Gosnells Hopped Mead, London, £4, Harvey Nichols
King’s Landing is a more fitting location for mead production than Peckham, yet here we are. This ancient, honey-based booze has been given a hipster revamp by these south London producers — and thank Merlin’s beard it has. The dry hops have dialled down the signature sweetness, bringing floral notes to the banquet. What is essentially fermented honey, it smacks somewhere between a craft beer and a cider — and I’m living for it.
Exquisite Collection Lyme Block English Wine, Devon, £9.99, Aldi
Aldi are killing it with their wine range, and this dry white’s a cracking case in point. The first time an English non-sparkler has made it onto Aldi’s shelves, this Devon-produced blend comes off the back of last year’s scorching summer. The game-changing 2018 vintage proved perfect for grape-growing, smashing production records and marking a mainstream moment for English still wines. This sauvignon blanc-a-like has epic lemon-sherbet notes that nail the summer sipping brief.
The Bolney Estate Dark Harvest, West Sussex, £8.99, Waitrose Cellar
Tracking down a decent English red below a tenner is a toughie. Luckily, Waitrose has always been a champion of British vino, so it’s not surprising they stock this unicorn, from Sussex producer Bolney Estate. Made from the obscure German Rondo grape, there’s an intensity that makes this red a badass BBQ buddy. Think smoked cherries and earthy field mushrooms, in a good way…
Rathfinny Blanc de Noirs, Sussex, £35.95 (£33.50 in a case of six), Lea & Sandeman
English fizz is easily on a par with champagne, if not better. Here is a spanking new Sussex sparkling wine from one of the nation’s most important wineries, a premium powerhouse comprising one of the finest pinot noir/pinot meunier blends in Britain. Given your eyes do 50 per cent of the tasting, there’s an enticing blush to this bubbly, with a caramelised, red-apple payoff on the palate and a wild strawberry finish you’ll be savouring for days.
Taste the Difference English Dry Rosé, Surrey, £11, Sainsbury’s, selected stores
Don’t be put off by the ‘own-label’ vibe — this has been selected by Sainsbury’s super-clued-up buying team, who collaborate with some of the world’s top wine producers. Denbies in Dorking has served up a summer-friendly rosé that smacks of crème anglaise drizzled strawberries. A brand-new addition to the Sainsbury’s stable, chill in an ice bucket and, well, you know the rest…
Curious Apple, Kent, £1.49, Waitrose
A craft cider produced in the style of a wine and made in England. What’s not to love? The guys at renowned English winery Chapel Down use Bacchus wine yeast as their refermentation agent, bringing in elderflower and lime notes we revere in our vino. Produced using 70 per cent Rubens and 30 per cent Bramley apples, handpicked in local Kent orchards. It’s an alfresco glugger all right. Also available in a can (from Majestic — £9.60/case of six).
Dark Matter Spiced Rum, Scotland, £25, Tesco
Scotland’s first ever rum distillery is not a phrase I thought I’d write but it has more than 120 whisky distilleries, so it’s not much of a stretch. They’ve made an authentic, hand-crafted spiced rum, with fresh ginger, green peppercorns and allspice berries. That would explain the moreish kick of ginger on the finish then.
Jawbox Single Estate Gin, Northern Ireland, £30, Tesco
We knocked back 66m bottles of gin in Britain last year, up from 19m in 2017, and with 300-odd distilleries around the UK, we’re spoilt for choice. Northern Ireland’s first single estate gin has botanicals including local black mountain heather, it’s big on flavour and provenance, and highly recommended with a ginger ale pairing.
Black Cow Vodka — The Gold Top, Dorset, £24, Morrisons
A world first, apparently, for pure milk vodka and, to be fair, it’s one of the smoothest I’ve sipped. Created by a Dorset dairy farmer as a creative way to use up whey, the by-product of making his award-winning cheddar. The whey is first fermented into a beer, distilled, triple filtered and hand-bottled, simples. Wasted in a shot, Black Cow nails a Martini, bringing in a lactic note that rounds off the edges.
Penderyn Single Malt Welsh Whisky, Wales, £27, Waitrose
So, it turns out Welsh whisky is a thing and it’s actually pretty good. Penderyn is currently Wales’s only distillery, and it’s knocking up some light and smooth whiskies with a decent lick of fruit to them. Ageing in bourbon barrels and Madeira casks has turbo-charged the toffee and butterscotch notes, giving you a thwack of raisiny Christmas cake on the finish. An inspired bottle to bust out on Father’s Day.