◆How did Pegasus Bay get started?Edward―It started when my Mum gave Dad, who was her boyfriend at the time, a book simply entitled ‘Wine’ by Hugh Johnston. He read it and became fascinated with the concept of wine. While he was on sabbatical and based in London in 1975 he travelled around wine regions in Europe, and came back to New Zealand thinking the climate in some of theareas growing varieties he had become passionate about wasn’t that different, and he’d like to ‘give winemaking a go.’ He got a group of friends together, and they bought a one-acre block of land in what is now the suburb of Christchurch called Hals well. ‘Mountain View’ was on a hill, they didn’t really know what they were doing, and planted a lot of hybrids as well as classic varieties.He was the winemaker for the group, making it in the garage at home, and taught himself how to make wine from books ‒ it was pretty average to say the least. The first time he made a Pinot Noir he was happy with was about 1984, 10years after planting the vineyard. By 1985 he decided there was potential in growing grapes in Canterbury, and wanted to go out on his own and do something on a larger scale. He looked all over Canterbury for a site that was a little warmer than the Canterbury Plains which are exposed to cold easterly winds off the ocean, and really struggle to ripen fruit in the cooler vintages.Edward (middle) with staff members◆Establishing Pegasus Bay in WaiparaThere were a couple of other producers who had planted in North Canterbury, in the Waipara Valley which is sheltered from the Pacific Ocean by the Teviot dale Range. Dad chose a site up against the tallest part of the range to get maximum shelter. He also wanted free-draining soil and planted on three terraces a little bit up and back from the Waipara River, which does a curve around the vineyard ̶ so two sides of the vineyard have a river boundary. We planted on the Glasnevin gravels, a geological strip about 5 kilometers across and probably 10km long washed down the rivers from the Southern Alps over hundreds of thousands of years, leaving smooth greywacke stones, a little windblown loess over the top of it and some silt and loam. These free-draining stony soils also help reflect heat up into the canopy in daytime.Overall, North Canterbury is about 2 degrees warmer on average ‒ it is a warm pocket in a cool climate region. We get long dry autumns, with some of the longest hang time in New Zealand, and generally pick two weeks after Central Otago and a week after Marlborough. It is very dry, in a rain shadow of the Main Divide, so there is not a lot of disease pressure.I was 10 years old when we planted the original vineyards in 1985. All four of us boys spent every weekend and holiday for about two years worked on planting, and we joked we were basically child slave labour. Dad was still working as a neurologist full-time at the hospital, lectured at the university on top of that, and then a had a private practice in the evenings Monday to Friday. He was also judging wine show sand writing wine columns in the local paper. He was out there every weekend, but Mum was hugely instrumental and hands-on in setting up the vineyards and oversaw a lot of the construction on the winery building.Views of vineyards in Pegasus Bay through different seasons◆The original plantings and vineyard expansion―― By the time Dad got to Waipara he had sorted out what he wanted to do. At Mountain View he had experimented with a lot of hybrids, and varietals like Muller-Thurgau as well as the classics. We planted 50 acres in 1985-86, roughly one-third Pinot Noir, one-third Riesling, and one-third the rest. Those vines are all ungrafted and 35 years old now. Then we expanded the vineyards about 25 years ago when new clones of grafted Pinot Noir were available, Dijon clones, Clone 5 and the Abel Clone, so we have 10 Pinot clones in the vineyard now, and approximately120 acres.Pegasus Bay wine is all from our home vineyard. We make our Estate range every year, aiming for consistent quality. We only make reserve wines like the Prima Donna or the Maestro if we feel we are not going to compromise the Estate wines by making them. The reserve wines, all bearing operatic names reflecting Mum’s passion for opera, come from a few of our best barrels from the part of the vineyard with our oldest, ungrafted vines. We also have the Main Divide range which we make from the Main Divide estate and fruit from growers in the region.◆ Different Riesling styles――Riesling is an important variety for us ‒ we are the only producer in NZ where Riesling is our largest white wine. We originally didn’t plant any, but Mum talked Dad into planting 2 or 3 rows in 1988, and Matt made the first wine in 1993, an off-dry style that people really loved. We started to get a name for Riesling, and expanded the plantings so we can make different styles of Riesling. The style has changed over the years from the original low alcohol, fresh style with a lot of residual sugar in the Mosel tradition. We are picking a lot later now but fermenting drier, even for our sweeter styles which are a little richer and fuller. We discovered a distinct orange peel, orange rind, spicy character that we get in our region, which becomes more pronounced the longer the fruit hangs. We also often get some Botrytis because we have the river on two sides of the vineyard, and occasionally get misty mornings later in the season. Botrytis is something we embrace with our Riesling, as we really like the added dimension of complexity it gives, with nice stone fruit and spice notes. The Bel Canto has a high level of Botrytis.