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Wine of the Week for week ending 2 November 2003
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Pegasus Bay Aria Riesling 2002
Waipara, New Zealand

Looking back through my archives I find it is three years since I've featured Pegasus Bay Aria Riesling as a 'Wine of the Week'. I wonder why? It always rates very highly - it's absolutely one of my favourite Rieslings year in, year out and one that I always buy.

This week I've been drinking two vintages of Aria, the new release 2002 and the lower alcohol 2001, wines so sweet and refreshing in the early evening after the glorious Sunday that the weather gods bestowed on us this Labour Weekend.

Pegasus Bay Aria Riesling 2001 was one of my Wines of the Year last year. It didn't feature as a Wine of the Week so must have been tasted in a week of superlative wines. It's just 8.5% alcohol by volume and as I re-acquaint myself with its beautifully refreshing flavours I know it absolutely deserved to be amongst the best of the year.

Pegasus Bay Aria Riesling 2002 is a little sweeter, perhaps the sweetest Aria to date. It's pale citrine with just the lightest of viscosity slowing the swirl in the glass and smells of a spring garden with honeysuckle flowers, a hint of citrus blossom and a distant sweet scent of Jasmine, the floral scents intermingled with that of bees at work and tropical fruits. Taste the wine and experience the initial sweet rush that the petillant texture brings, the burst of invisible bubbles on the tongue, the fizzy hit of ginger and the zesty lift of citrus - a burst of freshness and flavour that lifts any tired palate out of the doldrums. The texture is richer than the 2001, more viscous, more runny honey, but the bright acid backbone keeps this wine pure, fresh, and clean. Tropical fruit flavours interweave with orange honey and candied citrus flavours linger, adding a touch of bittersweet to chase any cloying sugar away.

Before the wine was retrieved from the fridge, Neil had opened a ginger beer to quench his thirst. There is 5.0% alcohol in the carbonated, sugar added, alcoholic soft drink. Pegasus Bay Aria Riesling 2002 has 9% alcohol and all the sugar is natural grape sugar. It's not as sweet as the concocted ginger beer - or maybe it is, it is just that the sweetness is balanced to perfection. I'd rather sip on a chilled Aria than quaff the ginger beer, given the choice.

The bright acid backbone of the Aria makes it perfect for a hot day quencher. "The cooler the better, it pulls back the lusciousness and personifies the acidity to give a clean finish", says winemaker Lynette Hudson.

There's enough viscosity to make it serious enough for an aperitif, a mid-course sorbet imitator or an after-dinner palate refresher perhaps with a light dessert. In fact, you can drink it any time.

Is the 2002 Pegasus Bay Aria Riesling the best yet? Taste it and make up your own mind. It will cost you about $31.95.

The notes accompanying the wine say that 2002 was similar to 2001 in many respects. The summer was not overly hot, leading to the development of true cool climate riesling aromas and flavours with good levels of acidity. The growing season was extended by the most perfect lingering autumn with warm, dry, calm days. The grapes for Aria were harvested in stages with separate passes through the vineyard to select only those that were fully ripened, shrivelled and in perfect condition, concluding at winter solstice in June.

Truly an incredible wine. Find out more from for more information.

© Sue Courtney
26 October 2003

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