Fancy a drink? Our drinks columnist Sam Wylie-Harris celebrates springtime with the green, tangy taste of New Zealand sauvignon blanc.
Sharp as a whistle
The warm weather here in Blighty might have put a spring in your step, but if you really want to celebrate it, make your way over to the other side of the world.
The clean taste of a New Zealand sauvignon blanc, and its herbaceous, flavoursome white grape, is perfectly in tune with this time of year, and the harvest there is just getting under way. Judging by their own weather conditions, Kiwi wineries opening their cellar doors will have plenty to celebrate, too.
"The weather in the past month in key growing areas has been absolutely fantastic so the outlook from a wine quality perspective is, at this stage, looking great," says Chris Stroud, marketing manager Europe, New Zealand Winegrowers. "And we are looking positively towards a good quality harvest in all regions."
Warm, sunny days and cool nights produce a crisp style which can veer from uber-tropical to limey and pungent, and thanks to prized weather conditions last year, 2013 is considered a high quality vintage.
Marlborough on the northern tip of the South Island is the country's most famous wine region and leading producer Wither Hills have teamed up with Asda to make their Extra Special New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand 2013 (£7.48, Asda). A great value savvy blanc, it's fruit forward with generous guava and tingling gooseberry, a touch of freshly cut grass and hints of passion fruit on the finish.
Giant producer, Indevin, make Sainsbury's Winemakers' Selection Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand (£7, Sainsbury's) which is flowing with gooseberry and herbal aromatics, and a splash of chardonnay controls the zingy flavours and brings some ripeness to the wine.
Another team effort, The Society's New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc 2013, New Zealand (£9.50, www.thewinesociety.com) is a collaboration between the Wine Society and Villa Maria, the country's most awarded winery. Concentrated and herbaceous with a good balance of flavours and crisp acidity, it's versatile, vibrant, and very easy to drink.
Elsewhere, Yealands Estate aspire to create the world's most environmentally-friendly wines and the subtle twang of flavours in Peter Yealands Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Marlborough, New Zealand (£9.99, Sainsbury's) certainly taste harmonious. Refreshing and minerally with ripe stone fruits and a limey, tropical fruit finish.
Their chief winemaker - Tamra Washington - also oversees The Crossings label, a key brand in the Yealands portfolio, and expresses similar big green flavours in The Crossings Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough 2013, New Zealand (£9.98, www.thedrinkshop.com). Winner of the best sauvignon blanc trophy at the International Wine & Spirits Competition (IWSC), the passion fruit and nectarine is underpinned with lime and fresh herbs on the clean finish.
Meanwhile, the piercing notes and bracing acidity in Sherwood Stratum Marlborough Waipara Sauvignon Blanc 2013, New Zealand (£11.99, www.virginwines.co.uk) are equally explosive and the hints of nettle and fresh green capsicum on the flinty finish add extra interest.
Less aggressive but just as breezy, Opawa Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Marlborough, New Zealand (£10.55, www.freerunjuice.co.uk) hints at honeysuckle and blossom on the nose, with a concentrated fruit salad of passion fruit, lemon and white peach, and a flavoursome long finish.
:: Best buy
SPARtacular wine offers... SPAR have launched their 5th Annual Wine Festival (March 20 to April 20) and with 80 different wines from around the world, ranging from £4 to £12, there couldn't be a better time to start stocking up the wine rack. Highlights include their award winning Perlezza Prosecco Brut, Italy (£6 from £9) and SPAR Chateauneuf-du-Pape Les Trois Couronnes 2011, France (£12 from £16.29).
:: Liquid news
Boom time for Scottish brewery... BrewDog, Scotland's largest independent brewery, has opened BrewDog Sheffield, it's 13th craft beer bar in the UK and 16th worldwide.
"A bar in Sheffield has been a long time coming," says BrewDog co-founder, James Watt.
"The craft beer fans in the city are an enthusiastic and vocal bunch and have been calling for a BrewDog Sheffield ever since we opened our first bar in Aberdeen in 2010. Their patience has been rewarded and I'm certain our fans are just as excited as we are about finally opening up shop in the 'Steel City'."
It's the company's third launch of 2014, following openings in Sao Paulo, Brazil in January and Tokyo, Japan at the beginning of the month. BrewDog Sheffield will feature 20 beers on tap and its flagship brand, BrewDog Punk IPA, RRP £1.99 is available from supermarkets nationwide.