Having grown up in the West Country we can remember the days when cider was cheaper than milk and we would get kitchen pans filled with draft scrumpy from the White Hart public house in Castle-Cary. Happily, our 'mad apple' days are now well behind us and we can enjoy far more sophisticated beverages from Somerset. One such is 'Smith and Evans' Pinot-Chardonnay from Higher Plot Farm near Langport. Hailing from a single hectare vineyard of free-draining white loess and calciferous limestone soil, the production is minimal but the quality excellent. With an inviting brioche bouquet, lively mousse and persistent orchard fruit palate it is a shining example of how dramatically English sparkling wine has improved in the 21st Century.
Another superlative English sparkling wine is the 'Somerset Rosé' from Brian Shirley and Jack Brayton's 'Wraxall Vineyard'. Made from pure bottle-fermented Pinot Noir it has a pale pink robe, wild strawberry scents and a delicate red fruit palate offset by a fresh acidity. It makes a superb al fresco aperitif and partner to canapés.