Ice-melting from a grapevine shoot after overnight frost protection by water sprinklers

Staff of Life

Perhaps you have heard about the search for water on the moon, Mars and even more distant celestial bodies. Why all the interest? It’s because water is indeed the staff of life, or at least, life as we know it. All forms of life on earth depend on water for their metabolic processes. Its presence doesn’t ensure life, but its absence excludes it. In addition, if a reliable source of water could be found on the moon or Mars, it would make attempts at human habitation there more viable. Closer to home, water is also a hot topic, especially freshwater; its quality, quantity, best uses and ownership. We don’t intend to get embroiled in this contentious area other than to point out that all agriculture and horticulture depend on a reliable source of water and viticulture is no exception. The chances are that you don’t grow all your food and, like most of us, you visit your neighbourhood greengrocer, butcher, baker or even prowl the aisles of your nearest supermarket. If so, the topic of freshwater and its use is something in which you should take an interest. Most food in New Zealand, including wine, is produced on the east side of the country, which is naturally dry and, in many areas, subject to drought. Thus, irrigation is common and sometimes essential but the requirements of viticulture are quite unlike those of growing pasture to feed livestock. They are so different that viticulturists talk of “supplementary watering” of vines rather than irrigation. Grapevines benefit from having optimal amounts of water at precise times and too much can be as bad as too little.

Over the winter, grapevines lose their leaves and become dormant. As such, they don’t need water. In spring, when their buds burst open and their new leaves and shoots appear, there is enough soil moisture from the winter and spring rains to keep the foliage healthy. It is not until late spring or early summer, when the vines start flowering, that they might need supplementary watering. Insufficient water at this stage may interfere with fertilisation, impair the “set” and reduce the eventual crop. It’s a vital two or three weeks in our calendar. Once that’s over, we want our vines to have enough water to stay healthy and allow slow growth, but insufficient to encourage vigorous growth, the aim being to keep the developing grape berries small.

If you’re not used to vitus vinifera, the European winemaking grape, you’d be surprised at how small the berries are. Even if the vine has had excess water, and they are tiny compared with table grapes, and, here we are, trying to make them smaller, or at least trying to prevent them becoming too large.

 A bunch of pinot noir wine grapes (above) compared with table grapes (below). Note the difference in berry and bunch sizes.

Why? The all-important biochemical substances that give grapes and wines their distinctive aromas and flavours reside in the skins of the berries, as do those which produce colour. The pulp has little taste and is largely composed of sugary liquid that, when fermented, results in alcohol. If you’re good at maths, you will know that the ratio of the surface of a sphere to its volume decreases as the sphere enlarges. In other words, the greater the size of a grape, the more dilute will be the natural aroma and flavour compounds in the juice and wine.

Now, the most defining attribute between high-quality and more commercial wines is that top wines have bags of aroma and flavour whereas lesser wines don’t. Sure, there are other measures of quality but, generally speaking, they’re less important. Too much water in the period following “set” results in bigger berries and more wine but with less aroma and flavour. Such fruit enlargement comes about by an increase in the number of cells in each berry.

In late summer and early autumn, the berries go through veraison, which is when they become soft and black grapes develop red pigment in the skin. At this stage they also swell to some extent, but this increase in size is due to fluid accumulation. Excess water is simply taken up by the roots and transferred to the berries, resulting in very bloated grapes and dilute, watery wine. This is particularly detrimental to quality when it occurs during the days or weeks leading up to harvest, when the extra fluid may split the berries with resulting infections, including mould.

Soils differ in their water retaining capacity and clays hold much more than lighter more freely draining ones. This means supplementary watering is needed less on a clay-based soil but the adverse effects of too much water are worse. As we all know, mother nature is a feisty beast and pays no heed to what we vignerons want, throwing us drought and deluge at the most inconvenient times. At Pegasus Bay, we have chosen to plant on lighter more freely draining soil and continually measure its water content, using a device called a tensiometer. This gives us greater precision over quality than just taking what the heavens dictate. Healthy vines produce happy wines!

Run for Your Brain

Vine Run 2020

We’re proud to announce that our third Vine Run at Pegasus Bay took place on Sunday 26th January 2020 with $27,000 being raised for the NZ Brain Research Institute. With a record number of 700 runners and walkers tackling the three courses, the excitement was palpable!

