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What to drink for the Coronation of King Charles?

By Master of Wine, Christopher Burr

24/04/2023

The Coronation of King Charles

To call this for we Brits, a once in a life time occasion, is mostly appropriate. I was a two year old baby for the last Coronation, and all I can just about remember is seeing a television for the first time, as a rather small, thick screened device which had been bought with a lot of excitement especially. I suppose I must have been given milk, or possibly as a celebration, juice, to drink in 1953!

Whilst I love the quality, variety and range of wines, spirits and beers available to us here in the UK from around the world, I feel the Coronation of Charles the Third, requires us, no, demands us to celebrate with the best of British.

It will be a long weekend, so variety will be necessary. Clearly this is not a problem at all. We produce, have always done so, some of the best beers, certainly some of the best spirits, Whisky, Gin, and even Liqueurs. And the quality of the booming British grown wine scene is amazing, with fabulous sparkling wines, whites and reds and even some sweeties.

I will start my recommendations with what Her Late Majesty The Queen used to drink, as did her mother. I am lucky enough to live in Windsor, and the first time I was invited to supper by one of the Castle residents, I was offered what had become the standard "tipple" made popular by Their Majesties.

Gin and Dubonnet, 50-50 with one ice cube. One can well imagine the long and possibly sometimes boring receptions, where a strong drink was needed, but one, which to all on-lookers resembled a glass of red wine!

The marriage of a great British gin, with a famous French aperitif, an "Entente Cordiale" in the glass, had to be supremely politically correct.

Whilst I love the quality, variety and range of wines, spirits and beers available to us here in the UK from around the world, I feel the Coronation of Charles the Third, requires us, no, demands us to celebrate with the best of British.

The selection of gin in all supermarkets these days is wonderful, and it is a joy to see gin become fashionable again. Lots of artisinal distilleries are creating some wonderful flavours with a multitude of different botanicals (the word for the herbs, spices, fruit peels and other flavours added in the distillation process to add character and flavour.)

I have no hesitation, amongst all the premium and attractive gins now available, to recommend for both quality and value, Gordons London Dry Gin. Available universally, in most supermarkets of £14 for a standard 70cl bottle and £18 for a litre. With a Tesco's ClubCard it is £17 for a litre bottle. For me Gordons is a sort of bench mark.

My other favourite, and again a brand leader, is Beefeater London Dry Gin.. A little more expensive, but it is 40% proof, against Gordon's 37.5%, all can be adjusted with tonic water and ice cubes! In Waitrose, Beefeater is reduced to £14.50 from £18.50 for a standard bottle. Beefeater, for me is slightly more flowery and fruity that Gordons, but both have the classic juniper dry London Gin character.

Now, where do you find Dubonnet these days? Many vermouths are less fashionable than the days of Gin and French (Noilly Prat, or Chambery,) or Gin and Italian, mainly called "Gin and It, with Martini Rosso.

For Dubonnet, Ocado have it for £10.00. I should say that if you don't want such as strong drink, use much less gin, more ice, or even drink Dubonnet on the rocks with a dash of soda and a slice of lemon, a very refreshing, slightly sweet summer aperitif.

Dubonnet

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Whilst on the delights of gin, I might recommend a Pink Gin. A very traditional drink fashionable in the Navy and Army in the 19th century, but can be fun. I was introduced to my first Pink Gin, by my neighbour, a former Indian Army Officer, who saw me labouring in my garden for hours clearing weeds and passed me this refreshment through the fence between us!

I should explain what a Pink Gin is for those of you who may not have come across it yet. It is very simple, your favourite gin, from the freezer, plus four of five drops ( to taste) of Angostura Bitters, garnished with peel of lemon. A perfect summer aperitif. Angostura Bitters are stocked by all major supermarkets for between £10 and £11 a bottle.

For all the best gin deals head to this page.

How can I not talk about the quality, variety and world leading qualities of Scotch Whisky? One of the Country's leading exports, and well appreciated at home. Again I refer you to our Whisky page. for some great offers.

Master of Malt have a wonderful selection of single Malts, and whisky with some good age and maturity. Well worth the prices of around £35-£40 for 12 year old Malts, when you compare to the price of top wines.

I personally love the balance and elegance of a premium blended whisky. The skill and artistry of blenders is amazing, and the two leading blends I am fond of are Jonnie Walker Black Label. A complex blend with a fruity, malty nose and a smoky finish, and in Waitrose reduced from £34 to £23 a bottle, and Tesco reduced from £32 to £20.

