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Primed Up on Pegasus Bay

By December 6, 2012No Comments
With the Pegasus Bay mail-order client tasting scheduled to be held at the Museum Hotel, Wellington on Thursday evening, many of us were primed to catch up with the ever-enthusiastic Edward Donaldson, marketing manager for the highly respected family-owned Waipara Valley winery. Alas, Edward was stranded in Auckland due to the tornado which delayed flights and ultimately caused three fatalities. The maître d’ of Hippopotamus Restaurant at the hotel, Timothee Lepoutre and EuroVintage distribution representative Rick Lindsay stepped in and poured the Pegasus Bay wines for the amassing attendees. I quickly raced through the wines and pitched in, helping to serve. It was an enjoyable night meeting many of the Pegasus Bay fans. Here are my impressions on what I tasted. www.pegasusbay.com
The White Wines
A mini-vertical tasting of the Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon wine was first up. Starting with the oldest wine, the 2007, this is still remarkably youthful with its lusciousness. The amalgam of grassy Semillon and slightly developing asparagus-like aromas and flavours are an integral part of the Sauvignon Blanc gooseberryish base. A properly dry finish is a feature. The 2008 appears even more youthful, maybe not as ripe, I mentally queried, being tighter and a tad leaner, and distinctly more brackish and herby. The 2009 impresses with its finer textures and linearity. A wine that is still fresh and youthful. The new release 2010 is delicious, with a beautiful aromatic lift including floral notes. The delicate sweetness of fruit is extremely inviting. As a style, the blend of Semillon, well-ripened, adds a concentration and weight that combines harmoniously with the oaking, and I see this label as being more ageworthy that straight Sauvignon Blanc, the Pegasus Bay wine more akin to the better white Graves wines of Bordeaux.

Four aromatic whites were on offer, and all were excellent. The Bel Canto Riesling 2010 is a weighty and substantially fruited dryish Riesling, with its standout funky flinty characters that are nearly OTT. It’s a heroic style that works. I personally prefer the ‘estate’ Riesling 2009, pure with a suggestion of hedonism to its ripe yellow floral, honey and citrus notes and some toasty development. Available for tasting was the Pinot Gris 2011, not normally available in retail shops. With its 40 g/L rs, it’s decidedly sweet and luscious, with strong stonefruit and pear flavours. Palate presence is assisted by the sugar here. The Gewurztraminer 2010 has classical rose-petal, spice and ginger varietal flavour, with tight line and density, and real drive. It too carries a complexing thread of flintiness from lees and reduction.

The Chardonnay wines from Pegasus Bay are in the solidly in the white burgundy camp, reminding me of Meursault from a top producer. The Chardonnay 2009 is multi-layered and combines stonefruit and oak richness with fine nutty, flinty detail. It’s immensely approachable now. The ‘Virtuoso’ Chardonnay 2009 is sleeker and smoother, and more in the nutty, oxidative camp, and with incredibly driven finesse. A bold statement, the ‘Virtuoso’ Chardonnay 2008 served from 1.5 litre magnum, seemed hotter and more voluptuous in presence, but strangely somewhat more ethereal in the minerally, flinty and nutty aromas and flavours.
The Red Wines
As with any Waipara Valley wine producer worth its salt, Pinot Noir is the star red wine, and Pegasus Bay’s releases are about as good as it gets. The superlative vintage can be easily seen in the Pinot Noir 2009. Still quite primary in its substantially fruited palate, sweet, plump generous cherry, berry and plum flavours are supported by ripe tannins and complexing savoury detail. The Pinot Noir 2007, served in 1.5 litre magnum is a more elegant and refined style. Lovely lifted and cedary elements intermingle with definite savoury forest floor nuances, all showing with concentration. More serious in its complexity from bottle-age and in its extract and grip is the ‘Prima Donna’ Pinot Noir 2006, with mushroom and forest floor notes and dried herb nuances that linger on the palate. This seems very complete in its smooth mouthfeel.
The Bordeaux-style is more than competently managed by Pegasus Bay. The Waipara Valley region has sufficient heat to ripen the varieties successfully more often than realised. The Merlot/Cabernet 2009 is an elegant, plummy, juicy number with fragrance and florals, yet has the unmistakeable claret-like drive and line of tannin structure underneath. Its suppleness makes it immediately appealing. Far more serious is the ‘Maestro’ Merlot/Malbec 2007, darker, denser, more concentrated and richer, this is packed with ripe black fruits, and captures the feel of ageworthy Bordeaux wine in the Pomerol style.
The Sweet Wines
It seemed a favourite for all of the Pegasus Bay followers attending, the ‘Aria’ Late Picked Riesling 2009. A superbly balanced wine with ripe varietal Riesling fruit juxtaposed with significant botrytis influence. Citrus fruits, marmalade and honey, along with a hint of toast, still with a firm and driven line promising to deliver more. And more was seen in the ‘Aria’ Late Picked Riesling 2008, served in 1.5 litre magnum. A little more obvious toasty development, but sensationally balanced with luscious honey, florals, and citrus elements fully integrated with its botrytis. The feature is the creamy texture, which I see in the best maturing German wines.

The fully botrytised wines need only be poured in small amounts to be fully appreciated, but their decadence meant that we were pouring for many tasters more than one sample! The ‘Encore’ Noble Riesling 2009 in 375 ml bottle is very well-packed with deeply concentrated marmalade, musk and honey flavours, but fine acidity prevents cloying or any flabbiness. Tasting it, one recognises it is special, and the description ‘nectar’ is more than apt. The ‘Finale’ Noble Semillon 2010 also in 375 ml bottle, is an altogether different expression of botrytis and fruit. Ripe, fat and oily textured, not the aromatic florals, but more waxy and lush citrus-lanolin amalgam, caramel and nutty oak in the background. This is Sauternes material for sure.

It is no wonder that the Pegasus Bay mail-order client tastings are busy affairs. The range of wines offered is broad, exciting and of the highest quality. There is certainly something for everybody. Few wineries would have such an outstanding collection of wines in their portfolio. From the Pegasus Bay perspective that I experienced pouring the wines, the attendees were interested and fascinated, and very inquisitive, but above all, they seemed very happy and pleased with the wines, and the whole tasting experience. I can see why Edward Donaldson enjoys meeting such friendly people. Many orders for wine were being placed, so it is surely a win-win scenario.

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