It’s a Pressing Matter

Next time you pop a grape in your mouth, spare a thought for what it is. You’ll be excused if “delicious” comes to mind but we’re not discussing taste, flavour or even variety here, we’re talking about structure. You see, a grape berry is just juice protected by a layer of skin and it is in the centre of this little ball that you find the reason for its existence, namely the seeds. If it wasn’t for them the vine wouldn’t be bothered wasting its time and energy making berries. It only makes them to entice animals like us to eat the grapes, hence spreading the seeds and its progeny. It’s a simple matter of seduction by gluttony but, for this cunning little scheme to work, the plant binds the juice up in a bit of flesh. This makes you chew the berry and you are thus more likely to swallow the seeds than if you could merely suck out the glob of delicious liquid. It’s the same with many fruits. But maybe you’re one of those people who don’t like eating the seeds of grapes and frustrate nature by spitting them out. Some folks that we know even remove the skins, which makes eating grapes such a trial that we wonder why they bother. As winemakers, however, we know exactly how they feel as separating the solid parts of the grape berry from the liquid is usually a pressing task.

The skins and seeds contain tannins, which have a firm, grippy, drying taste and those from the seeds can even be bitter. These tannins can be satisfying, depending on their types, amounts and the wine style. Generally, white grapes have more acid than black ones, so that white wines are usually more acidic than reds. Acidity and bitterness produce similar taste sensations so the combination can sometimes be excessive and unpleasant. For this reason, most high-quality white wines are made by fermenting only the grape juice. Red wines, however, need the tannins to balance them by acting as a counter foil to their lower natural acidity. Red wines are thus made by fermenting the whole grape; skin, juice, pulp and seeds. In the end, pressing is used in the making of all wines types and styles but at different stages for whites and reds.

If grapes are crushed, then juice will gradually ooze out but a lot will remain trapped in the solid parts. The same thing applies when a vat of red wine is drained after fermentation. This juice or wine is called the “free-run portion” and the amount of “free-run” so collected is generally higher after fermentation of the grapes because the cell walls of the berry have been torn apart by the carbon dioxide that forms during the process. “Free-run” usually has less tannin, more acid and is of higher quality than that obtained after pressing but not necessarily so. It’s like good wine itself; it’s all a matter of balance. Much depends on exactly how and how much pressure is applied.

Working with wine is a bit like working with people; a little bit of pressure is sometimes good. Not only does it improve the output, reduce waste and make economic sense but the result may be of higher quality. Increase the pressure too far and it may bring out bitterness. When pressing, winemakers usually make several “cuts” so that they separate the “free run” from the “light-pressings” and the “medium-pressings” from any heavier ones, should they be bothered with the last mentioned. Doing this allows winemakers more choice and sometimes the addition of a more heavily pressed portion will make a blend better but hopefully never too bitter or hard.

Next time you put wine in your mouth, spare a thought for what it is. We are not discussing flavour or even variety here; we’re talking about structure. In particular, think about its balance. Is it harmonious or is it lopsided? Does it flow evenly through your palate or does it leave a bitter taste in your mouth? It’s not that firmness, or even bitterness, is necessarily bad; after all, they are the hallmarks of many good coffees. But if bitterness obtrudes excessively in your wine, it’s probably a pressing matter and it may have been made from overworked grapes!

Riesling grapes being loaded into a press at Pegasus Bay

From the Archives Then & Now

It was a hot summer day in 1988 when this photograph of Matthew Donaldson, now our winemaker, was taken, with Mount Cass (solid limestone) in the background. He is shown with a friend (Sean Harper – back to the camera) driving posts in the Pegasus Bay Vineyard during their secondary school holidays.

Looking over the same section of vineyard in 2017

Brew at the Bay

By popular request, the highly talented Canterbury artist, Mel Brew, will have an exhibition of her paintings at the Pegasus Bay Restaurant between March and July. Mel’s striking works (example below) often have a marvellous textural quality that adds a strikingly dynamic element to her very individual choice of subjects and colours. Come to see them; you may even be lucky enough to purchase one or more.

