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.
THE VINEYARD AND VINES
The vineyard is located within the Waipara Valley of North Canterbury, on free draining, north facing terraces. 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.
Variable conditions over flowering resulted in a moderate fruit set. The subsequent warm summer then allowed the grapes to ripen beautifully. Late season conditions were favourable for the development of noble botrytis, essential for the production of this wine style.
THE HARVEST AND WINEMAKING
With its large diurnal range and long lingering autumns, North Canterbury is an ideal playground for Riesling, and Bel Canto is a perfect example of this. After an extended hang time, the grapes were picked with a portion of noble botrytis and a ripeness of around 25 Brix. The free run juice was then fermented slowly at cool temperatures to help the wine retain its vibrant fruit characters and varietal purity. Alcoholic fermentation was left to continue until a residual sugar level of around 6 g/l was achieved. At all stages, the wine was handled very carefully to help retain a little of its natural carbon dioxide. This has resulted in a small amount of spritzig, which adds extra liveliness to the wine and accentuates its freshness.
Upon release it is lemon-straw in colour. The bouquet is an enticing medley of citrus and stone fruit, interspersed with floral notes of elderflower and honeysuckle. Layered beneath there are also hints of ginger, honey and spice. The long hang time and influence of botrytis has resulted in a wine that is rich and full bodied, with ripe phenolics that add structure and length. It is concentrated yet delicate, with invigorating acidity and a satisfyingly dry finish.