Joelle Thomson

Wine writer and award winning wine author

What I am drinking, reading and savouring each week


Monday morning wine with Ed Donaldson

Getting to know the people behind the wines and learning about their journeys can be as interesting as New Zealand’s best wines taste, which was the inspiration for this interview. It’s the third in a new series on this website, delving into the people behind the scenes.
The following is a refreshing take on wine from the multi talented Ed Donaldson, whose taste in music and food is as legendary as his palate.
Ed is the marketing manager and third eldest of four sons of the Donaldson family, which own Pegasus Bay winery in North Canterbury. Ed is also a trained chef with a degree in cooking from Christchurch Polytechnic, which saw him employed as both chef and marketing manager in the early days of the family winery. He still loves cooking to unwind, finding the ritual of it to be relaxing but these days his job is marketing and sales manager for the winery.
This tends to involve travel, which has been curtailed due to Covid restrictions, so what better time to talk about his life in wine?
First up, a wine for the first half of the week in high alert level lockdown in New Zealand and a significant portion of the world.

The interview follows below, so feel free to skip down for a great read.

2020 Pegasus Bay Bel Canto Riesling RRP $39.99

I’ve always thought of Pegasus Bay’s dry Riesling as a concentrated version of orange zest on speed, thanks to its incredible depth of flavour and impressively lingering finish, which lures you in for another sip or three. It’s a little drier than in recent years in this new 2020 edition, which has about 4 grams of residual sugar compared to about one gram higher, but numbers aside, it’s the wine which impresses. Consistently a stellar Riesling with such purity, complexity, delicacy and power. It’s a wine for the long haul but like all Bel Cantos, it’s a stunner now.
Best enjoyed in a large glass, lightly chilled, with great music and people. 

The 2020 Pegasus Bay Bel Canto Riesling will be released in the next month.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Special connections, which has resulted in meaningful relationships with a wide range of people, family included. These friendships are one of the most important things in life for me. I also feel a sense of accomplishment for how our brand has evolved into over the years. I’m proud to be part of it.

What is your current state of mind?

Quite changeable at the moment but mostly fairly upbeat and appreciative for what I have.

What is your favourite part of being a winemaker?

Not being a winemaker, it’s tough to answer. My least favourite part is the cleaning. I find it fascinating to work on blends and really enjoy the process.

Do you have a most treasured wine?

I’ve built up a pretty decent cellar over the years but I’m not attached to any particular bottle. I have a set of the three Guigal La La’s from 2010 which I do find my mind wandering to.

Where is your favourite wine region?

Probably Piedmont but Burgundy and the Mosel are close contenders, as is Tuscany. Did I mention the Rhone?

When and where are you at your happiest?

Often when lost in music, either having a boogie to quality tunes with friends or discovering new music in my own company.

On the flip side nature brings me a lot of joy. I love being outdoors with good company, fishing rod optional, cold beer essential.

What do you most dislike in wine?

Fads. I find it strange when people buy into a certain trend in wine because they think it’s cool or fashionable while at the same time largely overlooking the wine itself.

Then again, what anyone else enjoys drinking is cool by me, so what do I care? Like so many things, it’s totally personal.

What is your greatest fear?

Failure. This holds me back from giving it a go sometimes. I’m working to get over this.

What is your greatest extravagance?

Hmmm, there are a few, self confessed lush ‘n all. Probably eating out. In my profession it’s important to do this for many reasons but it still feels extravagant, at times. Especially when I think about how many people struggle to put a basic meal on the table.

What is your greatest regret?

Starting smoking cigarettes as a teenager and not buying more 2016 Barolos.

What talent would you most like to have?

To be more mechanically minded.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

I thankfully don’t find myself miserable too often,  but when  I think too much about the state of the world and what the future might mean for my children I find my mind going to a dark place that’s probably not very useful or constructive. So then I think of my wine cellar.

What is the trait that you most deplore in yourself?

Second guessing myself at times, which is probably closely linked to the earlier question about my greatest fear.

What do you most value in your friends?

Open mindedness and depth of character. I am drawn to people who see the world through a wide lens.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

We got it in before the rain.

What is your favourite meal?

So many but if I had to choose one it’d be yum cha.

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing what do you think it would be?

Definitely one of my cats. They roam as far and wide as they feel like, sleep/chill whenever they want, get feed on cue, endless rubs. Nothing to stress about.