Over 100 of these participated in our brand new 18km option, enjoying majestic views west over the Waipara Valley vineyards and east over the Pacific Ocean at Pegasus Bay.

Many of the competitors came in fancy dress and our beloved MC Andie Spargo was back to warm the crowd up with his winemaking aerobics and other antics. Around the course the athletes were once again entertained by musicians including the Kaiapoi brass band, Christchurch Opera Club and the Aoraki String Quartet.

Afterwards, people picnicked on the winery lawns while enjoying a refreshing glass of wine and listening to the upbeat sounds of Ambush Brass. Vine Run 2020 was certainly a resounding success!

As always, we’d like to thank all our amazing volunteers, partners and friends, including the FBI (Friends of the Brain research Institute), who helped make this event possible. We already have our eye on Vine Run 2021 and the date is looking like Sunday January 31st so get that in the diary quick and check out Facebook or the website for updates.

Mike and Di Donaldson
Race Directors

A Bully in the Garden

Pegasus Bay is very proud of the gardens that surround its restaurant, cellar door and winery. Normally, a haven of peace and quietness in a beautiful setting, it has recently been disturbed by a nasty feud that has ruffled more than a few feathers. In short, there has been bullying going on and the problem is not been resolved.

Some years back, Pegasus Bay was adopted by a white swan, that just arrived one night during a dreadful storm. “Swanda”, as she came to be known, was a welcome addition to the wild ducks that live on several large ponds in our gardens and, in addition, she received a warm welcome from them. Life was tranquil and life was good with the wild bunch coming and going as they pleased while Swanda contentedly ruled the roost. Then, about a year ago, disaster struck. Paul Donaldson, our general manager, found a Peking duck on the street outside his house. Unlike those generally available in Chinese restaurants, this little fellow was strutting about in his white plumage, quacking vigorously. Enquiries shed no light on the mystery of her appearance so “Peking” was put onto the ponds in front of the restaurant where she was warmly welcomed by the wild bunch. Swanda, however, immediately attacked, fluffing out her feathers and driving Peking from her domain into a backwater. We thought Peking’s banishment would be temporary and that soon Swanda would be accepting but, no, she was unrelenting. Ducks of other colours could come and go, but not white Peking, she was persona non grata.

Eventually, Peking had an unrelated accident and died, so we bought a pair of white Peking ducks to replace her, thinking the furore was probably just a personality clash, an avian idiosyncrasy. How wrong we were. Swanda’s hostility was undiminished and she chased them away whenever they tried to approach the main pond in front of the restaurant; her domain where she preened herself in front of the diners, surrounded by her coterie of the wild bunch.

But the Peking twins didn’t miss out. Soft hearted Mrs Pegasus, aka Chris Donaldson, took them under her wing and started feeding them. They come at the sound of her voice, accompanied by one of the wild bunch who broke its leg and was having trouble fending for itself. Meanwhile, Swanda and her cabal, who are missing out, look on with disdain. What is going on? Is there an animal psychologist out there who could help?

Mrs Pegasus and her Peking twins.

The Edible Garden

Next time you come to our cellar door and multi award-winning and ‘Cuisine Hatted’ restaurant, treat yourself to a stroll around our extensive gardens. We are proud of them, with their beautiful trees, shrubs, flowers and ponds. Even when you’ve feasted your eyes on these you may well have missed the tastiest part, our edible garden. It is easily overlooked because it is scattered about and, at first sight, may not look all that exceptional, but its potager and orchard contain a great variety of vegetables, herbs and fruits to supply our restaurant and delight our chefs. We don’t pretend our gardens supply all their needs, but they provide a surprising amount and all of it is as fresh as fresh can be. Of course, they are not available all the time as each plant has its season, and that’s good because chefs love to change their menus.

