You shouldn’t need an excuse to reach out for comforting and tasty classic British dishes ...
But, if you wanted one, then British Food Fortnight, running from September 21 until October 6, is the perfect chance to celebrate the best our country has to offer.
To kick-start this festival of foodie heritage, a top-drawer sparkle from an outstanding vintage will offer the best taste of the beautiful West Sussex countryside.
Nyetimber has released its much-anticipated Nyetimber Classic Cuvee 2009, England (£25, www.thechampagnecompany.com), and it was worth the wait.
Having been left to mature in the cellars for more than three years, there’s noticeable depth and complexity with flowers and brioche on the nose, a rich, fruity palate and excellent length. With mushrooms in peak season, pair this with a wild mushroom and tiny asparagus tartlet and chervil cream.
Another success from Denbies Winery in Surrey, Finest English White 2011, England (£8.99, Tesco) bagged a prize at the 2013 Great Taste Awards. With its aromatic nose, it has hints of elderflower and hedgerows; round, fruity flavours from the chardonnay; and a refreshing citric finish that makes it the perfect partner with traditional fish and chips.
One of the nation’s favourite ethnic foods, an Indian take-away, pairs beautifully with a fragrant gewurstraminer. Honeyed, luscious and perfumed with sweet essences and a rush of lychee, try Vinas del Vero Coleccion Gewurztraminer 2012, DO Somontano, Spain (£9.99, or £7.99 when you buy two, Majestic) the next time you dial-in a chicken korma with rice.
For guilty-pleasure moments when the golden crust pastry of a pork pie beckons, female beer sommelier Jo Miller suggests pairing Sambrook’s Brewery Powerhouse Porter (£2.75, 4.9% abv, 30cl, www.alesbymail.com) with this bastion of Britishness. A dark, hoppy beer loaded with caramel and dark fruits, with a bittersweet lingering malt and hop finish, serve it nicely chilled to bring out the sweet side of the pastry and the savoury, peppery meat filling.
Further afield, South African reds such as Zalze Shiraz/Mourvedre/Viognier 2011, Western Cape, South Africa (£7.99, Waitrose) exhibit a modern, up-front style with Rhone red fruit aromas for some Old World charm. Shiraz-dominant with generous red berry fruits, baked spice notes and infused with smoke, it’s a very amicable drinking partner with bangers and mash or toad in the hole.
Alternatively, for a decently-priced claret with personality and style, try Chateau Civrac 2008, Cotes de Bourg, Bordeaux, France (£15.95, www.civrac.com), from a boutique winery on the Right Bank of the Dordogne owned by Cornishman Mark Hellyar. Malbec has been added to this classic blend of cabernet sauvignon and merlot for depth of colour and concentration, and it is exuberant and delicious with crunchy black fruits, an earthy, herbal element, and smooth tannins on the lingering fruity finish... bring on the shepherd’s pie.
For a sweet ending, Moscato is rumoured to be the next big thing, as Brazilian wines are fast catching up with their South American cousins. If you like fresh peach aromas with a slight sparkle and lower abv (7.5%), Aurora Sparkling Moscato NV, Brazil (£9.50, Oddbins) makes a delightful duo when served well chilled with sherry trifle. Pale and creamy with bright, tropical fruit flavours, it’s fresh, uplifting and a champion for the soft sponge, custard, whipped cream and toasted almonds.