umbrellaScattered showers are forecast for next weekend’s May Bank Holiday, so of course that’s the start of English Wine Week. That pretty much captures the essence of what it's like to be an English winemaker - great when the sun shines but for the other 300 days of the year it's just plain hard work getting grapes to ripen in less than ideal conditions.

english grapesLuckily English winemakers needn't now hope against hope that their grapes will ripen fully in our several hundred hours of yearly sunshine as newer cross-bred grape varieties make it easier to produce a balanced and very drinkable end product.

Red grapes need more sun to ripen than white grapes, but even these can now be harvested at optimum levels of sweetness - as long as English grape growers choose not to grow varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Merlot.

These warm country favourites need over a thousand hours of sunshine to ripen and so any UK vineyard owner seduced into planting these varieties would find the resulting under-ripe fruit only capable of making nasty, acidic wines no-one would rightly part cash for.

Dunkfelder, Dornfelder, Rondo, Regent, or a few other classily named grape varieties, are better choices for English vineyards. Their resulting wines, will more often than not, taste fruitily ripe. Blend the two red grape varieties of German Dornfelder and the Chinese-Austrian half-breed Rondo together and the result tastes like a blackcurranty Merlot with a dash of English elderberry. And we can expect more of the same fully-ripened sweet and fruity flavours to follow year on year.

What's On During English Wine Week

pouring wineIn-store tastings, food and wine matching events as well as English vineyard visitor events are some of the many things happening this week to celebrate English Wine Week (starting next Saturday on May 28th and ending Sunday June 5th).

Check out the English Wine Week website www.englishwineweek.co.uk to discover which vineyards are open in your area.

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sausage pastaDespite having a diverse culinary heritage inspired through invasion, it seems we British are more interested in mastering Italian cuisine than our own traditional dishes. A new European-wide survey by Apetina cheese found that 61% of the Brits that responded would prefer to cook as Pietro and Paola rather than Peter and Paulas. But I've got news for those pasta throwing wanna-bes – ravioli and macaroni have been part of British culture for centuries.

sandwichLet's toast the sandwich as it's British Sandwich Week. Sandwiches have come a long way since the Fourth Earl of Sandwich ordered meat between two slices of bread to keep hunger at bay while he continued gambled in 1762. With over 200 varieties of bread available and as many fillings to choose from, the sandwich is a versatile and tasty snack.

coinsLet’s raise a glass to frugality. Because good wine needn't be an expensive business – it is still possible to get yourself something decent to slurp for under a fiver. But there is a slight drawback; you’ll no longer have the run of all the supermarket wine aisles.