Our edible garden contains apples, pears, nashis, quinces, plums, greengages, feijoas, apricots, white, golden and purple peaches, persimmons, loquats, mulberries, red and black blackcurrants, strawberries, cranberries, walnuts and rhubarb. We have 10 different varieties of figs. In the citrus department, we have lemons, lemonades, oranges, tangelos, and limes, including kaffir lime. There is a small olive grove and a truffle plantation. The vegetable and herb patches sport artichoke, rocket, miner’s lettuce, nasturtium, amaranth, chamomile, borage, calendula, fennel, dill, shiso, salad burnet, French sorrel, lemon balm, sage, pineapple sage, bay, parsley, rosemary, thyme, basil, coriander, mint, chives, purslane, watercress and winter cress. But we haven’t mentioned foraging, if it’s not in the garden and its edible, we may just forage for it.

But, like all of us, our hard-working chefs and front of house staff need a rest. They’ll be taking their holidays from Monday 29 June until Wednesday 23 July inclusive, when the restaurant will be closed. The cellar door will remain open during this time so feel free to pop in for a tasting. We’ll give you a warm welcome. Remember, if you’re coming to dine, it is best to reserve to be certain of a table. Just phone 03 314 6869 extension 1 or book online through our website, where you can also purchase restaurant vouchers, a great gift for friends or relatives.

Green and red shiso, ‘Japanese basil’ is used as a salad green or preserved and served with fish.

The Pop-up Pegasus

There is no doubt that Pegasus is a flighty old nag and wine agents in about 30 countries import her. Some of these sell our wine in more than one country so it is not surprising Pegasus pops up in many different and sometimes unusual locations and situations. Friends often tell us they have seen bottles of Pegasus Bay in wine shops, airport duty-free, restaurants, hotels etc, not only in big cities, but in exotic sounding places we’ve barely heard of. She is quite a socialite, rubbing shoulders with the traditionalists, elite and avant-garde in equal measure. On occasions, she has strayed onto the wild side but when this has happened she has maintained a low profile. Recently, she turned up in the supporting cast of a work by Heather Straka, entitled Teamwork Part II.

Heather, a graduate of Auckland University’s and Canterbury’s Schools of Fine Arts has been awarded several scholarships, residencies and awards, including from The Royal Overseas League London, Francis Hodgkin’s Fellowship and William Hodge Fellowship. Her work is held in all New Zealand’s major collections.

The picture shows five serious looking young women who seem set on destroying a piano. Two bottles of Pegasus Bay have sneaked into the picture. Whether the wine has inspired them to act or to pause and reflect their behaviour is unclear. The picture is rife with symbolic meaning. Interpretations could include that it shows the young rejecting the establishment or the new world intent on destroying the old. Given the recent public outcry about plans to dismantle Radio New Zealand Concert Program in favour of establishing a more youth orientated radio station, the theme would seem very topical. Incidentally, the flying horse was glad that mad idea got the boot. Given that her reserve wines names based on classical music, it’s not difficult to know where her loyalties lie, but then, she’s almost as ancient as music itself.

The work is dark, edgy and powerful but has a magnetism of its own. If you’d like a closer look, come and see it on the wall of our tasting room. We were so fascinated and drawn to the picture we had to have it. We’ll let you make of it what you will, and should you need further enlightenment we suggest you go to dissection/

Teamwork Part II by Heather Straka.

Blow-up incriminating Pegasus.

From the Prescription Pad

As a medical student, I was taught about germs; the bad guys that cause infection and result in disease. There are different ways to fight such “bugs”, including good old-fashioned hygiene and the judicious use of antibiotics.
These microorganisms, however, are just another form of life and, no matter how you try to eliminate them, they just keep popping back up. Ever tried to keep a piece of earth totally free of plants? You may succeed for a while, but it won’t last. Before long, new seeds will creep in and growth will start. Life, it seems, is unstoppable.

But, bugs are not all ugly. There are also the bad and the good. Rather than trying to eliminate everything and maintaining a vacuum, it is best to encourage the good guys. They can overpower the other fellows and keep things sweet, so to speak. It’s rather like keeping your garden free of weeds by growing enough flowers, shrubs or vegetables to choke them out. This is a natural way of controlling the situation.

Medical students have a reputation for being a bit wild. Not that I was ever like that, of course, but I’m sometimes attracted to things that have a wild streak in them; wild in the sense of being untamed and natural. It’s hence not surprising that I feel an affinity with wild bugs, the good guys, and I’m interested in getting them to help me.