You need to have Good Roots

We all have roots; those things that guided and propelled our formative years and remain largely unseen, although they may subconsciously influence our behaviour and our lives. They attach our present to our past and shape our future. Good health depends on having good roots, they nourish and stabilise us. Without them we can be blown away by the vicissitudes of life. Having good roots is as essential to us as it is to all parts of the tree of life, including the life of trees. The roots of a plant not only provide it with water, minerals and other nutrients that it needs to grow, develop and create energy from sunlight but they provide protection by keeping it firmly anchored in one place. A common misconception is that a plant usually extends as far down into the earth as it does above. Many plants, however, including some trees, have roots that are quite shallow, making them liable to drought and wind damage.

Grapevines develop deep roots and can penetrate about 10m into the earth, which enables them to grow in dry, arid areas. They are, however, “double dippers” and sixty percent of their roots are normally found in the top 600mm of soil so that they can also benefit from shorter, more frequent showers. In Europe, it is generally regarded that old vines produce better wines than young vines and, although there is no strict definition as to what constitutes an old vine, anything over 30 years seems to qualify. Why should this be? It is strange because the same doesn’t seem to apply to other fruit trees and nobody has demonstrated a difference in chemical composition of fruit from old and young plants. The most logical explanation is that old grapevines have had a chance to develop very deep rooting systems and thus can produce healthy fruit even in dry hot years, when younger plants may become water stressed and struggle to ripen their crop. This is particularly important in many parts of Europe where supplementary watering is only permitted during the first few years of the vine’s life. The rationale behind this regulation remains lost in the vast corridors of the EU’s common agricultural policy makers but seems more likely to have been developed on political than on scientific grounds.

But a vine with a fine set of deep roots, a splendid trunk, good shoots and plenty of leaves may struggle to grow, let alone produce good fruit and wine, even if it is planted in chemically perfect soil, without a bit of help from its friends. The friends that we refer to are mycorrhizal fungi, a grubby little group of brats from the wrong side of the railway tracks. Yes, put a grapevine into sterile soil and it will fail to thrive without the help of these microscopic, symbiotic fungi, which grow on the roots and do a lot of their dirty work. They help break down organic material and pass minerals and nutrients, such as phosphorus, sulphur and nitrogen, into the vascular system of the vine. These fungi even digest small insect-like creatures, such as springtails, and make their delicious remains available to the grapevine. It’s not that grapevines are unique in having this cosy little relationship with their smutty little pals; no, very many plants operate in the same way. You see, there is a whole other world under the soil and, although we tend to ignore it, all our lives, yours, mine and those of most other animals, are vitally dependent on it. You might say that our lives are rooted in it, for without their roots we wouldn’t be here, let alone have a decent drop to drink.

Living Off the Land

Have you ever lived off the land? Been a hunter-gatherer? You should try it sometime; we have and we can recommend it. It’s quite fun and the tucker is not half bad! This year the third annual “North Canterbury Forage” was held again at the Pegasus Bay Restaurant. It started about 7:30 AM when 50 national and international wine personalities divided into nine teams and set out to scout the countryside in search of their dinner. How tasty their meal would be and even whether they would have anything to eat at all, was entirely up to them, although each team had a local guide and a chef to lend them a helping hand. They scoured the hills, valleys, rivers, foreshore and ocean in search of game and natural bounty. Needless to say, the produce of farms and gardens was definitely off the menu!

Returning to the Pegasus Bay Restaurant in the afternoon, the brave and doubtlessly exhausted foragers spread out their “fat of the land”, agreed on their team’s dish and then left their chefs to get on with the job. They, in the meantime, indulged themselves with a tasting of wines from the nine Waipara wineries that had organised the event. Special older bottles were chosen to match the mouth-watering dishes that were prepared from the splendidly varied foods, which included fish, crayfish, octopus, sea urchin, pigeon, hare, goat, truffles, saffron, seaweed, watercress, ice plant, and multiple types of grains, seeds, herbs, greens, fruits and berries. You’ll be very relieved to know that nobody went hungry or thirsty!

