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Wine of the Week for week ending 16 December 2001
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Pegasus Bay Prima Donna Pinot Noir 1999
Waipara, New Zealand

"What a ripsnorter", said my mate Ray visiting from Aussie when I poured him a glass of the Pegasus Bay Prima Donna Pinot Noir 1999. Not exactly the words I would have used, but my simple "yum" means we certainly concurred on our assessment. "It reminds me of the early Bannockburn wines", he continued.

Pegasus Bay Prima Donna and glass

I let him have a second glass but after that the cork went back into the bottle because, as is my way, I like to see the development of the wine over a few days to give me some inkling as to how it will age.

Well, there's no worries here, mate, either.

It's a little beauty alright, this flagship wine from Pegasus Bay - the Waipara wine company that just seems to be going from strength to strength.

Paler in colour than some of the deep bright pinots we've been seeing of late, due to the year, perhaps, or having a year's more age on release.

First tried in a pithy little XL5 tasting glass, we quickly transferred the wine to a big bowl to let some of those amazing aromas escape.

Then in the palate I found the wine to be mellow, earthy and savoury with peppery spice but so elegant and silky as it coated the mouth.

As the wine developed over a couple of days, so did the richness with waves of fruit flavours with cherries, wild berries, stewed plums and a tamarillo spiciness, also sweet wild mushrooms and chocolate nuances.

Then later still (a couple of days later, that is) the wine had mellowed even more and the scent was thick and heady. There's savoury cherry and woody fragrances. There are wild flowers too.

I wander around the garden. Nothing can compare. There are no rural connotations either as I head out to talk to the sheep. I try some mushrooms from the kitchen. Yes. There is the earthy fragrance of sweet smelling fungus. Meadow mushrooms perhaps. Or something from the wild. It's been raining off and on for the last few days. I'm not venturing into the bush tonight to check.

The flavour is rich and mouthfilling. Silky smooth with just a ruffle of velvet, the cherry sweetness, the fruitcake-rich finish, the chocolaty depth, the nuance of licorice, the flash of citrus, the lingering spice.

I decide to accompany the wine with a fillet mignon - New Zealand style of course, so it has to be cooked on the BBQ.

I've tasted this wine before - last January at the Pinot Noir 2001 conference, where it represented Waipara in the New Zealand tasting. I loved it, scored it very highly, but noted it was way too young. Today it was perfect. What a wine to have for Christmas Day - that is if you can bare to share.

Pegasus Bay Prima Donna Pinot Noir is a selection of the best pinot noir from the vintage, usually from the oldest vines, according to the notes from the winery. They also say this is not really a wine for sharing with a group. It "should be savoured by a maximum of two persons". I'll vouch for that.

Look out for the wine at premium wine stores, where it will cost about NZ$55.00. Or get on the Pegasus Bay Mailing List to take advantage of special offers. You will save $8.50 on this price.

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