New old wines… Wines of this week

It’s always a great experience tasting wine with Mat Donaldson, one of New Zealand’s most talented winemakers and, as fellow wine writer Bob Campbell MW has described him, one of the most thoughtful. This comes across in all the wines he makes at the family owned Pegasus Bay Winery, but this week’s top drops are aged Pinot Noirs that have been re-released this year as part of an intentional cellar programme that the family began in 2006.

These wines show that New Zealand has many strong strings to its Pinot bow, even if the best known Pinots come from Central Otago. This pair are made from the Waipara Valley in the heart of North Canterbury. They are made with grapes grown on vines with an average age of 25 to 30 years, many of which remain ungrafted on their own roots. Winemaking is a risky business at the best of times but ungrafted vines? Surely that’s just asking for trouble? Aside from leaving vines open to the risk of phylloxera (an aphid that destroys grapevines by gnawing into their roots), it can also mean that grapevines have to struggle against other predators, which grafting could prevent. On the other hand, ungrafted vines are often highly prized because they can be seen as expressing their flavours without an intermediary of a different rootstock. I won’t delve any further down that rabbit hole this week. Suffice to say, this pair of 10 year old Pinots from North Canterbury are both drinking insanely well right now but clearly have more time up their sleeves too.

Thanks again to the Donaldson family for sending their great wines in for rating and review. The quality, style and deliciousness of the range are exceptional for their consistency.

Wines of the week

2010 Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir Aged Release $52
Dark, smooth and full bodied, this is North Canterbury Pinot Noir at its best. The 2010 vintage was warm, sunny and long, providing great quality grapes and wines with structure and complexity to last for the long haul, in the best possible way. A must try for lovers of great Pinot Noir.

2010 Pegasus Bay Prima Donna Pinot Noir $120
Pegasus Bay Winery started its aged release programme in 2006, setting aside a few cases of their key wines, Riesling and Pinot Noir, with the intention of releasing them 10 years later. This gives wine lovers an easy way to see what great old wines taste like when they have been cellared in ideal conditions such as the cool, dark, temperate stable cellars at Pegasus Bay. This wine is made from one of the warmest vintages in North Canterbury which had nearly four months of constant sunshine. It was an impressive wine at the time of its first release about eight years ago but now it’s all about complex earthy, mushroom and truffle flavours. Deliciously good. 

Prices are approximate RRP and may vary. 

Find out more and buy the wines here.

Winetopia on in Wellington, 9 to 10 October

Social distancing may have made vintage 2020 one of the most memorable on record but it is also showing itself as one of the best vintages of the past four years, something that 55 wineries will show in the glass this coming weekend at Winetopia in Wellington on 9 and 10 October and then again in Auckland on 30 and 31 October.
The event was originally scheduled to take place in July but was postponed due to Covid-19 and organisers have been on tenterhooks, wondering if it would proceed, due to lockdown restrictions.
“While it has been a complicated year for events, our winery partners across the country have shown huge enthusiasm for sharing their latest wines at Winetopia and we can see that the public’s appetite is strong too. This eagerness has really pushed us forward as organisers and we’ve used the extra time to develop new components of the event like the new Wine Blind feature, Golden Coins and pop-up restaurants in each city,” says event director Rob Eliott.
In terms of vintage 2020, Stephan Walliser of Fromm in Marlborough says “We thought that 2019 was a great year but 2020 is even better. Plus with no visitors to the winery we concentrated on nothing but wine making and I believe the wines will be fantastic.”
Visitors to Winetopia this year will be able to purchase samples of some of the wines in the country with the new specially created Golden Coins.
There are over 30 talks and tutored tastings, which include “Why you should drink Pinot Noir… from Marlborough” by yours truly and other events, such as Comeback Kid – Why Chardonnay, the hot 90’s grape is making a comeback.