We will certainly do our best to make sure that the same applies to you when you next visit Pegasus Bay Restaurant. It is always a good idea to telephone to avoid disappointment. The restaurant will be closed between 24 July and the week starting 13 August, when our staff will be on annual holiday, but feel free to pop in to the tasting room at any time without an appointment. It is open between 10.00am and 5.00pm each day, even when the restaurant is closed. We would love to see you.

The Return of the Prodigal Son?

Michael Donaldson doing his bit for the North Canterbury Forage

Ivan and Chris Donaldson, who started the Pegasus Bay over 30 years ago, have four sons, Matthew, Michael, Edward and Paul. From the beginning the boys all helped in the vineyard, making cuttings, planting out, training the vines and so forth. They weren’t always super enthusiastic about this arrangement and sometimes gave the impression that they were working under duress but they all did their fair share. There was never an expectation that their involvement would extend beyond their school holidays and, during their teenage years, a vision of freedom from this vinous tyranny must have glittered enticingly ahead of them. It proved to be illusory. For many years, Matthew has been winemaker, Edward in charge of marketing and Paul general manager at Pegasus Bay.

The wayward Michael tired of writing old ladies wills and found that he didn’t like dealing with criminals shortly after he was admitted to the bar. The enterprising lad then turned his hand to business law and management in the telecommunications industry, where he has been for the last couple of decades. Recently the bros put the hard word on him and he has now joined the team at Pegasus Bay, having worked in the UK and Ireland for the last 18 years. Needless to say, the whole family is delighted but refrained from killing the fatted calf in case it made him feel that he had been prodigal.

From the Prescription Pad

Bonding is a wonderful thing and without it the world wouldn’t function. It happens to the bird and the bee as well as to you and to me. Nobody lives their life without an emotional attachment to other people. Sometimes the ties are romantic and sometimes they are purely platonic. Sometimes they are strong and sometimes they are weak. Bonding tends to be particularly strong between lovers and between parents and children, which is great because without it we wouldn’t be here. At times, it blinds us to faults that may be glaringly obvious to others. We’ve all seen the adoring parents who are blissfully ignorant of the atrocious behaviour of their offspring and become offended at the slightest hint of reprobation. Psychologists explain this by the so-called “halo effect”. When you are enamoured, your mind builds a protective “halo” around the person of your desire, which prevents you from seeing any faults or, at least, the true extent of them. It is neatly summed up by the old saying, “love is blind”. To me, this is very understandable and has a sound teleological basis. What I find more difficult to fathom is the blind spot that wine aficionados have for the contents of bottles that they have opened to share with their friends. It could be modestly priced wine that a bloke hadn’t needed to mortgage his mother-in-law to buy or a bottle that had no pretensions to grandeur, but he will cringe back like a wounded dog at the slightest hint of ambivalence, let alone a whiff of denigration from the other tasters. The wine in question could be enamel stripping battery acid that fills your eyes with hot stinging tears but you’re still expected to smile politely and nod with approbation, even if you have been rendered speechless by your body’s defence mechanisms producing a painfully intense oesophageal spasm. I’m not talking about a masterpiece of vinous history that has been dragged from the depths of dusty cellar; no, this could be something casually picked out of the bargain bin at the local wine shop the day before. Even this brief bonding seems to have produced its inevitable halo.

In my experience, the halo of denial burns even brighter around cork taint, especially if it is a treasured bottle that has been saved for a special event. This wine disease occurs when the bark of the oak tree, from which the cork has been made, has been infected by mould. The human nose is so sensitive to the nasty little substance, trichloroanisole (TCA), that is responsible for this malady of wine, that it can be offended by the equivalent of three parts per million, which is like three seconds of unpleasantness ruining a year filled with orgasmic bliss. Cork taint inquisitors, who can normally sniff out the faintest whiff of TCA at 100 paces and will condemn to death another’s wine even on suspicion of association, can easily be blindsided by gross contamination of one of their own bottles. When challenged, the owner might graciously concede that it is “minimally touched” but not enough to be spoilt. Although it is difficult to rationalise such behaviour it is easy to fall victim to it and I should know because I am one of the worst offenders. Now that 98% of New Zealand wines are sealed with screw cap, corking is no longer a kiwi problem. However, cork taint is still alive and well in imported wines, as evidenced by sequentially having two badly affected bottles of the same expensive, deluxe vintage Champagne. Fortunately, a third was okay but that didn’t compensate for the others. Somehow, winemakers seem to get away with it by merely blaming their cork supplier but what an outcry there would be if a supermarket sold you two bottles of milk that were rotten. The fact that a third one was fit for consumption wouldn’t mollify you. Curiously, in Europe and in many other parts of the world, cheap wine is bottled in screw cap and expensive wine under cork. Given that screw cap is a superior closure for maturing wine, the only rational basis for this is image. It’s as though the romance associated with a wine is more important than the drink itself.

