It used to be the easiest way in the wine world to get a laugh - start extolling the virtues of English wine. Oh, how they would chortle! And they had a point. Until the 1990s hardly any English wine was more than a curiosity to be drunk if you had no other choice. The old-fashioned view of English wine is that of a cottage industry made up of amateurs struggling with the mud and the drizzle. The modern view is of a country amazingly blessed with vast tracts of soil suitable for viticulture, much of it almost indistinguishable from the chalky slopes of Champagne and Chablis, and of a country taking full advantage of the vagaries of climate change to ripen Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to levels perfect for sparkling wine, and increasingly excellent still wines. And it wouldn't be far off the mark to say that England is now the newest of the New World, New Wave wine countries.