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English Wine Tasting 2014 highlights

Earlier this year English wineries gathered a stone's throw from Parliament Square to share their wines with the drinks trade. Following a good, if challenging at times, harvest in 2013, the still wines didn't disappoint, and the sparklers once more showed why England is becoming such a force on the fizz world stage.

Here are my highlights, as prepared for Imbibe, the magazine for restaurants, pubs and bars.

Hotel Chocolat Cocoa Beer

Well there we were, innocently wandering through Soho, with a bit of time to spare while the boys were perusing the shelves of a local wine shop. There was Hotel Chocolat on the corner of the crossroads. It would have been rude not to venture in… So we did.

Canterbury Lager

Cracking lager, Gromit (to paraphrase a certain Mr Wallace). And this is a cracking beer from the charming Foundry Brewpub. What a lovely pub, tucked down the little White Horse Lane alleyway off Canterbury's pleasantly pedestrianised high street.

Landlord Jon has had a specially built brewkit put behind glass, so it's all visible from the comfort of your bar stool. And he and his crew brew plenty of styles, from Belgian Saison to bitters, from stouts to lagers.

Frontier Craft Lager

Frontier is Fuller’s foray into the craft lager market - not the first of big brewers, nor the last we’ll wager, to attempt this oxymoronic feat. Have they succeeded where others failed?

Frontier pours a brilliant gold with an attractive lacy foam. Not astoundingly aromatic but there is a squeaky clean biscuity feel to it, and perhaps the faintest touch of fragrant smoke and orange blossom.

4.5%, available via Fuller’s pubs, including The Parcel Yard, St Pancras Station, & other hostelries.

Port and a Storm

Talisker fan James Forbes heads to Opium, a Chinatown speakeasy to meet two new members of the family, Storm and Port Ruighe in the company of Diageo’s Global Scotch Whisky Ambassador, Donald Colville

Less a tasting, more a “sensory experience”  – burning peat, brine and dry ice sea fog effects, glasses filled with coffee, pepper, vanilla and strawberries – were all on hand and Donald used these to prompt the mood and flavours of the whisky we were tasting...

Shepherd Neame Brilliant Ale

Hold a buttercup under your chin to get an idea of the colour that Shepherd Neame’s new release – Brilliant Ale – pours. Impossibly golden, with its halo of creamy foam, it's a hugely enticing glass of beer.

5.6% in 50cl bottle, available via independent retailers and online

4% on draught; available as the brewery's September seasonal ale in its pubs; call ahead to confirm availability

Langtons No 1 Gin

A soft, smooth gin, with a bright palate which is well worth trying straight.

Langtons No.1 hails from Skiddaw in Cumbria, where two local lads, intent on creating a gin that reflected their roots, discovered a million year old aquifer, or underground water source.

40% / 70cl, £38, from Booths, Harvey Nicols, and specialist retailers.

Tamdhu Ten Year Old

With its distinctive retro bottle shape the newly re-launched Tamdhu Ten Year Old certainly stands out. And the liquid contained within is a lovely drop, in the classic Speyside style.

40% / 70cl, £35, Waitrose and specialist retailers.

Talisker Storm

The latest release from Talisker distillery, Storm turns up the smoke and adds a touch more sherry to the mix.

45.8% / 70cl, £40, Royal Mile Whiskies and other specialist retailers.

Ardbeg Ten Year Old

A big bold sea-breeze of a whisky, Ardbeg 10 fills your head with sweet smoke and wakes you up with a powerful, warming finish.

A great dram for the hipflask on a long walk in wild weather.

46% / 70cl, about £40, widely available