|The Ridgeview vineyards sit at the foot of the Susses South Downs|
With the May Bank Holiday switched to a Friday to accommodate VE Day the three day weekend begins a day early this week, rather than ending a day late.
So, unlike a normal May Bank Holiday that falls on a Monday, this year we don't have to worry about it being a school night. That and almost all the schools being closed of course - but I'm not having the C word here.
A Friday Bank Holiday gives you three whole hangover days on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Normally I would be recommending lightweight low-alcohol drinking to get you through a long weekend but the commemoration of the end of the war in Europe requires a dash of the unifying patriotism of the allies that defeated the divisive nationalism of the Axis powers.
Which means enjoying the wines made in the UK.
What to choose though? We're not really thought of as a vine-growing nation. England for example is about half a degree north of the typical wine-growing latitudes between 30 and 51 degrees (N).
And the United Kingdom has accounted for a major share of the world's wine imports for centuries. We are actually the world's largest wine importer, bringing in some 1.6 billion bottles every year. Pause for effect. We're drinking circa 32 bottles of imported wine per adult per year before touching so much as a drop of the UK's own wine output.
Because with wine accounting for more than one-third of our alcohol consumption it made sense for the industry to expand. And it has.
With some 7,000 acres now under vine (albeit small beer still compared to over seven million acres of cereal crops) today we produce almost 16 million bottles of wine ourselves - still just 1% of UK consumption.
Yet the majority of those millions of bottles are of one, singular wine style at which England in particular excels.
It can't be called Champagne of course, but to all intents and purposes that's what it is.
Crafted from Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay, it's made from the same three grape varieties using the méthode traditionnelle - traditional method - as Champagne. And most of the grapes used are even grown on the same layer of chalk soil that extends geologically beneath our feet all the way from England to Champagne.
So there's a lot of it about.
Harrods stocks 13 versions of English Sparkling Wine, all from Sussex and Kent but perhaps the largest range is available from pioneering direct sales wine merchant Laithwaites, a family business founded by Tony Laithwaite in Berkshire, that offers 19 English Sparkling Wine choices by the case and also in mixed cases. Tony also makes his own sparkling wine with grapes grown at the Windsor Great Park vineyard that was replanted in 2011 in the shadow of Windsor Castle. As English as it gets.
From Wales, Ancre Hill Estates' Blanc de Noirs (a sparkling biodynamic white wine made from red grapes) may be the pick of the bunch although Montgomery's 2017 Rosé actually took the title of Best Wine in Wales 2019. Who knew there was such a thing?
Unfortunately, a recent attempt to make wine from grapes grown north of the border in my Uncle Bobby's native Fife produced 200 bottles of a white wine described as 'undrinkable'. Even the pioneer behind the venture known as Chateau Largo, Christopher Trotter, admitted the first vintage tasted 'horrible'.
But it could be worse. Because fizz made from UK-grown grapes wasn't first fermented in the bottle, Champagne-style, until after the end of the Second World War, in the 1950s.
So however you choose to celebrate or commemorate this VE Day Bank Holiday, please remember that without Uncle Bobby's sacrifice, and that of literally millions of others, instead of raising a glass of English (or Welsh) Sparkling Wine, we could all be forced to drink Sekt.