We've made a new style of Riesling," said Matthew Donaldson of Pegasus Bay Wines, when we were talking on the phone the other day.
Pegasus Bay Wines, in the Waipara Valley region just north of Christchurch, is one of New Zealand's hallowed Riesling producers and certainly one of my favourites.
They just seem to have that 'magic touch' and the wine labelled Pegasus Bay Riesling, the 'standard' riesling, is a classic. In fact that's what they refer to it now - the 'classic'.
It always has some residual sweetness, but just how much, varies from year to year and depends on just how much of the grape's naturally high acid levels there are in the season's grapes.
One of Pegasus Bay's old newsletters explained that it depends on the exact balance (sugar / acidity) of the wine and how they think it will age.
They said that the 'perceived' level of sweetness is higher when the wine is young and with cellaring it 'dries out'. They try to choose a level which they think will be perfect in the mature wine.
As well as the 'classic', there is the Pegasus Bay 'Aria' Riesling, a late picked style, and the super sweet 'Encore' Riesling made from shrivelled, honey-rich, botrytised grapes.
"It's a dry Riesling," said Matthew about the new wine.
"Really," I exclaimed with eyebrows raised.
I was surprised because they do the off-dry style so well.
Mathew explained that he and Lynnette (his lovely wife) had fallen in love with the richer, weightier, dry German rieslings, the wines known as Grosses Gewachs or Erste Gewachs. These are new quality designations introduced to the German wine classification system in 2001 and are wines that must be dry. Having been sanctioned by the Verband Deutscher Prädikats- und Qualitätsweingüter e.V. (VDP) and adopted by some of the finest vineyards, this style of riesling is becoming the new 'cult' and some of them fetch magnificently high prices. They are also extremely difficult to find in New Zealand so with the source components (i.e. a vineyard full of riesling grapes) at hand, Matthew and Lynnette decided to make a Pegasus Bay riesling modelled on the Grosses Gewachs style.
Pegasus Bay WaiparaValley Dry Riesling 2007 is an extraordinary wine. There's a bright golden hue to the colour, there are grapefruit and spiced orange peel scents on those nose and the rich, toasty, concentrated and vibrant mouthfilling flavour is full of Pegasus Bay's signature 'grapefruit'.
There's a slight viscosity to the texture and a perceived sweetness, which could come from a touch of botrytis, but it's definitely not a sweet wine nor is it bracing or mouthpuckeringly dry. It's just perfectly balanced with an earthy richness teasing that fresh citrus acidity and after the wine has been swallowed, the flavours linger in the mouth for an amazingly long time. It's a very exciting style.
A drinking wine, a thinking wine, and perfect with seafood in the food taste test. A fillet of skinless gurnard pan-fried in a little butter with a little lemon basil, or a white bait omelet. Quite good with my version of 'devilled eggs' too.
The wine has 14% alcohol by volume stated on the label although it doesn't taste like it has so much alcohol, but it must be adding to the richness, the weightiness and the 'perceived' sweetness. It's just released and is available from the winery's cellar door for $26.95 a 750ml bottle, and has a screwcap closure.
Also tasted, the yet to be released Pegasus Bay Riesling 2007 (11% alc). Fans of this wine, get in quick for its anticipated release in March. In my notes I summed this up as 'perfect'. I think it is the best 'classic' that Pegasus Bay has made yet and it is already on my shortlist for the Riesling of the 2008 year.
The back label of the Pegasus Bay Dry Riesling suggests it should be enjoyed over the next three years. It says the Pegasus Bay 'classic' is the keeper.
Notes were not on the Pegasus Bay website when this was written, but they are sure to be there soon. Bookmark it - www.pegasusbay.com.
© Sue Courtney
21 Jan 2008