But just because you pay a large amount for a wine doesn’t mean that it’s better than cheaper one. You may be paying a lot for the image and it could turn out to be ultra-expensive if the image is a fake. A few years back, a French newspaper, Sud Ouest, suggested that 20% of wines could be fake. I personally think that figure is way over the top but, nonetheless, there are undoubtedly fake wines about. Last year, a stash of fake Moet & Chandon Champagne was unearthed in Italy and proved to be cheap local fizz. A couple of years earlier, an Indonesian gent by the name of Rudy Kurniawan was sentenced to 10 years in a US clink for selling fake wine. Not one to do things by halves, Rudy had spent US$1 million buying up old bottles of “cheap” wine, especially Burgundy. He then proceeded to bottle this as Domaine de la Romanee-Conti (DRC), which is the most prestigious vineyard in the region, earning himself the nickname of “Doctor Conti”. He didn’t just restrict himself to that vineyard or even to Burgundy but dabbled widely in making fake top drops from where ever was fashionable and expensive. He claimed to have the world’s greatest cellar of famous old wines and had two major auctions. The first netted him $10.6 million and the second $24.7 million (combined, they are said to be worth about $42 million today). But poor old Rudy got just a tiny bit greedy and auctioned some bottles of famous vineyards from vintages that had never actually seen the light of day. The owners of those vineyards got wind of this and, as they say, the rest is history. It turned out that there was nothing genuine about Rudy, not even own his own name, he was born Zhen Wang Huang.

In the fake wine business, even empty bottles and labels of famous vineyards are worth hundreds of dollars and that is why some producers have taken precautions to try to stop counterfeits by having their own embossed bottles, using tamperproof seals or having some other unique, distinguishing feature on the bottle. There is, however, another way to produce a counterfeit product and that is to steal someone’s name or trademark. A case in point is that the name “Kiwi” has been registered as a trademark for wine in France. Unfortunately, there is almost no way that you can register your vineyard or trademark in every country or market to ensure that it cannot be counterfeited or bastardised.

We have found out recently that some of our trademarks have now been registered overseas in someone else’s name and the legal advice we have received suggests there is little that we can do about it. Although we’re flattered to know that somebody else thinks our wine is worth counterfeiting, it is rather vexing.

But I think I should sit down and have a soothing glass of our genuine product before I get too overwrought. First, however, let me assure you that if you buy a bottle of the flying horse through a reputable retailer then the chances that it is a cuckoo are about the same as hatching a pterodactyl’s egg. If you see it for sale at a price that is too good to be true, then it certainly will be.


Recent Seasons

The 2010 season was marked by a cloudy and indifferent late spring and early summer. From February, however, we had 3 months of perfect weather, resulting in excellent ripeness and levels of natural acidity. The 2011 vintage followed a very warm season and was one of the earliest we have experienced, producing beautiful physiological ripeness. It was a complete contrast to the following season and 2012 was one of the slowest ripening vintages that we have seen. Dry weather in late autumn allowed a prolonged hang time, which produced a splendid spectrum of flavours and a lively freshness. A mild spring, a warm summer and a long lingering autumn created a perfect prelude to the 2013 vintage. Autumn rain in 2014 caused us to pick sooner than usual but the ripening had been precocious so the pinot noir was excellent. Later noble botrytis favoured the aromatic whites, such as riesling and gewürztraminers. A spring frost reduced the crop of the 2015 vintage but the rest of the growing season was excellent and the resulting wines are well balanced and have good concentration. A perfect summer and a warm dry autumn in 2016 enabled us to pick each variety at the optimum time and it has been an exceptional vintage for both reds and whites.

