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 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. They are located on the “Glasnevin Gravels” where greywacke stones, silt and loam have been washed down from the mountains over the millennia. The soil is 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.
Settled weather over flowering provided a healthy fruit set, which was then thinned back to desired levels. The ensuing summer was dry with very little rain, resulting in perfectly ripened small berries full of intense flavour and concentration. Thankfully, our harvest was able to proceed during the C-19 lockdown, and an unbroken autumn full of warm days meant each variety was picked at its optimum ripeness.
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. This wine is part of our reserve series, which we only make in exceptional years that are favourable for the development of noble botrytis. After an extended hang time, the bunches were hand selected with a portion of botrytis and a ripeness of approximately 25.5 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 dryness 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. An enticing array of aromas swell from the glass, orange zest, quince, and melon, supported by beeswax, blossom, sweet spices and a touch of flint. The palate is full bodied and richly textured, with a pleasing mouthfeel and ripe phenolics that add structure and length. While concentrated, the wine still possesses a fresh and lively tension, it’s refreshing acidity delivering a long harmonious finish.