THE FAMILY

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. It is a true family business, with all four of their sons and two spouses involved, managing various aspects.

THE VINEYARD AND VINES

The vineyard is located within the Waipara Valley of North Canterbury, on free draining, north facing 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 mesoclimate. 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.

THE SEASON

Cooler than average spring temperatures led to a smaller set, however this resulted in excellent fruit concentration. A warm summer and long lingering autumn then followed, allowing this smaller crop to reach optimum ripeness.

HARVEST AND WINEMAKING

Prima Donna is part of our reserve series which we only make in exceptional years, provided it does not compromise the quality of our estate wines. It is a selection from the best barrels, coming from some of the oldest plantings in the vineyard. As with all our Pinot’s, we use traditional Burgundian winemaking methods. We picked the various blocks at different stages, depending on their maturity, aiming for a range of red and dark fruit flavours. Approxinately one third of the grapes were put at the bottom of the fermentation vats as whole bunches, with the balance being destemmed on top, retaining as many whole berries as possible. The vats were kept cool over the next few days to help extract the soft, silky tannins from the pinot noir skins. After approx a week, the must started to ferment naturally. During fermentation the floating cap of grape skins was gently plunged twice daily. When the fermentation finished, the grape remnants were left to steep in the wine for up to a week to help extract a different range of tannins that add structure and depth. The exact duration of this period was determined by daily tasting. Subsequently the wine was gently pressed off and put into oak barriques (30% new) from selected artisan Burgundian coopers. In the summer after harvest, when the weather warmed, the wine underwent a natural malo-lactic (secondary) fermentation. After maturing for 18 months, a selection from the best barriques (representing the many different plots & clones of pinot) was chosen and carefully blended, to produce the most complex and balanced wine possible.

THE WINE

It is deep ruby in colour. The nose is packed with vibrant red fruit suggesting strawberry, raspberry and pomegranate. Beneath this is a savoury underlay, evoking impressions of roast game, spicy pepper and black olive tapanade. The palate is mouthfilling and rich, balanced with velvety tannins and a seam of refreshing acidity that helps draw out the wine’s lingering finish. While ready to drink on release it can be expected to cellar well and evolve gracefully for many years.

Download Tasting Notes


2013

96/100
The refinement and brilliance of the fruit on offer here really sets this wine apart from the regular Pegasus Bay pinot noir. Deliciously rich dark cherry aromas and flavors are presented amid silky, refined and long-form tannins. A great wine, in every respect.
- Nick Stock, jamessuckling.com, USA
"Prima Donna Pinot Noir is an elite barrel selection and in 2013 it is one of the greatest wines I have ever seen from this country. ….”
- Matthew Dukes, UK
92/100
“ …. Deep, plush, rather powerful Pinot Noir with rich, ripe tannins and excellent length. 
- Steve Tanzer, internationalwinecellar.com, USA
91/100
” …. mouth-filling red berry flavours supported by finely grained tannins and plenty of freshness, finishing long and earthy.
- Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW, eRobertParker.com, USA

2012

Rated one of the best Pinot Noirs in the world (outside of Burgundy)
- Decanter magazine, UK

97/100
“…immense purity and is terrifically crunchy. There are red cherries at the core, dark spices, earth and fine chocolate at the edge. It's very long and direct. Will age magnificently”
- Nick Stock, jamessuckling.com, USA

96/100
….rich and complex wine with impressive weight and intensity….Powerful wine with obvious cellaring potential”.
- Bob Campbell MW, NZ

2011

97/100
Pegasus Bay’s winemaking team uses traditional Burgundian methods, including small vat fermentation and ageing the wine in French oak barriques for 18 months. Made “in small quantities in the best vintages from the oldest vines”, this flagship pinot noir is a powerful combination of intense plum, cherry and berry flavours with haunting floral notes, Oriental spices and an intriguing savoury, forest floor, rustic character. A delicious pinot with ageing potential.
- Bob Campbell MW, Gourmet Traveller Wine, AUS
96/100
A composed, svelte and powerful pinot with terrific focus and a real sense of freshness. The complexity has been cleverly engineered into place and is all spicy, brambly and foresty. The palate has sheets of tannin tilted upright, is very linear, focused and composed, long and uncompromising, yet smooth and polished. A class act.
- Nick Stock, jamessuckling.com, USA
93/100
“… opens to reveal complex scents of raspberry, cola, musky spices and flowers. Sappy and fresh, with terrific depth and intensity to the lightly saline flavors of raspberry, bitter cherry and spices. This very firmly built wine finishes with a youthfully bitter quality and solid tannic spine for aging. Give it a double decanting if you plan to broach a bottle any time soon--or, better yet, cellar it for five years….”
- Steve Tanzer, internationalwinecellar.com, USA

2010

93+/100
“Medium-bodied, the palate is led by a solid structure of medium to firm grainy tannins and crisp acid supporting the muscular red berry and savoury flesh, finishing long.”
- Lisa Perrotti Brown MW, robertparker.com, USA
93+/100
'Top Wine of NZ tasting (100's tasted)' “…downright Chambolle-like. Sweet and densely packed but youthfully tight, with impressive inner-mouth energy giving the intense red berry and mineral flavours terrific penetration. The superb rising finish saturates the palate with mineral-driven fruit. This is painfully backward today and may yet merit an even higher score with a few years in bottle.”
- Steve Tanzer, internationalwinecellar.com, USA
94/100
This is crazy pure with strawberry, flowers, raspberries and licorice. Full and very dense with fabulous tannins and length. Chewy yet polished. Drink or hold.”
- James Suckling, USA
“... should flourish for a decade. Deep and youthful in colour, it is powerful and finely fragrant, with dense cherry, plum and slight liquorice flavours, deliciously rich and well-rounded.
- Michael Cooper, Buyers Guide 2013, 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/458/2019 Exp:16/03/2022