Current Vintages / Releases

All bottles 750ml unless otherwise stated


750 ml and Magnum 1.5 lt
Can you grow riesling almost anywhere? The answer is yes, almost anywhere that grapevines can be cultivated, but like pinot noir, riesling sulks in all but special sites, giving wine of indifferent quality. The terroir in which it excels has freely draining, stony, mineral rich soil with warm summer and autumn days but cold nights. The daytime temperatures encourage full physiological ripening while the nights draw out this process and help retain good natural acidity. The dry soil produces small berries that concentrate the flavours while the stones give the wine a tangy minerality. Such wine can be enjoyed in the flush youth when it is full of exuberant citrus and pip fruit flavours but it cellars well and after several years develops overlays of stone fruits and honey suckle. We are fortunate in having such terroir in Waipara.

Due to the special vintage conditions we regard our 2014 riesling as one of our best.

5 stars  18.5+/20   Elegantly intense… harmoniously intertwined… rich core of lime, honeysuckle, herbs and musk unfolding orange fruit and marmalade…
Raymond Chan, NZ

93/100   Richly-textured… Benchmark varietal flavours.
Bob Campbell MW, NZ

92/100   Core of intensity and complexity… Delicious.
Cameron Douglas, Master Sommelier, NZ

Excellent to Outstanding. Powerful, complex… great palate richness… long and dry.
Mark Henderson, Otago Daily Times. NZ


As mentioned (on page 6 under “Recent Seasons”) this was an exceptional vintage. This wine is unashamedly made in the big boned Alsatian style. You, our mail order customers, are the first to have an opportunity to taste this wine so we have no reviews but this is an extract of our cellar notes:

4.5 stars 95/100  Weighty, complex… Turkish delight,
tropical fruits, spice… Impressive wine with development potential.
Bob Campbell MW, NZ


The normal practice in Bordeaux is to blend sauvignon blanc with semillon to give more complexity, tone down the dominating herbaceous characters, add richness and enable it to age. This makes it a true table wine that can be enjoyed with food rather than the highly perfumed traditional kiwi sauvignon, which is ideal as a beverage to be sipped at a party.

Pegasus Bay is one of a handful of New Zealand wineries to follow the Bordelaise in this tradition, including wild fermentation by the grapes’ indigenous yeasts, and ageing on its yeast deposit (sur lie) for 6 months, the semillon portion being in old French oak barrels. This tones down the pungent sauvignon blanc character, fills out the palate, adds a creamy texture and gives the wine more complexity. Accordingly, we hold this wine back and regularly release it when much sauvignon blanc of the same vintage is going over the hill. As this wine has just been released we have only a few reviews.

4.5 stars  95/100 ...Concentrated, ripe peach and passionfruit... Excellent complexity... Rich, dry finish... Very distinctive.
Michael Cooper, NZ

91/100  Intoxicating bouquet... Firm, dry, packed with flavour; long finish... Delicious.
Cameron Douglas, Master Sommelier, NZ

18+/20  Flavours build in depth and intensity... Nectarines, greengages... Softly interwoven nutty lees... Subtle complexities and a soft dry finish.
Raymond Chan, NZ


750 ml and Magnum 1.5 lt
Pegasus Bay Chardonnays come from an old low yielding clone that tends to produce a very concentrated wine. In the tradition of great white Burgundy, these wines are fermented in French puncheons by the grapes’ natural microorganisms and aged on lees for 18 months. We use only a minority of new barrels to minimize any oak character and emphasize the power of the fruit. As this wine is being released for the first time on this newsletter, we do not have any reviews but here is an extract from our cellar notes.

“… citrus fruits, apricot, yellow fleshed peach and mango with complexing savoury overtones of oatmeal, toast, grilled mushrooms and vanilla pod… powerful and creamy on the palate … spine of natural minerality and acidity keep it tight and focused … lingering after-flavours.”