Winemaking bugs consist of yeasts and bacteria. Viruses don’t play any part. Yeasts occupy a strange place in the tree of life and are sometimes classified as small plants, which is why one of my university lecturers, who was an enthusiastic amateur winemaker, could keep a straight face when telling his students that his hobby was “gardening”. But I digress. Yeasts are what carry out the primary fermentation in wine by converting the sugar in grape juice into alcohol and carbon dioxide, the latter forming lots of bubbles. Fermentation is a “living” process and, as such, carries risks. Things can easily go wrong, preventing a wine achieving its full potential. When fermentation goes wrong it can be like having weeds popping up in your garden, and some might be nasty and just take over. Thus, winemakers commonly start fermentation by “sterilising” the grape juice and then adding a pure strain of manufactured yeast, one which is very efficient and reliable. This gives the chosen yeast a head start, virtually ensuring a quick and easy fermentation. Traditional winemaking, however, involves using the wild yeasts, which are present on the skins of all grapes. There’s always quite a mixture, so that primary fermentation is carried out by a number of different strains of yeast, some of which could be good and others less so.

As well as making alcohol, yeasts have their own individual aromas and flavours so a wine fermented by wild yeast can be more complex than that produced by a monoculture out of a packet. It has been shown yeast strains can differ from one viticultural area to another and may contribute to the expression of terroir in wines; that sense of place, the particular combination of aromas and flavours that allows experts to identify a wine’s region of origin when it’s presented it in a blind tasting.

But using natural yeasts is not as simple as it sounds, otherwise every turkey would go on the wild side! Firstly, wild yeasts are not as robust as manufactured ones and may die before completing fermentation, leaving a “stuck ferment” with excessive sweetness in the wine. The second problem is best exemplified by occasional patients I’ve met who have practised what might be called “natural hygiene”. They have had their own very individual bouquets, which I haven’t found addictive. Likewise, natural yeasts can be errant and produce the sort of aromas and flavours that winemakers would prefer to find in their competitors’ products. Thus, fermentation using wild yeasts can produce an extra layer of complexity and excitement, but a fair measure of care and skill are needed and it’s not for the faint hearted. If it goes wrong it can be a disaster and not something most winemakers risk doing with large volumes. That’s why the big blend wines of large companies can generally be relied on for consistency and quaffability but may be unexciting.

But when primary fermentation is finished, and the wine is dry or left with some degree of residual sweetness, the action isn’t always over. Some wines, such as chardonnay and most reds are put through secondary or malolactic fermentation. This isn’t due to yeasts, but to bacteria that convert the wine’s malic acid (it tastes like green apples) into the softer lactic acid (like sour cream or yoghurt). Most winemakers choose the safe option and add a pure culture of manufactured bacteria shortly after the primary fermentation is finished. This gives a quick clean result and stabilises the wine early in its life. Traditionalists use the wine’s indigenous malolactic bacteria, which are weaker and slower. Such secondary fermentation is usually delayed until the cellars warm in the spring/summer after harvest. Then, build-up of CO2 in the barrels may produce loud explosions with jets of wine as bungs are blown out, rather like great bottles of champagne being opened. This warns the winemakers that spontaneous secondary fermentation is underway, enabling them to take precautions so they don’t lose too much of their precious wine. Different strains of malolactic bacteria can also produce different aromas and flavours. Not surprisingly, natural malolactic fermentation has much the same pros and cons as wild primary fermentation.

Being traditionalists and favouring non-interventionist winemaking, we tend to favour letting nature take its course. There are, however, horses for courses and we add yeasts in certain situations, such as when fermenting riesling. Here, we want to retain purity and focus of fruit flavour and we don’t wish to have this obscured by anything else. This is also the reason this variety is not put through malolactic fermentation.

Wild or tamed? Natural diversity or focused singularity? Complexity or purity? Which is better? You should be the judge and even if you find it hard to decide, I’m sure you’ll enjoy sifting through the evidence, which you can always revisit at your leisure.


