Te Ao o te Māori

Dec 21, 2014

A window into the rich lifestyles of contemporary Māori

Photographs and words nā Phil Tumataroa


Every wine vintage has a whakapapa, says Mat Donaldson (Ngāi Te Rakiāmoa), head winemaker at Pegasus Bay Winery.

“This is an individual piece of dirt, the vines and the grapes respond to weather, and the weather – it just does what it likes. It’s a natural process – I like being able to express that through the wines we make.”

Having inherited the winemaking genes of his father Ivan, Mat is working on his 23rd vintage since 1992. He and two of his three brothers, Edward and Paul, work together running the winery and its popular restaurant. Their sibling Michael works in telecommunications and is currently based in Ireland.

Their father, a neurologist, started growing grapes in 1972 on one acre he planted with friends in Halswell. Ivan made the wine at home in the garage until 1985, when he purchased 40 hectares near the North Canterbury town of Amberley to establish Pegasus Bay. Today he and wife Christine take a back seat to their sons, but still keep their hands in the business.

Pegasus Bay also sells wines under the Main Divide label. It produces about 300 tonnes of grapes in a season and purchases a similar amount from contract growers. It has an output of 600,000 bottles over the course of a year, including about 20 different wines.

Mat studied winemaking in the Barossa Valley, South Australia, for four years.

“It’s very satisfying to take something through from growing, to making, packaging, and selling it; and to know it provides for our four families and our workers. I have always loved wine, and I love being in a family business – I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

Click an image below to view the gallery in full size.