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.