  • Tickets to Winetopia 2020 start at $45 and include $10 worth of tasting tokens, a Spiegelau glass, talks, entertainment and live music.
  • Buy tickets here

Wineries taking part in this year’s Winetopia are… Abel Methode Cider, Akarua, Astrolabe, Ataahua, Bald Hills, Big Sky Wines, Black Estate, Carrick, Church Rd Wines, Clearview Estate, Clos Marguerite, Craggy Range, Dancing Petrel, Dancing Petrel, Decibel Wines, Deep Down Wines, Elephant Hill, Escarpment, Flaxmore Vineyards, Forrest Estate, Framingham, Fromm, Gibbston Valley Estate, Greystone Wines, Greywacke, Jackson Estate, JK14, Judge Rock, Junction Wines, Karikari Estate, Lone Goat, Longview Estate, Man o War, Matavino, Moana Park Winery, Mount Michael, Mt Rosa, Nautilus, No 1 Family Estate, Ohau, , Osawa Wines, Palliser, Pask, Pegasus Bay, Pisa Range Estate, Porphets Rock, Porters Pinot, Quartz Reef, Rannach Vineyards, Rapaura Springs, Rock Ferry, Rockburn Wines, Smith & Sheth, Spade Oak, Staete Landt, Summerhouse, Takatu Vineyard, Te Mata Estate, The Elder Pinot, The Landing, The Winemakers Wife, Tony Bish Wines, Tupari Wines, TW Wines, Two Rivers, Unison, Villa Maria, Waitiri Creek, Westbrook Winery, Yealands.

 Bob Campbell MW, Stephen Wong MW, Joelle Thomson, Amber Smith, Caitlin Perlman, Antonia Prebble, Emma Wollum, Mary-Therese Blair, Ben Hurley, Laughton Kora, Suzy Cato, Hayley Sproull, Virginie Le Brun, Angie Atkinson, Jeremy Ellis, Candice Chow, Fergus Aitken.

New Cloudy Bay Sauvignon released

It’s no secret that 2020 was an interesting (insert whichever adjective springs to mind first) vintage. As if Mother Nature doesn’t throw enough challenges at winemakers, Covid-19 came along right on cue as most winemakers were either about to start picking their grapes or were already in the middle of it. The silver lining this year was a little benevolence on the part of Mother Nature, who provided dry weather throughout the most crucial part of the grape growing season; from Christmas onwards. This meant relatively little disease pressure and optimum ripening conditions with plentiful sunshine and little rain. It’s enough to make winemakers sleep well at night.

The harvest for this year’s Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc began on 15 March and finished on 2 April; a day after April Fool’s and a few days after full lockdown began in New Zealand. The free run juice of Cloudy Bay’s Sauvignon Blanc grapes was cold settled before racking and inoculation with selected yeasts. The wine was then fermented in stainless steel with approximately four per cent in a combination of older French oak barriques and large oak vats at warmer temperatures. All up, 91 different portions of Sauvignon were blended and the finished wine comes in at 13.2% ABV with 2.4 grams of residual sugar.
As always, this is an impressive wine with complexity from time on lees in older oak, albeit less older oak than in previous vintages. It is an impressive wine and it will be interesting to see what Cloudy Bay’s new winemaker, Nikolai St-George, comes up with next year.

Here is my review

2020 Cloudy Bay Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc
Marlborough has the highest percentage of any wine region on Earth  dedicated to Sauvignon Blanc with over 70% of its vineyards dominated by the vibrant personality of this white grape. This latest vintage will be remember for many reasons, including the challenges of the global pandemic during harvest in New Zealand. Fortunately, this barely impacted on Cloudy Bay because a dry, warm, sunny growing season led to reliable picking dates and most grapes were harvested before lockdown. The result is a bright, fresh and fruity dry Sauvignon with just over 2 grams per litre of residual sugar. A little (4%) barrel ferment adds body and complexity.
This is a very good quality wine from a very good, if tricky, vintage.