Kumeu is a winegrowing sub-region of Auckland on New Zealand's North Island. The small towns of Kumeu, Huapai and Waimauku, 16 miles (26km) northwest of the Auckland central business district, are home to a handful of boutique wineries, popular cellar door operations offering wine tasting to tourists and the urban masses, and the head offices of some of New Zealand's biggest wine brands – not all of whom have vineyards in the vicinity. Taut, elegant white wines made here from Chardonnay are widely regarded to be some of New Zealand's best.
Kumeu's history is dominated by Croatian settlers who arrived in the region after trying their luck on the northern kauri gumfields in the late 19th Century. These settlers brought viticultural know-how from their homeland and, by the 1940s, a wine industry had sprung up in the hilly, undulating land surrounding the newly settled town of Kumeu. This legacy continues today, and many of the wineries that started in Kumeu are still run by the descendants of these early arrivals.
Kumeu is located eight miles (12km) from the Tasman Sea in the west and about 12 miles (20km) from the Pacific Ocean in the east. While Kumeu sits at the relatively northern latitude of 36°S (a similar distance from the Equator as southern Spain), summer temperatures rarely exceed 85F (30C). This is due to the temperature-moderating sea breezes that come from both coasts, cooling the vineyards and extending the ripening period. This has proved vital to the development of flavour in the Chardonnay grapes, while the acidity of the berries is not compromised.
Humidity can be a problem during the growing season in Kumeu, however, as can the fertile, water-retaining soils mostly based on clay and loam. Wineries have overcome this problem with judicious selection of varieties and rootstocks, and experiments with various trellising systems have also helped winegrowers to decide on the best possible options to reduce disease and over cropping.
Some of New Zealand's biggest wine names are based in the countryside surrounding Kumeu, including Nobilo, Coopers Creek and Babich. These wineries source grapes from other parts of the country, and in particular from Hawke's Bay and Marlborough. The smaller wineries that are persevering with this somewhat troublesome region are reaping the benefits: the Chardonnay made in Kumeu has achieved something of a cult status worldwide. Merlot, Pinotage and Pinot Gris are also planted.
There are also one or two vineyards in more isolated locations within a few miles of Kumeu, including Waimarie, the estate owned by Steve Nobilo, in the Muriwai Valley.