Is there a better wine choice for spring than sauvignon blanc? Its aromatic, lip-smacking fresh-tasting flavours seem to mirror the freshness in the air and our thinking as the weather warms up and pushes the final days of winter aside.
Sauvignon is making its way back into wine's mainstream thanks to a number of factors, although none can be considered more significant that the re-launch of the Stelvin or screwcap closure.
No longer the harbinger to cheap wine, the world's most progressive producers making delicate, aromatic, tightly wound whites are almost totally dependent upon the easy-opening, twist closure to all but eliminate the possibility of the wine being spoiled by a bad cork or, worse, suffering from the less identifiable but equally disabling cork taint.
From my vantage point of sipping thousands of white wines a year, the change in white wine quality is so dramatic we should no longer entertain any thoughts about buying sauvignon blanc bottled under cork — and that goes for most aromatic grapes such as riesling, albariño, viognier and even chardonnay.
Last weekend I took stock of the 70-odd sauvignon blancs that I've tasted this year and discovered that despite their varied origins many share an affinity with one another. One can only surmise that winemaking techniques and viticulture are playing a key role worldwide in shaping the flavours of wine. In some cases it appears they're able to transcend even the much vaunted notion of terroir.
Stylistically, most sauvignon breaks down into three categories: the pure varietal or un-wooded style with crisp acidity; the lightly oaked versions that combine some portion of barrel- fermented juice with tank-fermented juice, giving the wine a slightly richer and more complex flavour (my favourite, by the way); and the entirely barrel fermented, toasted-oak and lees-stirred style that gives the finished wine more of a chardonnay-like profile in the mouth.
Gone, by and large, are the excessively vegetative, bell pepper and canned asparagus notes and the bitter citrus rind flavours. The grassy aromas are still present but in a much more balanced setting. The positive aspect is the predominance of fresh grapefruit, green apple and kiwi and far more mineral notes.
So if you like great flavour, and you don't mind looking hip at the same time, my advice is to jump the red wine line and pick up some screwcap sauvignon blanc for that next party or picnic. Let's face it, sushi and red wine is a pairing disaster and with the bounty of seafood and indigenous goat cheese available across the country, it makes sense to revisit the new sauvignon blanc.
There's even better news when it comes to price. Sauvignon blanc represents terrific value by delivering big flavour at a reasonable price.