A number of years back we decided to plant a small plot of muscat vines; not just any old muscat but muscat à petits grains, which is used to make the famous Muscat Beaumes de Venise in the Rhône Valley. This wine has the intensity of Muscat Beaumes de Venise but is made in a drier style. We have very little so, as with the only other vintage that we have made, we are restricting it to our mail order and cellar door customers. We are very excited by this but as it is not a general release we do not have any reviews. Here are some cellar notes:

Ripe cantaloupe melon, citrus flowers, orange zest, cinnamon, crushed root ginger and sandalwood... mouth filling and unctuous... off dry finish”.


This is only the second Pegasus Bay Pinot Gris that we have released and it was the result of exceptional vintage conditions (see page 6 under ‘Recent seasons’). This botrytic wine was fermented and aged for 18 months on its natural yeast lees in old French oak puncheons and made somewhat in the style of an Alsatian Vendange Tardive or Selection des Grains Nobles. The reviews are just starting to appear.

Top Value. The Donaldson family of Waipara sure know how to make pinot gris... Toasty, creamy/buttery nose… Toffee, apricot... Maple syrup... Long and rich with a good finish.
WineNZ Magazine. NZ

Excellent. Beeswax, honey, fig and marzipan… Utterly different but fascinating.
Mark Henderson, Otago Daily Times. NZ

93/100 Quite floral... White pepper and freshly baked pears and apples... Creamy, lush, sweet and delicious.
Cameron Douglas, Master Sommelier, NZ


We use traditional Burgundian techniques to make our Pinot Noir, including natural primary and secondary fermentations by indigenous micro-organisms. Primary fermentation is carried out in small vats that are gently plunged manually to avoid excessive extraction. This wine was then matured for 18 months in oak barriques from artisan Burgundian coopers. This wine is only a baby but is already starting to strut its stuff. At a recent large tasting of New Zealand Pinot Noirs held by Decanter Magazine in London it was one of only a handful that was rated as “outstanding”.

95/100  Vibrant with floral nuances... Suave structure and poise, showing layers and layers of intensity.
Philip Tuck MW, Decanter Magazine. UK

91/100  Perfumed… Raspberry, gingerbread and mocha… Juicy and savoury... Musky red berry and spice... Excellent intensity.
Stephen Tanzer, USA

4.5 stars  Mouth filling… Concentrated, savoury and complex.
Winestate Magazine. AUS


Magnum 1.5 lt
This pinot and the 2010 mentioned below were made in exactly the same way as the 2013 but they have been held back before release because of the larger bottles.

96/100  A sense of real depth… noble tannins and the sort of structural complexity and completeness that is the envy of most other NZ pinot noir makers.
Nick Stock, USA

5 stars  93/100   Full-flavoured… Plum, spice, black cherry, floral/violet… Savoury and mineral. Mouth filling with obvious power and a lengthy finish. Consistently top wine.
Bob Campbell MW, NZ

92+/100  Stunning perfume… Beautifully elegant and etherealSilky tannins… Finishes long.
Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW, USA


Jeroboam 3 lt
This was the second highest scorer in a tasting of hundreds of Kiwi wines held in New York, the top wine being the 2010 Pegasus Bay Prima Donna offered below.

92/100  Enticing aromas… Impressive fruit intensity with underlying minerality… Finishes very long with noble tannins.
Steve Tanzer, USA

5 stars  Authoritative… Powerful but silky textured, highly concentrated… Excellent harmony.
Michael Cooper, Buyers’ Guide to New Zealand Wines 2013. NZ

5 stars 18.5+/20  Robust with good power and complexity of flavour.
Raymond Chan, NZ

95/100  So much character and interest.
Gary Walsh, Winefront. AUS

94/100  So perfumed…Dark fruits, full body and intense structure.
James Suckling, USA

94/100 Assertive black cherry nose… Lovely focus with good acid and tannin.
Jamie Goode, UK 


We make this blend of traditional Bordeaux claret grapes in the Bordelaise manner with pump-over and aeration of juice during fermentation, followed by maturation in French oak barriques for 18 months. It was clarified by racking it off its natural yeast deposit on several occasions prior to bottling. As this wine was from a very warm year it is only just starting to flex its muscles. It has only recently been released the reviews are just starting to appear.

