Undone doing the Blind Chicken

On a recent Sunday, 16 wine enthusiasts sat down to engage their brains and palates at the annual Blind Chicken wine-tasting competition. As per tradition, last year's winner, Alastair McLaren, was host this year.

As the afternoon unfolded, three white wines, five reds and one dessert wine were poured blind with a series of multi-choice questions to discern their identities.

Early on, local wine lover Paul Templer and yours truly crept into the lead, maintaining a neck-and-neck battle through the wines. A stumble on wine No 8 proved my undoing with Paul going on to a well-deserved win.

The final tally saw Paul secure his first Blind Chicken win with 34 points. Yours truly was second on 32 points, a very excited Nicola McLaren came through well in the latter wines to grab third spot on 30 points, with Brendon Woodford one point back in fourth.

Paul becomes the holder of the coveted Blind Chicken trophy for the next year and has the honour of organising the 2020 event.

Central Otago on top in organic viticulture

The Central Otago Winegrowers Association (COWA) completed a survey following the 2019 harvest, which confirmed that 17% of vineyard land in the region is fully certified in organic/biodynamic production. On top of that, a further 6% is in the midst of the three-year organic conversion process.

I contacted COWA chairman Nick Paulin to see how that 17% figure compares with the rest of the country. The latest figures he had show Nelson at nearly 9% organic, while Waipara was nearly 8%. By comparison, the industry powerhouse regions of Marlborough and Hawke's Bay were just 3.8% and 1.9% organic respectively.

With organics a long-term goal for the COWA, support from Organics Aotearoa New Zealand (OANZ) and Organic Winegrowers New Zealand (OWNZ) should see this figure continue to rise.


2016 Master of Ceremonies Central Otago Pinot Noir
Rating: Excellent

Noticeably floral nose with additions of earth, mushroom and savoury umami. A lovely melange of red fruits, red cherry, blackberry and manuka smoke make room for wild herb and fungi notes as the wine breathes. Nice texture and balance, with fine-grained tannins and a coolness running through the wine, becoming more savoury on the finish.

Sharply priced.





2016 Tarras Vineyards The Canyon Single Vineyard Central Otago Pinot Noir
Rating: Excellent to outstanding

Lovely nose of dark fruits, charcuterie, vanilla pod, savoury notes; adding spice and violet florals with aeration. Savoury smokiness underpins the palate, wild herbs and prosciutto make an appearance, while a bright, tanginess builds with aeration. Lovely depth of flavour, balance and richness, fine tannins in support.

Already well and truly open for business.





2016 Misha’s Vineyard The High Note Central Otago Pinot Noir
Rating: Excellent to outstanding

Fascinating nose, blood and iron filings: florals and red fruits build beautifully. The palate retains that ferrous quality with red fruits, wet stones and oak nuances: a brooding quality to this.

There’s deceptive power here, married to initially powerful tannins; the whole softening, developing a very appealing juicy, crunchiness and superb drinkability.


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