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Pegasus Bay – No Mail Order Bride

By December 6, 2011No Comments
As is the trend at present, wineries are looking after their own destinies and making strong efforts to promote themselves on the domestic market. Some of the most prestigious and highly respected are on the roadshow circuit, making the connection with their most ardent fans, reassuring the local consumer that they are very important customers. The added benefit is of course a better return when exports are not so performing so well with the NZD remaining high. Pegasus Bay, Waipara Valley’s finest, visited Wellington and husband and wife team Edward and Belinda were busy greeting and pouring their excellent wines to a large mail-order crowd at the Museum Hotel on the waterfront. This was a no-holds-barred tasting courting attendees with a selection of genuine articles – their top end and latest release wines. A number of wines were served in impressive 1.5 Litre magnum format. I tasted through the offerings, and recorded the following impressions. www.pegasusbay.com
The Whites Wines
As is usual for a Pegasus Bay tasting, the first wine up was the Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon 2009, a new release. This fits in with the complex Sauvignon Blanc-white Bordeaux style, with flavours of nectarines, herbs and flint with a touch of smoke and oak. Still tight, this label can develop well over a period of 3-4 years and this release is sure to do so.

The powerful ‘Bel Canto’ Dry Rieslings were served before the ‘regular’ sweeter wines, even though they have greater concentration. The ‘Bel Canto’ Dry Riesling 2010 is a baby, tight with an interesting mix of steeliness and raisiny fruit. This is still firm in mouthfeel and a little unyielding at present, but the potential to develop is evident. The ‘Bel Canto’ Dry Riesling 2008 (1.5 Litre) is beginning to show its true depth of character with lovely development aromas and flavours of honied limes and toast, the feature being its integration and harmony. This still has plenty of life ahead of it, say at least 5-6+ years. The Riesling 2009 is showing superbly, one of the highlights of the range on show. Broad and openly accessible, the rich and luscious lime, floral and honey flavours have a density that will hold this in great stead over the next 5-7 years. The Riesling 2008 (1.5 Litre) by contrast is very fine-featured, tight and a wine of great elegance. The classiness of the wine and its bottling in magnum format could see it cellar a decade more. It shows florals and limes, and a delicate honey and toast expression, all very concentrated and packed in.

The Gewurztraminer 2010 is unmistakably varietal with rose-petal florals, earth and herbs, and showing some flinty reduction at present. There is a core to the wine that will allow it to keep. I was impressed with the two Chardonnays, the ‘regular’ Chardonnay 2008 showing complex citrus and mealy fruit with proper oaking and a combination of lively acidity with palate richness. This is a bold wine with the substance to develop over the next 4+ years. I liked this very much The ‘Virtuoso’ Chardonnay 2008 is an extremely well-concentrated wine with exceptionally refined textures resulting in a seamless mouthfeel. The flavours are classical with yellow stonefruits and nuts, as well as a complexing oxidative streak. This is a wine that may put off those who want a fruit-forward style, but reward those who enjoy serious French white burgundy.
The Red Wines
Pegasus Bay is quite rightly highly-regarded for Pinot Noir. The new release Pinot Noir 2009 is a beautifully supple and juicy wine based on primary fruit expression that seems more refined and elegant than many earlier vintages. Lovely dark plum and red berry fruits infused with subtle spices show. The Pinot Noir 2007 (1.5 Litre) is developing secondary savoury game characters of real interest, yet retains a soft, rich fruitiness. Its density and concentration suggests plenty more will unfold over the next 6-8+ years. If you want complexity, then the ‘Prima Donna’ Pinot Noir 2006 (1.5 Litre) delivers it with great power and focus. Very burgundian with dark berry fruits infused with earth and minerals, and still with balance and energy as well as great structure.
For the critics who state that Bordeaux-varietal wines have no place in the South Island of New Zealand, Pegasus Bay has shown consistently that successful wines can be made. The Merlot/Cabernet 2008 does show some of the cooler, slightly herbal edged currant fruit, but this sits comfortably within a robust, lively and satisfying frame. Bottle-age has taken the Merlot/Cabernet 2006 (1.5 Litre) to a greater level of fineness. The herb, currant and mint elements are now evolving into beauty with ethereal cedary notes. Tightly concentrated and very fine-grained, this is a real surprise. Taking the style even further, the ‘Maestro’ Merlot/Malbec 2007 is silky-smooth, with extremely refined textures underlining well-ripened black fruits. Good oaking and spiciness completes this super offering. This has plenty built into it and should cellar for a decade. It was one of my top picks of the tasting. As with the ‘Prima Donna’ Pinot Noir of the same vintage, the ‘Maestro’ Merlot/Malbec 2006 (1.5 Litre) shows complex mineral, earth and spice notes. Classical herb and dark black berry fruit flavours show with sweetness, and the fine-grained textures are in harmony.
The Sweet Wines
To make top sweet wines consistently and across different varieties and styles is an art as well as technically intricate and challenging. Pegasus Bay do just that. The ‘Aria’ Late Picked Riesling 2008 attains the knife-edge of richness and opulence with finesse and style. Beautiful citrus fruits, marmalade, honey, and toast flavours are interwoven and balanced by excellent racy acidity. It is an outstanding sweet wine. As good as this is, I was even more impressed at the tasting by the ‘Encore’ Noble Riesling 2008, richer, more decadent, lusciously unctuous and carrying its great sweetness with poise from underlying acidity. Again one of the highlights of the range for me at the tasting. The final wine presented was the ‘Finale’ Noble Chardonnay 2008, an altogether more worked and thus complex-styled dessert wine. Utterly unctuous as well, nutty oak and oxidative elements combine with ultra-ripe citrus and yellow stonefruit flavours. This is texturally significant and finishes with a surprising comparative dryness that precludes any cloying.

Pegasus Bay is one of the country’s great wineries. The satisfying nature of all of the wines guarantees it will remain so. The Donaldson family are not afraid of flavour, richness, depth and character in their offerings across the range of wines they make, and know that keen wine enthusiasts enjoy these qualities. All of the wines have built-in complexities, or develop them, and more than a significant proportion of the range has that element of finesse of structure that lifts them into the outstanding category. Invariably these are the ‘Reserve’ wines, but the ‘regular’ releases also achieve that. Thank you Belinda and Edward for visiting Wellington!

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