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!
Chardonnay Mates Vineyard 2014, Kumeu River
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.
The moment I finished this note I scraped together all my pennies and got myself a bottles of 2017 Hunting Hill Chardonnay. I feel really inadequate that it is only ~£35 and there’s not a remainer’s chance in the Conservative party of me being able to afford a six pack. It’s crap being disabled and having piss all cash… So thank you for this bottle, Keith!!
Great note Davy. NZ Cellar is now a part of Specialist Cellars which also includes the best of Aussie wines and shortly it is planned that SA and USA wines will he added. The focus will be on the best value for money wines at competitive prices
Good! The sooner they unify their website the better. I’ve often wanted some of their Australian wines and some from New Zealand but have not wanted to have to place two separate orders and get charged twice for postage.
Great write-up, Davy!
The direct link to the event is here https://www.wine-pages.com/community/threads/nw-chardonnay-v-burgundy-shoot-out.6436/
When I see results of tastings that confirm what I already knew i.e. that new world Chardonnay can compete and beat Burgundy at more than 10 times the price what does it tell me? Well, it tells me to go out and buy Kumeu, Nocturne etc etc and stop wasting my f…… hard earned cash on overpriced and overhyped Burgundy. I’ve had way more disappointing white burgundy than red. I find really good, authentic red burgundy at an affordable price easier to find than white. I wonder why that is? Btw I love white burgundy and will continue to waste money on it 😆
I love white Burgundy, James, but as Paul pointed out to me in a recent email my favourite type of white Burgundy, aged white Burgundy, has simply ceased to exist! It’s terrible isn’t it? Not many new world Chardonnays have the track record of ageing like the old white Burgundies I tried when I first tried decent wine at university (I am a lucky bugger, am I not?), but some are gaining a track record. Kumeu River have only been bottling single vineyards since the early 90s, and the well-stored ones are in great condition now. So maybe if we keep our flash new world Chardonnays we will be creating a new category of wine to replace the now lost ‘aged white Burgundy’: aged quality Chardonnay!
One could argue that aged Chenin will be another possible replacement!
If one is obsessed with middle-Loire and South African wines, Alex. Chardonnay is grown EVERYWHERE! I only really drank Chablis (and fizz) until recently, as far as Chardonnay goes. I’ve had so many good ones, this being one of the best.
Kumeu River… one of the great and delightful mysteries of the wine world. How come it is so good? Production volume is not low, and I don’t think they are doing anything very unusual in the vineyard or winery. Pure snobbery keeps the price down, but I wonder if this will be true in a decade.
I’m quite happy to drink Kumeu River single vineyards without knowing how they work. I have a magnum of Matés that’s I’m going to drink some time around 2023-ish ;). Ok usually buy the Hunting Hill, the quality is up there with the Matés but it just has a little bit more restraint. I like restraint.
Nocturne make single vineyard wines in Western Australia and I think their Chardonnay is up there week the quality of this whilst only costing ~£27 (I seem to recall). I don’t have enough of that wine…