◆Evolving a nuanced Pinot Noir――Our vineyard gives us quite concentrated fruit with a high skin to juice ratio, particularly in the old vines which may reflect the fact they are ungrafted, or simply their age. We have ten clones, and individually harvest and make wines from each block. We may have up to40-50 different batches ̶ different clones, harvest dates, variables in the vineyard, skin contact during fermentation, amounts of whole bunch, brands of French oak, barrel age ‒and they typically spend 18-22 months in the barrel. Just before bottling all the different components are tasted and the composition of the final blend decided. It’s like piecing together a jigsaw puzzle, so that if something doesn’t fit in to the final blend it doesn’t go in.In the last 5-8 years Matt has really focused on getting a little more vibrancy and finesse, the tannins finer and a little less firm. He experiments with small parcels every year, with whole bunch from 100 per cent down to zero. With the introduction of whole bunch he has reduced the length of skin contact, mostly after the fermentation when there is alcohol present, reducing the firmer seed tannins. He settled on about one-third whole bunch in the last few years, and that works really well for our site.◆ Chardonnay――Chardonnay has probably been through one of the biggest evolutions in when we harvest fruit and what we do in the cellar. We use 100per cent Mendoza clone (Gingin in Australia), you get a lot of motley hen and chicken bunches, but very concentrated fruit. All our Chardonnay is 35-year old ungrafted vines, and unfortunately they are the lowest cropping variety in our vineyard. The Chardonnay used to be much bigger, fatter, riper with more oak and malo, but over the last 10+ years Matt has been aiming for a very full-bodied wine reflecting the fruit we get, but more focused and much tighter with flinty, mineral notes, a little bit of reduction to accentuate things.We pick the fruit a little earlier than before, with a slower 100 per cent natural fermentation on full solids, and don’t clarify the juice. It is then aged in 500-literpuncheons, with about 30 per cent in barrels, so there is less oak influence. We have pulled back on malolactic fermentation to around 50 per cent. The Virtuoso is a selection of a handful of barrels, which has an extra year in the barrel before bottling.◆ White and Red Bordeaux blends――When Dad planted Pegasus Bay his mantra was that he wanted to plant wines with texture and length on the palate that were first of all food wines. At the time a lot of people were making Sauvignon Blanc in New Zealand and advised against a Semillon blend because people wouldn’t understand what it is. But he wanted length and texture so we went off in a different direction from the start, and it has been a point of difference ever since.For our Sauvignon Blanc we make 6 to 8 different components, with different levels of skin contact, brightness or clones. Over the last 2-3 years Matt has experimented with skin contact with the Sauvignon which is giving more texture with ripe phenolics. The Semillon gets 10 months in barrels, and is aged on lees as well for the whole time. We also make a late harvest straight Semillon or straight Sauvignon or blended Semillon Sauvignon Botrytis, barrel-aged style.People are pleasantly surprised by the level of ripeness we are able to achieve with our red Bordeaux blend. It’s a Merlot dominant blend, with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. We have Scott Henry trellising in that part of the vineyard to get the canopy open, do a lot of leaf plucking right through the fruiting season for sunlight exposure, and then do a green harvest on veraison when we cut off at least a third of the crop to ensure even ripening on a smaller crop. Our dry autumns means we can leave the fruit on the vine longer to ripen. It spends two years in barrels, then another year in the bottle before release, the Maestro spends two years in the bottle before release. ◆ How do you maintain such high quality over time?――One is being a family business, so we don’ have shareholders telling us what to do. Dad’s vision has always been to make high quality wines, it has never been about money. Mum and Dad set up the winery out of their passion for wine, and that has been the driving force of what we do. As the Marketing Manager I never say to Matt here’s an opportunity for a particular wine style. We try to make the best quality wines that we can and the wines we believe in from our vineyard, and I find a home for them. Being family owned, we have 8 family members working in the business ‒ so 8 people treating the business like it’s their own because it is. So there is a high level of dedication there.Another factor is constant experimentation, and blending is very important. Matt is one of those winemakers who is never happy, he always wants to do better. Everything we do under the Pegasus Bay label is single vineyard, and we make a lot of small components for every variety. It is extra work keeping things separate all the way through, but our winery is filled with lots of small tanks with variable capacity lids on them, and it gives us so many more options when it comes to blending. This allows us to taste, blend and make decisions such as whether we make a reserve wine in any particular year. We only make those decisions just before bottling because we want to make sure we are happy enough with the Estate wine.Donaldson family《Postscript 》To counter new coronavirus, the New Zealand government implemented the world's strictest lockdown measures on March 26, Level 4, which stopped all economic activity other than the minimum necessary for daily life. However, agriculture and food production including wine were exempt, so the harvest continued as normal, while practicing social distancing. At the time of this interview, New Zealand was in the second week of lock down, which was relaxed to Level 2 on May 14. Implementing special measures in the winery may delay some processes, but the harvest and shipments from the winery have continued smoothly. Even better,2020 is shaping up to be an excellent vintage.◆ Main Divide WinesMain Divide was started in 1994 as an outlet for the fruit that didn’t go into Pegasus Bay (first vintage 1991), with additional fruit brought from growers through out the South Island. About 10 years ago the family planted the Main Divide Vineyard on land in the Waipara Valley with a similar soil profile and further inland from the Pegasus Bay estate. It is supplemented by fruit from quality growers in North Canterbury.