My two young boys currently have appalling delusions of grandeur. Having managed quite remarkably to trace their descent from William the Conqueror, thanks to a recent school project, they now regard themselves far too grand to talk to the neighbours any more. Even I’m darn lucky to be granted an audience.
Furthermore, since Ferdy was honoured with a Bank Holiday for his 10th birthday on 29th April last year (courtesy of Will’s and Kate’s nuptials) and Ludo was blessed by Her Majesty for his ninth birthday on 5th June this year, they have become insufferable.
The little blighters have begun to think it normal for the country to stop whatever it’s doing simply because it’s their birthday. Indeed, thanks to the fact that his birthday fell on a Sunday this year, it hasn’t dawned on Ferdy that next year it’ll be situation normal and back to school with no messing.
Nevertheless, it does mean that the two of them are up for celebrating this year’s Diamond Jubilee and have even managed to get me fired up. At least it’s an excuse to dust off one’s drinking boots and show a bit of national pride.
Buckets of fizz are inevitably going to be drunk during the celebrations. To do this in style, I can’t recommend highly enough the recently released 2002 Pol Roger. It was the last of the major houses’ offerings on the market and is an absolute copper-bottomed belter, available at £225 per six bottles in bond (with VAT and duty still to pay) at Berry Bros. It was the runaway pick of the bunch at the recent Champagne Bureau’s trade tasting and many tasters declared that they didn’t expect to see its like again.
Pol is a favourite at Buck House and although they’re far too discreet to mention it down at Pol Roger HQ in Avenue de Champagne, Epernay (the world’s most drinkable address, according to Winston Churchill), it was served at the royal wedding last year.
As far as non-vintage champagne goes, it would be hard to ignore Moët & Chandon’s special festive bottling. Moët NV is the best-selling champagne in the world, by a country mile, and although the brand was long seen as rather infra dig, looked down upon for poor quality and for being produced in vast quantities, I reckon that thanks to chef de cave, Benoit Gouez, it is now tasting better than ever and deserves to be taken very seriously.
Besides, Moët & Chandon has held the Queen’s Royal Warrant almost since the Coronation itself and so its current one-off Jubilee labelling for HM QEII is highly appropriate, added to which it’s bloody good gear and looks jolly chic and exclusive.
I’ve never really seen eye to eye with Spanish cava but the González Byass Diamond Jubilee Cava, available only at Tesco, is perfect for serving fizz in quantity. Although after 60 long years on the throne Her Maj really deserves to be toasted in champagne, this cava ain’t half bad on its own and is excellent as a base for long drinks such as Pimm’s Royale (used in lieu of lemonade for a drier, more alcoholic drink) or Kir Royale (where Ribena makes an acceptable substitute for crème de cassis if you’re on a budget).
If the sun shines, it’s going to be white after the bubbles rather than red. Unless you plump for regally themed examples such as McWilliam’s “Elizabeth” Semillon or Brent Maris’s “King’s Favour” Sauvignon, I’d suggest stocking up with plenty of Domaine du Tariquet’s 2011 “Classic” (£7 at the Wine Society, Oxford Wine Co). A blend of Ugni Blanc, Colombard, Gros Manseng and Sauvignon Blanc, it is perfect summer fare, being crisp, fruity and citrusly aromatic as well as very drinkable. I’m a big fan of Tariquet, in south-western France, where the pioneering Grassa family also make exquisite armagnacs. And they’re celebrating an important anniversary too: the centenary of the family’s ownership of this great estate.
And, finally, beer. I’ll be drinking gallons during the Jubilee celebrations and well beyond. Asahi Japanese lager for my thirst, Marston’s Single Hop “Sovereign” for my Queen (using only Sovereign hops, geddit?) and Shepherd Neame of Kent’s hot-off-the-press limited edition Generation Ale for taste (£17.50 per 75cl).
Launched to commemorate five generations of the independent family brewery (the UK’s oldest, founded in 1698), Shep’s latest gem is brewed in the country’s last wooden mash tun and aged for 12 months. It’s tasty as heck and, at 9%vol, punchy too, and is to be sipped and savoured.
Famously, William the Conqueror never overcame Kent (whose motto, as a result, is Invicta – unvanquished), whereas Elizabeth II has overcome us all and I, for one, will be raising the largest of glasses in her direction.
Six of the best bottles to try
MoËt & Chandon Diamond Jubilee Cuvee
(£33.50, Waitrose) The world’s best-selling champagne in tribute.
2005 McWilliam’s “Elizabeth” Semillon
(£9, Tesco) From Oz – soft, creamy, with buckets of lemon ‘n’ lime.
2011 King’s Favour Sauvignon Blanc
(£13, Majestic) From NZ – full-flavoured, zesty and moreish.
GonzÁlez Byass Diamond Jubilee Cava
(£15, Tesco) Great on its own and even better in cocktails.
2008 Hugel “Jubilee” Riesling
(£22, Wine Society) Sheer class from one of the great names of Alsace.
Marston’s “Sovereign” Single Hop
(£1.50 per 50cl, Morrisons) A delicate, quaffing ale.