The Seasons

Growing conditions for the 2009 vintage were amongst our best and we have been delighted with the way our riesling has matured. The autumn rain of 2014 occurred after the pinot noir was harvested and that variety has produced fine wine. 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. Autumn rain in 2017 caused us to pick a little earlier than usual but the naturally small berries and good physiological ripeness has given the wines extra concentration, vibrancy and poise. Spring and summer for the 2018 vintage were excellent, and the resulting reds are fruity, supple and smooth.

Current Vintages / Releases

All bottles 750ml unless otherwise stated


750 ml and Magnum 1.5 lt
Like classic wine producing regions, such as Germany and Alsace, we take our rieslings seriously.  Pegasus Bay Riesling has been awarded super classic status by Michael Cooper in his book Classic Wines of New Zealand and this 2016 shows why.  It is made in the off-dry style.

96/100  Distinctive ... Fantastic flavour and impact ... Mineral core and pure expression.
Cameron Douglas, Master Sommelier, NZ

19/20 North Canterbury is one of the world's great Riesling regions and to call this wine "iconic" is wildly understated. 
Joelle Thomson, Drinksbiz Magazine NZ

5 stars 95/100  Irresistibly delicious ... sumptuous palate ... Mouth filling and lavish ... balanced and harmonious ... Terrific depth.
Sam Kim, NZ

PEGASUS BAY RIESLING 2009 - Special Aged Release

We specially put this wine away to show you how carefully aged riesling can develop.  We think it has matured perfectly and this is what the experts say:

5 stars 97/100 Totally seductive ... Outstanding depth and richness with an extremely long gracious finish.
Sam Kim, NZ

5 stars  Concentrated grapefruit and peach ... Spicy, honeyed, crisp acidity and musky perfume.
Michael Cooper, Winestate Magazine AUS

95/100  Best import.  A very exotic style.
Huon Hooke, Sydney Morning Herald AUS

95/100  Gorgeous complexity ... Exotic spice over crunchy backbone of lime and lemon
Tyson Stelzer. Wine Taste Weekly AUS


As mentioned under ‘The Seasons’, 2017 was a "small berry" year which is given this wine extra concentration and poise.  It was left on the vine until later in the season so it would develop some noble botrytis.  As it has only recently been released we have received only one review.

92/100  Super pure aromas of rosewater and lychees ... Classic ... Plush candied-pear and lychee flavours and a pillowy soft finish.
Nick Stock, USA


We have never released a straight sauvignon blanc wine - why?  Because we prefer one that has more texture, mouth feel and complexity than sauvignon blanc can produce by itself. By blending in semillon that was fermented in seasoned barriques we follow the old Bordeaux tradition, aiming to soften the sauvignon's pungency that can sometimes be over-the-top.  It takes longer to integrate and express itself than sinmple sauvignon blanc so we purposely delay its release.  We are particularly pleased with this wine as we feel we have achieved that balance while still clearly retaining the sauvignon varietal character.  As this wine has only been released recently, we have only a couple of reviews.

5 stars  Distinctive ... Loads of personality ... Fragrant and full-bodied with tropical fruit flavours.  Tightly structured, lasting finish.
Michael Cooper, New Zealand Listener Magazine NZ

94/100   Complex, zesty style ... Delivered in a rich powerfully concentrated frame.  So much fruit here.
Nick Stock, USA


Pegasus Bay Chardonnays come from old low yielding vines that tend to produce a very concentrated wine. In the tradition of great white Burgundy, the juice is fermented in French puncheons by the grapes’ natural micro-organisms and aged on lees for 12 months. This had produced a flinty, gun-smoke complexity which adds a savoury element. We have used only a minority of new barrels to minimize any oak character and emphasize the power of the fruit. 

This wine has been rated 95/100 or greater or 5 stars by at least 8 wine writers or publications, including Wine State Magazine (AU), Gourmet Traveller Magazine (AU), New Zealand Listener Magazine (NZ), (USA), (NZ), (NZ), (NZ), (NZ). 


Magnum 1.5 lt
This was made in the same way as the 2017 Pegasus Bay Chardonnay mentioned above.  

