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7:00am Saturday 4th August 2012 in Lifestyle
Fancy a drink? Our drinks columnist Sam Wylie-Harris raises her glass to British Food Fortnight and uncorks the perfect bottles to pair with our favourite foods.
Wines to champion the best of British
With British Food Fortnight (July 27 to August 12) falling on the same dates as the London 2012 Olympics, there's a golden opportunity for foodies and sports fans to unite.
The Olympic Village itself will be catering to nine million visitors during the Games, and both events will be serving up traditional fare to discerning palettes and keeping British food firmly in the spotlight.
While the athletes may need to avoid tipples before their big events, for the rest of us there's a great excuse to spin the wine wheel and match whites, reds and roses to traditional great British grub.
Being a good sport and choosing British also means supporting our farmers, the glorious, green countryside and at the same time backing Team GB in their bid for gold medals.
:: One of the largest and best-known English wine estates, Surrey-based Denbies has a deliciously refreshing sparkle to have with fish and chips. The creamy bubbles and lemon sherbet profile of Broadwood's Folly NV, England (£16.99, Tesco) make it the perfect foil for batter, tangy tartare sauce, and extras such as salt and vinegar.
:: For smaller pockets and a midweek supper on the sofa, Sainsbury's House Muscadet (£4.69, Sainsbury's) from the Loire Valley, France, is a clean, crisp white with good acidity to cut through beer-battered cod, and it's a real bargain. Lemony with a mineral finish, this white loves any type of fish, especially grilled sole.
:: A plate of Scottish smoked salmon with brown bread and butter (a slice of trivia: 25,000 loaves of bread will be served to Olympic ticket holders) calls for a weightier white to balance the taste, and a white Rioja such as Altos de la Guardia Rioja 2011 (£9.99, www.laithwaites.co.uk) makes a pleasant change to chardonnay. A double gold medal-winning wine, it's fresh and well rounded with citrus and fragrant peachy fruit flavours, a streak of guava and good balancing acidity to withstand the salty element of smoked fish.
:: A firm favourite for summer entertaining, cold poached salmon with cucumber sauce and new potatoes suits a New World style such as Mt Olympus Sauvignon Blanc 2011, Marlborough, New Zealand (£7.98, Asda). A real winner that can match any of its pricier competitors and just as sophisticated, it's full of flavour with crisp, clean fruity notes of gooseberry and passionfruit.
:: British beef cries out for a red with real presence and Vinalba Malbec 2011, Mendoza, Argentina (£6.79, The Co-operative) holds its own. Don't let the light colour deceive you, this full-flavoured red has savoury flavours of cherries and violet-scented fruit with well-integrated tannins to harmonise with a medium-rare steak and oven chips.
:: Spicy Spanish reds such as Finest Old Vine Garnacha 2010, Spain (£7.99, Tesco) suit bangers and mash, or a Sunday lunch Iberian style, with roast pork, crackling and seasonal vegetables. Warm with sweet black cherries and a plummy palate, Mediterranean herbs and soft tannins, it's a good all-rounder that would taste just as yummy with pork pies and spare ribs.
:: Classics such as steak and kidney pie, Cornish pasties or a posh Ploughman's lunch with a choice of British cheeses can morph into something quite spectacular with a choice Chilean, such as Villa Emiliano Organico Novas 2008, Maipu Valley, Chile (£9.95, www.harrods.com). A blend of cabernet sauvignon and merlot, it's opulent and textured with an abundance of baked red and black cherry fruits, mild mocha and firm tannins on the long, lingering finish, and it's a real champ at less than a tenner.
:: Summer wouldn't be summer without a bowl of British strawberries and cream, or a berry-laden summer pudding with a glass of pink fizz. Try Laithwaite Champagne Brut Rose, France (£27.99, www.laithwaites.co.uk), a beguiling deep onion skin colour and very fragrant with creamy strawberry fruit flavours, good underlying strength and a refreshing long finish, it's a gift for any kind of celebration at the end of a meal.
:: Best buy
A cracking good cava... To coincide with the Olympics, Jaume Serra Brut Reserva Gran Seleccion, Spain (£4.99 from £12.99, Tesco) has been reduced until August 15, and it's a real steal for such a premium quality Catalan sparkler with plenty of body.
:: Liquid news
Wine and dine in style... To celebrate British Food Fortnight, 18 of Mercure's hotels across the UK are offering a Wine & Dine package as part of an overnight stay. Guests can enjoy a five-course dinner from a taster menu featuring seasonal British produce, with two glasses of fine wine specially selected to complement the dishes. With four different grape styles to choose from, wine lovers can match their courses to Fresh & Tasty, Fruity & Light, Balanced & Elegant or Spicy & Full-Bodied, under the guidance of MeRcure's in-house wine experts. Wine & Dine experience from £155 for two, including a full English breakfast the following morning. For more information, visit www.mercure.com