Kumeu River make some of the best Chardonnays in the world – their Matés and Hunting Hill single vineyards are quite rightly praised to the high heaven. In 2018 Kumeu River have released a new single vineyard – Ray’s Road – and it will only add lustre to this wonderful estate’s reputation.
Ray’s Road is not in Auckland along with Kumeu River’s other vineyards, but is a new acquisition in Hawkes Bay. This is further south than Kumeu River’s Auckland vineyards so it is a cooler site. Clearly, this will produce less ripe grapes.
Ray’s Road vineyard shares a feature with the great vineyards of Hampshire and the Côte d’Or – both locations where fine Chardonnay is grown. This is that the Ray’s Road vineyard is planted on limestone soil.
A properly-tended, limestone soil vineyard will produce wine of freshness and bright acidity. The turangawaewae character will also be pronounced – the wines will have a great grip and a finish of great vivacity and length.
I have spent the last two days screaming in hospital because my back has been in a bad state. The MRI I had done suggests it could well require surgery on it. It is still very fragile, so I hope you will forgive me if I attempt to be pauciloquent with my note. Onwards.
Chardonnay Ray’s Road vineyard 2018, Kumeu River
Foolishly, I have popped this when it is too cold. It also smells a touch reductive and closed, so I am going to decant the rest of the bottle and leave it at room temperature for five or ten minutes to warm and open up. The wine in my glass I shall artfully swirl for a few minutes before having another sniff.
A few minutes later…
Good god, this wine smells completely wonderful! I am instantly limeranced with it! There are some youthful ester-y characteristics, and I do feel I have opened this about a year too early, but beyond those feelings it is manifestly stunning.
I detect plenty of energetic lemon fruit, a set of creamy stone characteristics and a stylish hint of involute wood seasoning. These characteristics combine synergistically to create a classy, dazzlingly complex, complete nose.
I would say it is kenspeckly Kumeu River, but then I’ve seen the label of this Ray’s Road Chardonnay. If I were given it blind, one sniff would have me guessing it was one of William Fevre’s finest Grand Cru Chablis from a really great vintage.
Ray’s Road 2018 has the vivid, thrilling and powerful energy, the nervy tension and commanding presence of a Grand Cru Chablis, all whilst seemingly quite compact on the nose. This is a trick Kumeu River seem to excel at.
This dichotomy is a product of being grown in what is clearly a very fine vineyard in a relatively cool climate location. Only being 13% alcohol assists the impression of being compact despite having power.
I am finding the palate of the Ray’s Road even more enjoyable! The texture thrimps my buttons in just the manner I like them pushed. It has a powerful mineral density, a strong savoury character that is interlaced with delicious umami goodness, winning fruit flavours and a bright, edgy acidity.
That cooler climate keeps the alcohol down, the acidity high and the harmony just spot on. Seriously, there are not many Chablis as good as this Ray’s Road. Indeed there are not many Chardonnays as good as this. There is only a gnat’s wing in quality difference between this and the Hunting Hill and Matés vineyards.
The Editor’s quality content is that this bottle of Ray’s Road as being drank now is not quite as good as the 2017, 2016 and 2014 Matés and Hunting Hill vineyards we have been drinking recently. He is probably right – this wine is a little on the young side. We should come back to our remaining bottles in a year or more.
I confidently vaticinate that, when we do return to our painfully small number of bottles, this Ray’s Road vineyard will have developed into one of the very best Chardonnays in the world. It will only really have Kumeu River’s other two great vineyards as peers. You just have to experience this.
I have decided to continue publishing my source of a wine, if it is easily available, in my review. So, you can.get this wine from Lay and Wheeler.
You might wonder what a wine destined to be truly great might cost? This will set you back the sum of £20.68 a bottle duty paid.
It buggers the imagination that a wine as supremely fine as this can be procured for so little cash. I can hardly believe it, even though I have purchased bottles and been charged that little for them.
Eeerrrr… Why are you still reading this? Click that link above and fill your boots whilst there is still stock! Chardonnay this fabulously fine will never be so cheap again!
Thanks for this (and taking the effort, despite your extreme discomfort) – sounds wonderful! I reckon my wife would like this if I can keep the label hidden from view. Might have to make a fake Chablis label to go over the top 😉
It *is* wonderful, and the price makes it irresistible. I’ve never had as good a Chardonnay for such a (QPR-speaking) low price. Get some and pour the glasses full in another room if you have to, for whatever odd reason, pretend it is Chablis. Kumeu River are one of the great modem masters and they are not so chuffed with themselves that they charge because of it. Ping me some feedback about it if you get some, will you?