The pukekos screech outside my bedroom window. Fortunately they are not early early birds and if they screech on a work day morning, it is well past getting-up time. It is not a work day morning but I get out of bed anyway, open the curtains and watch a pair strut across the back yard from the place where we feed the chooks, to the fish pond, for a drink. Standing on their long legs supported by their big feet, they flick their tails to show their white feathered derrieres, a contrast to their iridescent blue chest feathers, their glossy indigo-black feathered backs and their bright fire-engine red beaks. They are beautiful birds, no wonder they are considered an icon by some.
We used to think of this large swamp bird as the motorway bird because when we used to drive along the motorway to work in the morning they would be wandering along the grassy verges, oblivious to the thousands of passing cars. But with the formation of the motorway bus lanes and all the earthwork that involves, the pukekos are rarely seen there any more. And with continued crawl/creep of suburbia outwards from the central city, the pukekos are being driven out too. This is why they have arrived at our place beyond the edge of suburbs. They most likely nest amongst the raupo in the stream that runs through the property at the bottom of the hill, then mosey on up to our back yard to see what food the chooks have left behind.
At least they are safe in my back yard as duck shooting season has just commenced. Safe, because the pukeko is not protected, even though it is a native bird. I was surprised to hear this on a television news item where a spokesperson from an animal advocacy group said that 50,000 pukekos will be needlessly shot during the 4-month season. "They rarely eat them. They shoot them for fun and leave them to rot," he said.
The pukeko is not on the protected bird list because they are prolific breeders and are not in danger of extinction. Most are shot on the West Coast of the South Island where they are problems to landowners, who often organise pukeko shooting drives to cull the numbers.
But they are welcome in my back yard. There are no guns here.
When I saw the new second label from Margrain Vineyard, the River's Edge Pinot Noir 2004, I fell in love with the wine without even tasting it. Margrain has always used the pukeko on their label but on the standard label it is a tiny pen drawing. The new Margrain River's Edge Pinot Noir label shows the pukeko, in colour, albeit dark colours, emerging from a moody swamp-edged river. (I've used poetic license to enhance the bird's colours on the label reproduction to the right).
So the label seduced me, but would the wine? I'm pleased to say, yes it did. From the bright ruby garnet colour, to the slightly leathery smoky cherry aroma to the richly flavoured palate that's full of guava and plum fruit, this medium-bodied wine has lots going for it. It has the typical savouriness that we expect from Martinborough with an earthy undercurrent to the smoky backbone, good acidity and velvety tannins that round out the mouth-filling vinous finish with a nuance of rosemary as it lingers. There's a hint of cherry chocolate too.
At $24.95 a bottle, this is a smart price for a Martinborough Pinot Noir that delivers the flavours one expects from the region.
It carries 13.5% alcohol and is sealed with a cork. Find out more from www.margrainvineyard.co.nz.
© Sue Courtney
7 May 2006