The article below is part of Richard Brendon Studio's Word From the Winemaker Series. Shining a spotlight on talented winemakers around the world and why they choose to use the Jancis Robinson Glass.
For our next instalment of Word From The Winemaker, we’re sitting down with Michael Brajkovich MW, Winemaker at the globally renowned Kumeu River Wines, New Zealand.
The story of the family run vineyard starts in 1937 when Mick and Katé Brajkovich moved to West Auckland from Croatia, purchasing the land on which the current vineyard is built in 1944. Michael himself grew up surrounded by wine production and in 1989 became New Zealand's first Master of Wine. Pioneering the production of varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc, the family run Kumeu winery is globally considered the benchmark for non-Burgundy produced Chardonnay.
With such a vast breadth of experience, it was a pleasure to delve into the world of Kumeu River Wines with Michael.
WHEN TASTING AND JUDGING A WINE, WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR IN A GLASS?
When I’m doing a wine tasting or judging, the type of glass I'm looking for something, first and foremost, to concentrate the aromas and this glass does it perfectly. It flows the aromas of that wine up into that head space, so you can put your noise into it and enjoy the concentration that's in the headspace without losing all those lovely aromas, vapours.
It also has to be wide enough at the bottom, so that when you fill the wine to the widest point you have a nice amount of surface area for the wine can interact with the atmosphere in the glass, which is mostly air. By swirling it you can increase the surface area of the wine to increase that reaction, and this is just perfect in all those regards.
IS THIS THE SAME FOR WHEN YOU’RE AT HOME AND ENJOYING WINE OUTSIDE OF WORK?
At home, at work it's all the same! Wine is all about enjoying every aspect of it, which includes enjoying the colour, the aroma, the bouquet, and then eventually the taste. Having a stemmed glass, I think is such a great thing in a world where there are so many stemless options. You can pick up the glass, you don’t warm up the wine, you don’t affect the temperature, you don’t put finger marks all over the bowl. I really think it enhances the enjoyment of the wine when you have a proper glass like this.
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE PEOPLE TO EXPERIENCE WHEN THEY TASTE KUMEU RIVER WINE?
When people taste our wine, I would like them to experience everything about the wine. They are very expressive on the nose; they have a very distinctive minerality, and I think a very clear expression of where they come from but also the grape variety that they are made from.
On the palate, it’s the balance and then the complexity and the harmony that comes from having enough fruit character, enough weight but enough acidity and tensions, and sometimes some tannin, to balance the palate very well. I think a glass like the Jancis Robinson glass helps present all those features, and makes it easy to enjoy.
What we think makes our wine so special, is first and foremost the variety, Chardonnay. It's a variety that chose us, rather than us choosing it. This is all to do with a mixture of our environment, the soil and the climate with that grape variety to produce something special. To then be able to take that and express it into wine using a number of traditional techniques that bring out the best in the variety, I think that's the hallmark of our wines.
WHAT FEATURES OF YOUR WINES BECOME CLEARER AND MORE PROMINENT WHEN USING OUR JANCIS ROBINSON GLASSES?
The aspects of our wine that become more clear with the Jancis Robinson glass is the aroma particularly, because of the effect of concentrating the aroma into the headspace. You can just pick up things very precisely, it's very high fidelity. It’s much easier than in other glassware where you can lose those aspects.
DO YOU DECANT YOUR WINE, AND IF SO WHY AND WHEN?
With white wines, we don’t always decant or carafe our wine, but there is no doubt, even with a young wine, as soon as you put it into the glass it starts evolving and revealing much more of itself because it has this gentle aeration. So using a decanter for younger white wine is a good idea, because it just speeds up that process. Occasionally we forget to do that, and there is no doubt it improves the wine.
If we have an older bottle of white wine, we choose to put it into a carafe because it’s been locked into this bottle for 19 years and it's been under reductive conditions so it can have a bit of bottle stink. Putting it into a fine decanter like the Jancis Robinson Mature Wine Decanter just allows it to settle down and really evolve quickly and express itself and all the complexities it has. It takes a long time to achieve that kind of character and it's only time in the bottle that can do so. Look at the colour, it’s amazing.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVOURITE LOCAL FOOD AND WINE PAIRINGS?
That’s easy. Always with our chardonnay, and the best of our chardonnay, our Hunting Hill in particular, we pair with crayfish. We cook and serve crayfish very simply, it's just boiled and often served with a light vinaigrette. It’s the texture and the richness, and then the citrus characters of that Hunting Hill Chardonnay that just match perfectly with the succulence and the sweetness and the texture of the crayfish, it’s just a beautiful match.