See Kumeu River wines we sell
Kumeu River Wines was established in 1944 when Mick and Katé Brajkovich and their son Maté first came to the small country settlement of Kumeu, about 20 km northwest of Auckland City. The family had migrated from Yugoslavia in 1938 and had been working in the far Northern part of New Zealand digging kauri gum. After moving to Henderson, in West Auckland, in the early 1940’s, they worked on vineyards and orchards in the area and saved enough money to buy a property with a small existing vineyard at Kumeu.
Mick Brajkovich died in 1949, but Maté and Katé continued to tend the vines, make the wine and build the reputation of this fledgling wine company that became known as “San Marino Vineyards”.
In 1958 Maté married Melba Sutich from Dargaville, whose antecedents also came from the Dalmatian coast. Melba gave up a school-teaching career to become Maté’s working partner. Their four children were born during the 1960’s. From a very early age Michael, Marijana, Milan and Paul all became involved in the family business, helping their parents with odd-jobs in the vineyard and the winery, and also assisting to sell the wine at the winery cellar-door.
The 1980’s brought great changes and a move towards high quality table wines made from varieties such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Merlot which were produced from newly developed vineyards in Kumeu.
Maté Brajkovich was a prominent figure in the New Zealand wine industry. He was heavily involved in wine industry organisations throughout his life and served as chairman of the Wine Institute of New Zealand from 1982-1985.
In 1986, the old “San Marino Vineyards” became “Kumeu River Wines”.
In 1987 he was made a Fellow of the Institute, and in 1990 he was the New Zealand patron at the New World Wine Auction held in South Africa.
Maté passed away in 1992, and the vineyard is now run by his wife Melba and their three sons: Michael, Milan and Paul.
At Kumeu River Wines our winemaking philosophy is simple. We endeavour to grow grapes of the highest standard and then treat them with respect when we turn them into wine. In this way the potential quality is maximised, and we are able to produce wines that are truly representative of our land. To this end our vineyards are trained on the “Lyre” trellis to optimise their exposure to light and therefore the ripeness of the grapes. Yields are kept low to improve the concentration of aromas and flavours in the grapes, and we harvest all of our grapes by hand. This allows us to remove faulty berries in the field so that our quality grapes may arrive at the winery in pristine condition. The white grapes are all whole-bunch pressed, which is time-consuming but gives us the best quality results. The reds are destemmed and crushed gently before being transferred to fermentation tanks.
No yeasts are added, as we rely solely on the indigenous yeasts that are present in the vineyard to conduct our fermentations.
Oak barrels from France play a significant, but never dominant, role in our “Kumeu River” range of wines. The white wines such as Chardonnay and Sauvignon undergo fermentation in barrels, and the flavour nuances that are derived from this phase are crucial to these fine wine styles. The red wines such as Merlot and Pinot Noir are fermented for a prolonged period in stainless steel tanks, but they are also later matured in oak barrels to promote the development of bouquet and to soften the tannin structure of the palate. These are wines of great flavour intensity and complexity, but also with subtlety and elegance, and the potential to develop with further age. We promote the malo-lactic fermentation in both our red and white wines. This bacterial transformation reduces and softens the acidity, and rounds out and complexes the flavour. The result is a much better acid balance and improved drinkability. It has been said many times that good winemaking is as much an art as a science.
At Kumeu River Wines we place great importance on both of these factors. Without sound scientific knowledge, winemaking becomes haphazard and risky. Without art, the wines may be technically sound, but often dull and boring to drink.
The Brajkovich Family is committed to ensuring that all of our wines are not only properly and correctly produced, but also possessing characters of aroma and flavour that give our customers a great deal of drinking pleasure.
Michael Brajkovich, M.W. Winemaker, Kumeu River Wines
After studying Oenology at Roseworthy College in South Australia where he was Dux in 1981, Michael returned to the family vineyard and winery in Kumeu to take up responsibility for wine production. Since then he has travelled extensively through the world's wine areas and based on this experience, a new range of wines was developed under the "Kumeu River" label, including a Sauvignon/Semillon blend and a Merlot Cabernet. It is the Chardonnay that has enjoyed the greatest critical acclaim and success in international markets, particularly in the United States. The "Wine Spectator" magazine has placed Kumeu River Chardonnay in its annual list of the top 100 wines on five occasions. In 1996, the Kumeu River Chardonnay 1994 was ranked at Number 6.
In 1989, Michael passed the Examination and became New Zealand's first member of the prestigious Institute of Masters of Wine, London. He has many years experience in judging at the New Zealand National Wine Awards, and also has judged at the Australian National Capital Wine Show in Canberra, the Royal Hobart Wine Show in Tasmania and at the Perth Royal Wine Show.