Excellent Perfumed red fruits, tangy berry and chocolate Deceptively powerful: appealing now but with potential.
Mark Henderson, Otago Daily Times. NZ

4.5 stars … Youthful… strong, vibrant blackcurrant, plum and spice… Finely integrated oak, ripe, supple tannins… Excellent depth, complexity and harmony.
Michael Cooper, NZ

17.5+/20  Flavours are harmoniously melded and unfold in waves… Fine-grained tannins structure… Soft, stylish, lingering finish.
Raymond Chan, NZ


Magnum 1.5 lt
This wine was made in exactly the same way as the 2013 mentioned above. It has matured magnificently in magnum and is ready to drink but can be expected to cellar well for many years.

4 stars  Full-coloured ....Fresh plum, spice and nutty oak flavours ... Excellent complexity and depth.
Michael Cooper. NZ


Exceptional vintage conditions in late autumn (see ‘Recent Seasons’ page 6) meant that merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc did not have the concentration for long ageing and we thus did not make any Pegasus Bay Merlot Cabernet 2014. The earlier ripening Malbec, however, was picked in perfect condition and has made an exceptional wine. This is the first time we have made it as a single varietal. As it has only recently been released we do not have any wine reviews but we think it is pretty smart. Here are our cellar notes:

Purple plums, blackberries, cranberries… savoury hint of freshly roasted coffee beans and roasted game.… unashamedly mouth filling, broad shouldered and muscular, plush tannins… spicy finish”.

Reserve Wines


750 ml and Magnum 1.5 lt
Bel Canto is possible to make only in certain years. It is made from riesling with almost the same ripeness as that used for Aria, but it is fermented to dryness. It thus has the richness and concentration of Aria without its sweetness. We feel that this wine is a milestone for us because of the special vintage conditions. In spite of its youth it is certainly ready to drink but we feel it will cellar well.

5 stars  95/100  Complex with apricots, honey, spice, clove floral and citrus characters… Gives a nod in the direction of Alsace.
Bob Campbell MW, NZ

19/20  Harmoniously intertwined flavours of ripe citrus fruits, marmalade, honey, musk and minerality. Smooth texture with considerable power and drive.
Raymond Chan, NZ

5 stars  Outstanding... Full-bodied white with all the richness and complexity of the great chardonnay... Deliciously long finish.
Joelle Thompson, Drinksbiz Magazine. NZ

Excellent. Distinctively different… Fascinatingly complex. Mark Henderson, Otago Daily Times. NZ


750 ml and Magnum 1.5 lt
Over the years this late harvest riesling has been one of our most popular wines but is made only in special vintages. 2014 was definitely one such (see ‘Recent Seasons’ page 6). In making this wine we hand-selected only bunches that had 30% or more of noble botrytis. Although this wine has only recently been released reviews are starting to appear.

5 stars 19/20 Exotic citrus fruits and florals flow with honey and musk.  Excellent acidity and tension to match the unctousness.
Raymond Chan, NZ

5 stars 95/100  Peach, honey, mango, pineapple liquorice and exotic spice. Yum!
Bob Campbell MW, NZ

5 stars  Wow... Luscious, tangy, honeysuckle and spice soaked… Cleansing yet indulgent at the same time.
Yvonne Lorkin, NZ

93/100  Bold and rich... Honey, syrup, sweet citrus apple tart and poached orchard fruits. Delicious.
Cameron Douglas, Master Sommelier, NZ

Excellent to Outstanding. Crystallised lemon/fruits… Layers of flavour: textural and richly creamy.
Mark Henderson, Otago Daily Times. NZ


375 ml
It is possible to make this riesling, which is in the style of an Alsatian Selection des Grains Nobles or German Trockenbeerenauslese, only in very special years and this 2014 (see ‘Recent Seasons’ page 6) is the only one we have produced since 2011. Late in the season we carefully hand selected only the most perfectly shrivelled botrytic fruit and the small amount of juice that we obtained was left to slowly ferment at a low temperature over the winter and spring. As this wine was only recently released, reviews are just starting to appear.

