The Donaldson Family have been seriously involved in viticulture and winemaking for over 40 years. Founder Ivan Donaldson planted the first Canterbury vineyard in 1976 and went on to establish Pegasus Bay in 1986 with his wife Christine. All four of their sons are currently involved in managing various aspects of the business.
The vineyard is located within the Waipara Valley of North Canterbury, on free draining terraces carved out of New Zealand’s Southern Alps by an ice-age glacier. It benefits from being in the lee of the Teviotdale Range, giving maximum protection from the Pacific’s easterly breezes and thus creating a unique microclimate. The vines are over 30 years old, with a large proportion planted on their own roots. The soil is free draining and of low fertility, resulting in naturally reduced vine vigour. This produces low yields of optimally ripened, high quality, flavourful grapes, which fully express the qualities of this unique terroir. The vineyard has warm days, but the nights are amongst the coolest in the Waipara Valley, drawing out the ripening period of the grapes, while still retaining good natural acidity.
Warm and settled weather during flowering led to a very large initial set. Fruit thinning was then undertaken to bring the crop back to the desired level. A perfect summer, followed by a warm dry autumn enabled the subsequent grapes to be harvested with excellent flavour development and physiological ripeness.
Fortissimo is a new wine produced for the first time in 2016, only in very small volume. It was made using Muscat grapes, in a similar style to the famous fortified Beaumes de Vinise of France. The above mentioned long dry autumn meant the fruit could be left to hang on the vines until the very end of the season, allowing maximum concentration. Fermentation was undertaken in stainless steel tanks and then stopped using the addition of a neutral spirit, to ensure the pure Muscat flavours have not been compromised. Winemaking was kept to a minimum to allow the vineyard, vintage and variety to be fully expressed.
There are a tantalising array of aromas and flavours here. Underpinning the wine are tropical fruits such as lychee and quince, as well as spice and floral notes. On the nose there are also impressions of citrus zest and curd. Hints of Turkish delight and musk are similarly present. The colour is bright and lemon in complexion. The very ripe late harvest fruit gives the wine an opulent and rich feeling in the mouth, while the added spirit ensures the sweetness remains well balanced.
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