5 stars 19/20  Deep and densely packed core with a layer of mealy-nutty and flinty-mineral elements ... rich and luscious ... underlying power ... very long finish.
Raymond Chan, NZ

5 stars 95/100 Fresh and flavoursome ... Marmalade, apricot, peach, brioche and flinty mineral flavours ... Complex ... Great texture and very lengthy finish.
Bob Campbell MW. NZ

94/100  Struck match with intensity of fruit to cover.  Excellent but you have to enjoy a walk on the wild side.
Gary Walsh, AUS


We have a tiny plot of muscat à petits grains, a variety that is used in Alsace and the Rhône Valley.  It is used to make Muscat Beaumes de Venise wine in the latter region.  This 2016 muscat has the intensity of Muscat Beaumes de Venise but is made in a drier style.  This is one of our personal favourites.

5 stars  Alsace style ... Perfumed, mouth filling with vigorous peach, orange and spice flavours.
Michael Cooper, NZ

92/100  Aromatic, fruity and enticing with abundance of flowers, white fleshed fruits and exotic perfume ... Fleshy, juicy, ripe and spicy ... satin and coarse silk textures.
Cameron Douglas, Master Sommelier, NZ

92/100  The ultimate aromatic grape variety with pure floral flavours... Impressive.
Bob Campbell MW, NZ


750 ml and Magnum 1.5 lt
We use traditional Burgundian techniques to make our pinot noirs, including natural primary and secondary fermentations by indigenous micro-organisms. Primary fermentation is carried out in small vats that are gently plunged to avoid excessive extraction. This wine was then matured for 18 months in oak barriques from artisan Burgundian coopers. As it is just being released, we have only received a couple of reviews.

5 stars   Mouthfilling sweet-fruited, savoury and supple ... Concentrated ripe cherry, plum abnd spice.
Michael Cooper, NZ

94/100   Complex ... Succulent, vibrant, sturdy tannins, holding plenty of fresh blueberry and blue plum flavour.  So youthful and powerful, this is another great Pegasus Bay Pinot.
Nick Stock, USA


Jeroboam 3 lt
This wine was made in the same way as the 2017 Pinot Noir mentioned above.  It has been held back as large bottles take longer to mature.  We think it is drinking perfectly.

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

5 stars  96/100  Silken textured wine ... Extraordinarily lingering finish demonstrating real power.  Supremely elegant.
Bob Campbell MW,  NZ

4.5 stars  Mouth filing ... Concentrated, savoury and complex.
Winestate Magazine AU


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 24 months. It was clarified by racking it off its natural yeast deposit on several occasions prior to bottling.  As this is being released for the first time with this newsletter, we do not have any rfeviews but here are some cellar notes.

"Intoxicating patchwork of sweet and savoury aromas, licorice, chocolate,  black cherry vanilla and spice ... Rich and mouth filling with fine-grained silky tannins ... Will evolve gracefully for many years."


Magnum 1.5 lt
This wine was made in the same way as the 2018 Merlot Cabernet mentioned above.

5 stars 18.5+/20  Concentrated ... Blackberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants,... spice Refined ...vibrant
Raymond Chan, NZ

5 stars  Dark, weighty ... Complexity ... Concentrated ... Depth and harmony.
Michael Cooper, New Zealand Listener Magazine NZ

Outstanding.  Dark fruits dance on the palate, filling every corner of the mouth.  Sumptuous ... Amazingly long and delicious finish.  You just don't want to put the glass down.
Mark Henderson, Otago Daily Times NZ


We only have a small patch of malbec and it normally is blended with our Merlot Cabernet but sometimes it deserves to be its own wine and this one shows why.  We think it is the best we have made and you can be the judge.  We don't have any reviews because the wine is not for general release but here are some of our cellar notes.

Generous aromas and flavours of black plums, cherries, cranberries, violets, vanilla and roast coffee beans ... mouth filling with ripe tannins that give structure and draw out the length.


At Pegasus Bay, we are always exploring new wine styles and our "Vergence" series gives you the opportunity to see what  we are up to behind-the-scenes.  They show the potential of variety and winemaking techniques when you think outside the square.  This Vergence white is a blended wine bases on semillon that has been fermented and aged for two years in previously seasoned barrels.  Don't think Australian semillon here, this wine is its own beast.