5 stars  Beautifully rich apricots/honey aromas and flavours... Marmaladelike... Lush super-rich finish.
Winestate Magazine. AUS

5 stars 97/100  Bush honey… Toast… Apricot and peach... Really delicious.
Bob Campbell MW, NZ

5 stars 18.5+/20  Rich and luscious… Layers of exotic fruits, marmalade, lifted florals… unctuous mouthfeel.
Raymond Chan, NZ

Outstanding ... Exquisitely balanced ... Great complexity.
Mark Henderson, Otago Daily Times, NZ


375 ml
Finale is made in the style of French Sauternes and is a blend of semillon and sauvignon blanc.  We selected only the most beautifully noble botrytic berries and the small amount of juice obtained was fermented in French artisan oak barriques, using the grapes’ indigenous yeasts. Subsequently the wine was matured in these barrels.

94/100  Fantastic! Delicious, honeyed, oozing flavour and texture... Citrus and stone fruit… Long finish.
Cameron Douglas, Master Sommelier, NZ

5 stars  Super-rich peach and apricot… Oily texture, lush raisiny, superbly sustained finish.
Winestate Magazine. AUS


Magnum 1.5 lt
Virtuoso is our reserve chardonnay and is made in the same way as Pegasus Bay Chardonnay, mentioned above. It comes from a selection of puncheons which we feel especially reflect the season and terroir. Generally, these come from our oldest (30 years) vines, which are on their own roots. The 750 ml bottles sold out before any reviews came in but here they are now.

5 stars 97/100 Big, rich and creamy… stone fruit, sizzle butter, roasted nut, bran biscuit… very textural. Excellent example of this consistently top chardonnay.
Bob Campbell MW, NZ

5 stars 19.5/20 Multi-dimensional, complex, layers of flavour. Raymond Chan,, NZ

95/100 Fabulous flavours… Complex… Great wine!
Cameron Douglas, Master Sommelier,, NZ




Magnum 1.5 lt
We only produce Prima Donna in exceptional years. It is made in exactly the same way as Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir 2013 mentioned above. It is a blend of the barrels that we feel best reflect the vintage and our unique terroir. As usual, it mainly comes from our oldest, lowest cropping vines that are non-grafted.

95/100  Powerful mix of flavours with a haunting floral note… Intriguing savoury/forest/rustic character. Delicious.
Bob Campbell MW, NZ

93/100  Complex... terrific depth and intensity... solid tannic spine for ageing.
Steve Tanzer, USA

5 stars  Great finesse...savoury, supple…deep plum, cherry, spice and nut…lasting finish.
Michael Cooper, Buyers’ Guide to New Zealand Wines 2014. NZ 


Jeroboam 3 lt
This is the wine that scored top out of a tasting of hundreds of NZ wines in New York. It has developed superbly and is just the thing that very special celebration. Why not treat yourself?

93+/100  Impressive energy giving intense red berry and mineral flavours, terrific penetration. Superb rising finish saturates the palate… Downright Chambolle-like.
Steve Tanzer, USA

93+/100  Beguiling aromas… Black cherries, mulberries… dark chocolate, lilacs and cloves.… muscular red berry and savoury finish, finishing long.
Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW, USA

94/100  Crazy pure with strawberry, flowers, raspberries and liquorice… Very dense with fabulous tannins and length.
James Suckling, USA

5 stars  Powerful and finely fragrant, with dense cherry, plum and slight liquorice flavours, deliciously rich and well rounded.
Michael Cooper, Buyers’ Guide to New Zealand Wines 2013. NZ

5 stars  Very rich and supple… A real sense of poise and power.
Winestate Magazine. AUS

5 stars  Waves of savoury dark berry and cherry… Full, rich and layered…
Raymond Chan, NZ



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Filed in: 2017

Pegasus Bay

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Off Licence.
Licence Holder:Donaldson Family Limited T/A:Pegasus Bay Winery.
Licence no:57/OFF/458/2022 Exp:16/3/2025