Monday, 11 October 2021 16:30

"Unprecedented interest" in Kumeu River

Written by  Sophie Preece
Siblings Paul, Marijana, Michael and Milan Brajkovich. Siblings Paul, Marijana, Michael and Milan Brajkovich.

New Zealand wine's reputation for high quality and good value has been key to its success in overseas markets in recent yearsm says Michael Brajkovich of Kumeu River Wines.

"When a UK customer is faced with a 'mission shopping' expedition under lockdown, they tend to go for the tried-and-true good-value option, rather than something too expensive, or too adventurous," says the winemaker and Master of Wine.

Certainly, the loyalty of Kumeu River's customers, combined with excellent reviews for its 2019 and 2020 vintages, has seen the company perform better than ever before on the export market, with "unprecedented" interest in the UK market.

Michael says New Zealand's first lockdown last year came in the wake of a harvest of "exceptional" quality for the West Auckland winery. They worked with a "bare minimum" of staff - mostly family - to run the business, and wondered what would happen next. "Of course, all of our restaurant sales stopped, and the cellar door was shut for the duration," says Michael. But online sales and wine deliveries grew at a strong rate when customers cottoned on to online options, "and we were permitted to continue with our core function of making people happy".

Export trade, which makes up 55 percent of Kumeu River's sales volume, continued as normal, apart from the shipping delays they're still dealing with now. That global marketplace was "critical" for the company in making up for lost local revenue, he says.

Staff came back in time to bottle the 2019 vintage wines and prepare them for the various markets in New Zealand and around the world, says Michael. "We already knew that 2019 was one of our best vintages ever, and had started communicating that to our customers." The response was an online clamour for more information, and when Kumeu arranged delivery to Jancis Robinson MW followed by "more than favourable" reviews from her and others, they saw all their single-vineyard wines rapidly sell out, while other levels of Chardonnay enjoyed buoyant sales.

Kumeu River followed the 2019 success with an "extraordinary" 2020 vintage, he says. With another swathe of excellent reviews, then their first-ever 100-point score, for the 2020 Mate's Vineyard Chardonnay on, it was the company's "maiden century", says Michael. "Everything went crazy for a while after that, especially in the UK where our merchants have all reported unprecedented interest in our wines."

More like this

Vintage 2024: Auckland

Kumeu River's 2024 harvet was done and dusted by mid-March, with light crops ripening quickly in the dry and warm conditions.

Winemakers' Winemaker

Michael Brajkovich MW has been honoured as the 2024 Winemakers’ Winemaker at a ceremony during ProWein trade fair in Düsseldorf.

Altogether Unique: Auckland

A very wet winter and spring in Auckland vineyards was relieved by a spell of fine weather at Christmas, drying everything out.

First kumeu sparkling

Kumeu River Wines has broken new ground for sparkling wine by bottling New Zealand’s first bubbly to be called Crémant, which was released in October this year.

» Latest Print Issues Online

Popular Reads

Ten years of Méthode Marlborough

New Zealand wine enthusiasts have a deepening understanding and growing appreciation of sparkling wine, says Mel Skinner, Chair of Méthode Marlborough…

Sustainability Success

Taking two sustainability awards at two events on a single evening felt like "true recognition" of the work Lawson's Dry…