Like the champions of the just completed Australian Open, this Week's Wine of the Week is from a producer who has many challengers but despite the onslaught still remains at the top. The discipline in this case is Riesling and the producer is Pegasus Bay in the Waipara wine region in the South Island. When it comes to New Zealand wineries, the Pegasus Bay Rieslings simply dazzle across all the styles they make them in.
Recently the wine they call their 'classic' Riesling and simply labelled Pegasus Bay Riesling 2008, outclassed the competition. Of all the wines in the tasting that day it was the one I most wanted to drink when the tasting was finished and it was co-runner-up Riesling in my Wines of the Year last year. The 'classic' is a wine that is off dry in style with soft acidity balancing the gentle sweetens.
Pegasus Bay 'Aria' Riesling ($36.95) was the next to be added to the range. This is a late picked style, whereas the next addition to the family was the sweet, luscious, Pegasus Bay 'Encore' Riesling ($36.95 / 375ml bottle), a late harvest style made from fully raisined grapes that had 'noble rot' or botrytis.
Then in 2006 a Dry Riesling was added. Named Pegasus Bay 'Dry' Riesling, it wore the blue colours of the 'classic' style.
This week's Wine of the Wine of the Week is the next release, now upgraded to the gold colours of the 'Aria' and the 'Encore' and given the name 'Bel Canto', which means 'beautiful singing' and continues the operatic names of the gold coloured labels.
Pegasus Bay 'Bel Canto' Dry Riesling 2008 ($31.95) is a lustrous light yellow gold colour. It tempts with citrus and honeysuckle aromas and lime and melon jam. Vibrant and spicy to the taste, punchy in fact, with it colour it looks older but tastes young and fresh. I love so much about this wine - the focussed backbone of Riesling acidity, the honeyed earthiness, the ripe stonefruit richness, the power, the length, the balance, the hint of botrytis and interesting savouriness - almost mealy. Mouthfilling, long and toasty with an orange marmalade finish and a great tug of underlying acidity to balance the richness. I rated it high gold standard. 14% alc.
The notes say this is the sister to 'Aria', made from late harvested fruit with some botrytis but it's made in a completely different style. It as fermented in barrel by the action of indigenous yeasts and the true to label, the finish is dry. The alcohol is also a surprise for Riesling, clocking in at the 14% alcohol by volume level.
We tried this wine over several nights and the screwcap ensured the wine did not deteriorate. While it was an absolute hit with Kaffir lime and chilli sauce infused lightly spiced pork rissoles, it was also very good with a tamarind sauce that was served on Thai grilled snapper at as local restaurant last night.
Pegasus Bay 'Bel Canto' Dry Riesling 2008 is a beautful wine and should be lightly chilled for utmost enjoyment. Be prepared for something a little left field - yes it does have botrytis but it's only a hint and in my opinion adds to the overall deliciousness.
© Sue Courtney
1 Feb 2010