Fancy a drink? Our drinks columnist Sam Wylie-Harris showcases her favourite releases ahead of English Wine Week.
English wines spell success.
Whether you're a wine lover, jolly good sport or proud of our English heritage, 2012 certainly promises to be a vintage year for England.
Across the board, English wine producers declared 2011 a bumper crop and while the vineyards may have seen a drop in volume (thanks to our inclement climate), the quality's been hailed as excellent.
All the more reason for plenty of flag-waving ahead of English Wine Week (June 2 to 10), the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics, and celebrating these grand events with an upper-crust wine.
With 1,384 hectares of land under vine, 419 vineyards, an increase in production of more than 60% in five years, and wineries working closely with distributors to produce exclusive lines, it's worth getting to know England's best.
From glorious Glosters, leading single estate Three Choirs has linked up with Waitrose to produce its Three Choirs Annum 2011, Gloucestershire, England (£7.19 from £8.99, until May 29, Waitrose) - the informative label gives a calendar of winemaking from pruning in February/March to harvesting in September. A blend of five local grapes, this delicate, dry white has subtle hints of herbaceous borders with good pure fruit, a hint of lychee and a harmonious finish.
And a new collaboration with Asda sees the launch of Three Choirs Regalia 2011 (£7.30, Asda, in store May 28). The splendid coronet label is a Jubilee jewel, and so is this wine. A deliciously light, fragrant white which shares the same fruity character as Annum, but with notes of elderflower, a touch of honeydew melon along with a zippy mouthfeel to lift it from an everyday drinker to a posh picnic pour.
One of the largest and best-known estates, Surrey-based Denbies has a bright white that's a good lunchtime choice with seafood and chicken. Try Finest Denbies Estate English White 2010 (£8.79, Tesco), a blend of ortega, reichensteiner and chardonnay. It's grassy with fresh, citrusy aromas and the crisp green apple flavours are balanced by vibrant acidity.
Denbies has also produced the first English wine for Sainsbury's Taste the Difference range to coincide with this summer's sizzling events. Try TTD English Sparkling Brut 2007 (£19.99, Sainsbury's) for a very appealing, straight-down-the-line sparkling wine with a lemony sherbet profile, without the heaviness of some French fizz.
Beyond our still and sparkling, English wines are seldom rated for their reds, but award-winning Wickham wines from the heart of Hampshire looks set to change all that with its Wickham Limited Release Pinot Noir 2010 (£15.49, www.wickhamvineyard.com). A tricky grape to grow at the best of times, this young pinot shows great promise with its lovely soft cherry nose and sweet blackcurrant fruits. An elegant, food-friendly red that should mature well.
Along with an expanding portfolio of wines, gold medal-winning winery Chapel Down has another excuse to pop the corks in sunny Kent. The posh food halls of Harvey Nichols have just taken an exclusive delivery of Chapel Down's first 100% chardonnay sparkling wine. Try Chapel Down Blanc de Blancs 2007 (£23.50, Harvey Nichols), which is aged for three years on the lees (with yeast) and has a lemony nose with baked apple flavours, a hint of minerality, faint toasty notes and a fresh finish.
Alternatively, for smaller purses, start the summer season with Chapel Down's Flint Dry 2011 (£8.99, www.chapeldown.com), which is a deliciously fruity white with a medley of fleshy stone fruit flavours.
To mark the Diamond Jubilee, Ridgeview wine estate in East Sussex has introduced Ridgeview Victoria (Rose) 2009 (£26.95, www.bbr.com), its first rose made from pinot noir and pinot meunier grapes.
It's a blushing beauty to join other favourites such as Ridgeview Cuvee Merret Bloomsbury 2009 (£18.29 from £22.99, until May 29, Waitrose) - the closest thing to champagne and a classic blend of chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier. And to keep the fervour flowing, Ridgeview has just been awarded a gold medal and critics' choice gong in the 2012 Sommelier Wine Awards for its Knightsbridge (Blanc de Noir) 2009, which deserves a round of applause.
Nyetimber in West Sussex was the first brand in England to take advantage of our chalky soils and grow only Champagne grape varieties and fizz fine enough to rival champagne. It has now joined the luxury arena with a new look portfolio of sparkling wines, and the stylish, contemporary labels and smart gift boxes should cause a stir in the French coronation city of Reims.
For a fresh take, try Nyetimber Rose 2008 (£45, Waitrose, Harvey Nichols). With a real English strawberries and cream nose, this bright salmon pink opens up nicely in the glass and mingles crushed berry fruits with red apples to create a smooth clean rose with gentle acidity and good length.
Best buy Royal regalia... Raise the bar this summer with Alessandro Mendini's Queen's Guard corkscrew (£49, www.alessi.com). The 30th addition to his corkscrew collection for Italian design giant Alessi, the bottle opener stands to attention in its red tunic and bearskin ready for its call of drinks duty.
Liquid news Chard lovers don't need an excuse to celebrate World Chardonnay Day on May 26, but if you haven't tried a glass of chardonnay lately, this third birthday bash is a perfect excuse to uncork some tropical fruits courtesy of Gonzalez Byass. This week's favourites include Wirra Wirra Scrubby Rise Unwooded Chardonnay 2011, McLaren Vale, Australia (£8.99, www.hailshamcellars.com), which has fleshy stone fruit flavours without the use of oak, and Vinas del Vero Chardonnay 2010, Spain (£9.99, www.thewhalleywineshop.com), which has plenty of pineapple, papaya and passion fruit to perk up the palate and is a great with poached salmon and new potatoes.