Michael Brajkovich MW
Kumeu River

Kumeu River's winemaker and New Zealand's first Master of Wine Michael Brajkovich is the deserving winner of the inaugural leadership award.

he leadership award is given to a high achiever working in any area of wine who has demonstrated outstanding leadership qualities. Michael Brajkovich MW is an obvious candidate and a very worthy winner of the inaugural Gourmet Traveller WINE NZ Leadership Award. In addition to making a major contribution to the local wine industry, Brajkovich has been an inspiration to winemakers, wine students and wine consumers.

I think it was Lord Rutherford who said that if a scientist can’t explain his science to a layman he probably doesn’t fully understand it himself. Brajkovich has the rare ability of being able to translate complex wine concepts into terms that make sense to anyone with an interest in wine and little understanding of science.

After studying oenology at Roseworthy College in South Australia, where he was dux in 1981, Brajkovich 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 regions and spent the 1983 vintage in France with the reputed house of Jean Pierre Moueix in Libourne, near Bordeaux.

Based on this experience a new range of wines was developed under the Kumeu River label, including sauvignon blanc/semillon and merlot/cabernet blends. It is the chardonnay that has enjoyed the greatest critical acclaim and success in international markets, particularly in the United States. Wine Spectator magazine has placed Kumeu River Chardonnay in its annual list of the top 100 wines on seven occasions. In 1996, the 1994 Kumeu River Chardonnay was ranked at number six.

Wine style developments are continuing at Kumeu River with the pinot noir, pinot gris and gewürztraminer, and more recently with a Kumeu Crémant.

In 1989, Brajkovich became New Zealand’s first Master of Wine from the prestigious Institute of Masters of Wine, London.

Since 1982, he has accumulated many years’ experience in wine show judging, including the Air New Zealand Wine Awards, the Australian National Capital Wine Show, the Royal Hobart Wine Show, the Perth Royal Wine Show and the Royal Adelaide Wine Show.

Brajkovich was Chair of Judges at the Air New Zealand Wine Awards 2012-2016, and at the Royal Adelaide Wine Show 2015-2017.

He served on the organising committee for the International Cool Climate Wine Symposium in Auckland in 1988, and also for the first two editions of the Wellington Pinot Noir event in 2001 and 2004.

As recipient of the 2017 Walter, Carew and Richard Reynell Fellowship at the University of Adelaide, he was the Visiting Winemaker for Fermentation Technology.

Brajkovich was deeply involved with the New Zealand Screwcap Wine Seal Initiative, of which he was chairman from 2001-03.

He currently sits on the Wine Science Board of Studies for the University of Auckland and has been collaborating with the uni in recent years on studies investigating indigenous yeast fermentations.Bob Campbell MW

Photography courtesy of Kumeu River