5 stars 94/100  Impressively complex and fragrant ... Grapefruit, baked apple, golden peach and toasted nut characters with a hint of gun smoke ... Wonderfully weighted delivering rich texture ... Finishing long and attractively savoury.
Sam Kim, NZ

Very good - excellent.  Bold with intense grapefruit, oranges, mandarin dried herbs and nuts ... Complexity, finely balanced silky palate.
Mark Henderson, Otago Daily Times, NZ

4 stars 91/100  Flavoursome richly textured and quite complex.  More savoury than fruity.  I like it.
Bob Campbell MW,  NZ


This wine was made in the same way as the 2017 Vergence Red, with 100% whole bunch fermentation of pinot noir, meaning that all bunch stems were retained during fermentation.  This gives the wine more tannin and structure than normal.  like Vergence White Wine 2016, it received glowing reviews.  As this 2018 wine is being released for the first time on this newsletter, we have only one review.

5 stars  Generous, supple, plummy, spicy ... Deep and complex with refined tannins and long finish.
Michael Cooper, NZ

Reserve Wines

All bottles 750ml unless otherwise stated


Seven Masters of Wine and a Master Sommelier have named Bel Canto as one of five rieslings that are New Zealand's finest. Bel Canto is possible to make only in certain years. The grapes have almost the same ripeness as those used for Aria, but their juice is fermented to dryness. Because of the low crop and some noble botrytis, this has extra concentration. It is drinking beautifully now but will cellar well. 

5 stars 95/100  Gorgeous ... Richly fruited and fragrant, concentrated and generously flavoured ... Opulent and delectable.
Sam Kim, NZ

95/100  Lemon curd, white peach, apple, white rose and honeysuckle ... Core of minerality ... Complexity ... Delicious!
Cameron Douglas, Master Sommelier, NZ

5 stars  Powerful, weighty ... Concentrated peachy with hints of oranges and honey ...Lasting finish.  Should be long-lived.
Winestate Magazine, AU


Magnum 1.5 lt

5 stars 18.5/20  Dense heart packed with harmoniously integrated flavours.  Real body and persitence.
Raymond Chan, NZ

94/100  Enticing ... core of citrus flavours ... manuka honey, wildflowers and minerality, lovely ... long
Cameron Douglas, Master Sommelier, NZ

94/100  Rich and complex layers of flavour ... Grapefruit, marmalade, quince and honey.
Phil Parker, OnMas Magazine NZ

94/100  Powerful ... Structure is impeccably judged, reining in massive amounts of flavour perfectly.
Nick Stock, USA


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 and 2016 was definitely one of such (see under 'The Seasons'), in making this wine we hand-selected only bunches that had 30% or more of noble botrytis.

19/20  Seductlively succulent ... Ripe peach, mandarin and lemon ...  Full-bodied with powerful lingering finish.
Joelle Thomson, Drinksbiz Magazine NZ

95/100  Alluring bouguet ... mandarin, lime flower and apple blossom ... Intense ripe citrus and apple tart tartin.  Long and delicious.
Cameron Douglas, Master Sommelier, The Shout Magazine NZ

Excellent/Outstanding  Sumptuous, delightful complexity ... Bittersweet element and hints of almond provide lovely counterpoint ... Savoury elements create a lovely balance ... to ponder over.
Mark Henderson, Otago Daily Times NZ


375 ml
The seven MW's and one MS, mentioned above under Bel Canto 2017, include Encore as one of the five best NZ sweet wines.   This riesling is in the style of an Alsatian Selection des Grains Nobles or German Trockenbeerenauslese.  We can make it only in very special years and this is only the second vintage that 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. 

5 stars 19+/20  Concentrated core of ripe exotic tropical fruits... deliciously rich, nearly unctuous... lingering finish.
Raymond Chan, NZ

5 stars 96/100  Concentrated, luscious ... Bush honey, pineapple, ginger and ripe peach ... Very lengthy finish.
Bob Campbell MW, NZ

96/100  Rich with pristine apricots and marmalade notes balanced by bright acid ... Balance is superb and the finish lasts into next week.  Wow!
Joe Czerwinski, USA


375 ml
Finale is a barrel fermented wine in the style of Sauternes and is only made in special years and this is the first we have produced since 2014.  We selected only the most beautifully noble botrytic sauvignon blanc and semillon berries to make this wine.  The small amount of juice obtained was fermented by the grapes' natural yeasts in artisan French oak barriques and matured in these. 