Johnnie Walker Black Label

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The second blend I like is Chivas Regal 12-year-old, which was my grandfather's favourite. Again, a fruity blend with notes of dried apple and vanillin, and a long complex finish. £22.50 in Morrisons at present.

Chivas Regal 12 yo

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Now for wine. Undoubtedly the pride of British wines are our sparkling wines, often rated alongside or even above the best from France and Champagne. Perfect to have a British fizz to celebrate the Coronation, what else?

The brand leader Nyetimber has been making wine under various owners since 1988. Now they have mature vines, and a great winemaker, so deserve their accolades, which are plenty. The best deal for Nyetimber Classic Cuvee NV is £28.99 at Majestic when you mix six. Good wine, the equivalent to any good Champagne.

Nyetimber Classic Cuvee

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The best range of English and Welsh sparkling wines is with Waitrose, who have a wonderful selection of 71 bottle.

I have my favourites, and they have Gusbourne, Ridgeview, Camel Valley, Hattingley Valley, to name a few of the wines I like best.

But Waitrose have their own vineyard and Estate at Leckford just on the edge of the chalky North Downs near Winchester in Hampshire, and their wine is excellent. Being their own also means it is very fair value on Waitrose shelves, on offer right now for £24.99 a bottle.

Leckford Estate brut

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I should also declare an interest in two other sparklers Waitrose stock, the first in that I was involved in planting the vineyard and the second in that I take grapes there to be vinified from another vineyard I planted.

The Bluebell Hindleap Sparkling, grown on the Gravetye Estate south of East Grinstead, I was involved in planting in the early 1990's, and it has gone on to produce some lovely sparkling wine. Sadly Waitrose are out of stock of the Blanc des Blancs, which is not surprising, as production is small, but they still have the charming Rose' at £27.99.

Hindleap Rose Sparkling

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In Buckinghamshire there is a charming vineyard just outside Buckingham, run by Tim Chafor, who also helps me with grapes from a small vineyard I planted in Bedfordshire. Waitrose stock his first Vintage Sparkling Brut 2001 Chafor Estate, which is excellent and £30.

Chafor Estate Vintage Cuvee

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A fabulous selection to peruse, we should be so proud that we are making such good fizz.

Now, still wines. These have formerly taken second place to sparkling for UK wine growers, but in the last few years huge progress has been made.

I would first send you to Laithwaites offer for British Wine, and you will see that they also include Gin and Whisky! But they do offer the Hope and Harrow sparkling wine, made by Henry Laithwaite. The very talented son of founder Tony, who has trained around the world and is also making the Windsor Great Park sparkling wine here.

His Hope and Harrow sparkling wine is first rate. Windsor Great Park I also love, but it is a small production and mostly reserved for use in the Castle. They have a party or two coming up shortly! But for still wine I would recommend Laithwaite's offer of Balfour Springfield Chardonnay 2018. Gently oaked with a Chablis like crispness.

Balfour Springfield Chardonnay

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Balfour, under the name Hush Heath, also make a stunning Pinot Noir, but unsurprisingly it is all sold out!

There is, however, and excellent Pinot Noir from Essex on sale at Fortnum and Mason. Martin's Lane Reserve Pinot Noir is an excellent complex spicy fruity wine, perfect for most meat dishes, and is £33.50.

Finally, as a digestif, to end a celebratory meal, the most famous British Liqueur is Drambuie. Whisky with honey and spices, a drink everyone enjoys. Purporting to go back to the days of Bonnie Prince Charlie, what could be more appropriate?

Ah Ha, perhaps the wonderful Kings Ginger Liqueur, could be appropriate?. £28.95 for a 50cl bottle at Fortnum and Mason?

Kings Ginger Liqueur

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They also have a digestif which is so typically British, Sloe Gin, £13.95 for 50 cl. Ripe sloes, picked from our hedgerows in the autumn, and macerated in gin with a little sugar for a year or more. A truly British celebratory drink, but then I make it myself every year, so again I'm totally prejudiced!

Enjoy the Coronation, and drink well.

Christopher Burr. Master of Wine. April 2023.


Christopher Burr, MW

Christopher Burr, MW

Christopher has been involved in the wine business for over 45 years. He is one of only 502 MW’s from 31 countries worldwide. Learn more about his experience as a Master of Wine here.

Read more articles by: Christopher Burr, MW


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