
Considering the quality (the best in the world, it seems), they are absolute bargains. The New Zealand Cellar is currently sold out of Mates but has the Hunting Hill 2017 for under £35 a bottle – that is some pennies less than £35 for the best Chardonnay in the world.
It certainly seems like Kumeu River single vineyards beat paying hundred of pounds for a Cote de Beaune Grand Cru that you are not sure will oxidise if you try and age it. Kumeu River laudably use screwcaps so the wines will age safely, in the right cellar, for a long time.
Kumeu River have some cheaper Chardonnays, but this is Elitistreview! I am tasting the best!
Now that is a fine wine. The nose is a brilliant tension between supreme finesse, elegance and refinement and weightiness, density and power. It is incredible! It sings to the universe so greatly of its quality that I can just hear The Editor’s and my glasses hum slightly at the frequency only really fine wine can attain. We are dealing with serious, serious wine here.
With wines as dazzlingly involute as this you do not dissect them down to things like woodiness and lists of varieties of citrus fruit, you talk about the glorious whole.
The first time I had a Kumeu River Mates vineyard, I was given it blind and I thought it was an amazingly good bottle of Ramonet Batard-Montrachet from a really fine vintage, only better than that! The finesse and elegance this has allied with that power one expects from Cote de Beaune Grand Crus makes this seem a step above those wines from Burgundy. As far as Chardonnays go you cannot pleasure yourself anymore completely than with a bottle of this.
Well, maybe you could. This is obviously still a young wine, there are no real hints of tertiary character; given some serious age it may even surpass the superlative quality it shows at this young stage in its development.
There will be no risk in ageing it of getting corked or oxidised bottles as it, joy of joys, is bottled with a screwcap. Some people sneer at these, saying they are unproven in long-term ageing tests. I have had several fine Australian Chardonnays at fifteen years and older where one bottle has had a screwcap and another of the identical wine has been bottled with a cork. The screwcap bottles have always seemed superior to me. I have had thirty year old Hunter Semillon in a similar comparison and in that test the screwcap just blew the cork away. We like screwcaps.
Look, this wine is an other-worldly view of how beautiful, profound and exciting Chardonnay can be. I can fully believe it is the best Chardonnay in the world. It will probably improve with age, but if you want a glimpse of how wine can approach perfection, get to The New Zealand Cellar, buy a bottle of this or Hunting Hill vineyard, do not chill it too much, and then revel in an aesthetic experience of nigh unbeatable effulgence.
There are few Chardonnays that deserve to sit on the High Table of fine wines along with this – buy one, it is not expensive, and give yourself a shimmering thrill of full-spectrum pleasure.
After re-reading this I want to quote the excellent wine writer Huon Hooke (without permission):
Looking back over these words, I feel I’ve failed. It’s all so inadequate. To try to explain something so mysterious as the glory of [Kumeu River Matés Vineyard] is doomed to failure. It is too difficult. It must be experienced. That’s the only way to know.