96/100  Stunning ... Intense apricots, dried mango and peach.  Lusciously flavoured, super rich ... A great sweet wine.  World-class!
Nick Stock, USA

5 stars  Strong presence ... Full-bodied ... Rich ... Complexity, poise and vigour.
Michael Cooper, NZ

94/100 Intense ... Bush honey, grapefruit marmalade, spice, anise, peach, musk and exotic floral flavours ... Concentrated.
Bob Campbell MW, NZ


750 ml and Magnum 1.5 lt
This reserve wine was made in the same way as Pegasus Bay Chardonnay 2017 above but came from the barrels that we feel best represented our vineyard and the vintage.  Virtuoso is made only in special years and 2016 was definitely one of these (see under 'The Seasons' and 'Pegasus Bay 2016 Chardonnay').  This is a refined but powerful wine that is maturing nicely.

18.5/20  Toasty, dry, full-bodied ... Loads of weight and a lindering finish.  What more could you ask for in a top-notch Chardonnay?
Joelle Thomson, Drinksbiz Magazine NZ

5 stars 95/100  Intense, rich, weighty, with peach, biscuit, hazelnut, struck flint.  Deliciously drinkable now but should develop well.
Bob Campbell MW, NZ

Outstanding  White peach, citrus, struck match and smoke ... Powerful, wonderful drive and energy.  Density but impressive freshness and vibrancy.
Mark Henderson, Otago Daily Times NZ

5 stars  Gorgeous ... Frisky minerality ... Beautifully balanced acidity adds focus, brightness and purity to the long rich finish.  Chardonnay lovers need this.
Yvonne Lorkin,, NZ.


750 ml and Magnum 1.5 lt
We only produce Prima Donna Pinot Noir in exceptional years.  It was made in the same way as Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir 2016 mentioned above and Prima Donna 2015 below.  Prima Donna is a blend of the barrels that we feel best reflect the vintage and our unique terroir.  It mainly comes from our oldest, lowest cropping vines that are non-grafted. As this has only recently been released we have only a couple of reviews

96/100  Very impressive ... Complexity and richness ... Earthy, savoury elements intertwined rich dark red cherries ... Intense and plush.
Nick Stock, USA

5 stars  Vibrant cherry, plum and spice, mouth filling, concentrated savoury and supple building to a powerful finish.
Michael Cooper, NZ


Jeroboam 3 lt
97/100  Stunningly beautiful ... Complex with dark plum, vanilla, hazelnut and smoked game characters, sumptous, rich texture and awesome power as well as elegance.
Sam Kim, NZ

96/100 Rich, concentrated, quite savoury ... Plum, dark berry, violets and spice ... Very complex ... Worth cellaring.
Bob Campbell MW, NZ

96/100  Grand, majestic and complex ... Expansive, entrancing style.  Black and red cherries, plums, earthy notes, woody spices, with a wealth of pot-pourri and forest floor complexity ... Long succulent tannins.  Superb!  Good ageing potential.
Nick Stock, USA

19/20  Super concentrated flavours ... Delicious intensity and power.  Great Piont Noir.
Joelle Thomson, Drinksbiz Magazine NZ


As with Prima Donna, Maestro is prodced only in special years and this is the first we have produced since 2009.  As usual, this one is a blend of the barrels of merlot, cabernet and malbec that we feel best reflect the vintage and our terrior.  

5 stars 19/20 Bold, fulsome, succulent ... Blackberry and plum ... Plenty of tannin ... Elegant sustained finish.
Raymond Chan, NZ

18.5/20  Stunning wine now andfor the long haul.
Joelle Thomson, Drinksbiz Magazine NZ

5 stars  Vibrant blackcurrant, plum and spice ... delicious ... Powerful, dense, set for a very long life.
Michael Cooper, NZ

94/100 Inky red ... Impressive concentration and good weight ... Silken texture.  A seductive combination.
Bob Campbell MW, NZ

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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