Camel Valley is one of my favourite English sparkling wines, and just a few days ago was awarded the first Royal Warrant for its Cornish fizz. Her Majesty apparently has great taste. I also hear that acting royalty Dame Judi Dench is a fan and I have a six-litre methuselah bottle of its Pinot Noir Rosé 2010 ready to pop for the Queen’s birthday.
But what other local wines are worth celebrating? Ancre Hill Estates in Monmouthshire, Lyme Bay in Devon, Furleigh and Langham Estates in Dorset, Hambledon in Hampshire, Gusbourne in Kent… But Sussex remains a real hotspot, with Ridgeview, Nyetimber, Wiston, Hoffmann & Rathbone, Sugrue Pierre, Bluebell Vineyards and Breaky Bottom all making superb sparklers.
And how about… London? London Cru is bringing grapes into the urban environment, making decent bottles, and watch out for Vagabond Wines, which recently announced a new urban winery in the Battersea Power Station development. Head wine-maker Gavin Monery tells me: ‘It’s going to be based around English wine production specifically, with a full restaurant and wine bar providing a bigger focus on hospitality than any other London winery.’
Watch out for opening night.
But beyond fizz, there are some excellent still whites and rosés. Winbirri Bacchus 2016 (11.5%) is a personal favourite of mine, coming in May for £14.95, Lea & Sandeman – order in advance as it won’t hang around. Chapel Down’s still wines are widely available and hugely enjoyable too.
As for reds, award-winners such as Lyme Bay’s Pinot Noir 2016 (12.1%) are an indication of what can be achieved on our home shores – just be prepared to open your wallet wide at £21.99 a pop.
And if Her Majesty’s big day isn’t cause enough for you to celebrate, how about English and Welsh Wine Week, from May 26 until June 3? A great excuse to celebrate our home-grown wine.