If one grape variety sums up modern wine drinking it's sauvignon blanc. In just three decades it has gone from being a peculiarity of the Loire valley in France to world domination. It's a phenomenon that can be explained on the one hand by improved winemaking technology which has enabled fresher, brighter sauvignon blancs than ever before, and also modern drinking habits where wine is consumed within hours of purchase. Sauvignon blanc is perfect for this – like fruit juice the fresher sauvignon blanc is the better, it is not a variety that benefits from cellaring. There is also a third factor. In an era where overdelivery is expected, sauvignon blanc gives much more that most grape varieties. It is not a shy variety and leaps from the glass assaulting the nostrils with vibrant, fresh, distinctive sauvignonblanc-ness.
An easy vine to recognise in the vineyard, sauvignon blanc canes stick up above the trellis like a gelled hairdo. It grows well in most places but prefers cooler climes and a slow ripening. The trick to making good sauvignon blanc is to pick it at precisely the right time. The timing is critical. During ripening the flavours can go from feisty to flabby in a matter of days. Winemakers continually taste grapes in the vineyard to monitor the flavour development. Sauvignon blanc is in and out of the winery quicker than most varieties where it receives a cool fermentation in stainless steel. Some styles use a little oak particularly when it is blended with Semillon. As if to underline how much sauvignon blanc is the wine of our times, its favourite food partners are fresh, unfussy Asian styled food.