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The best Christmas alcohol drinks from Dorset

The Dorset Pale. (Photo: palmersbrewery.com)
The Dorset Pale. (Photo: palmersbrewery.com)

Luke Machin of Palmers Wine Store in Bridport shares some top Christmas tipples from Dorset.

Great British Life: Vintage ports at the Palmers Wine Store in Bridport. (Photo: palmersbrewery.com)Vintage ports at the Palmers Wine Store in Bridport. (Photo: palmersbrewery.com)

The Dorset Pale & Brewery Tours 

Palmers Brewery has been crafting award-winning ales at The Old Brewery in Bridport since 1794. Located on West Bay Road, on the outskirts of Bridport, this is also the UK's only thatched brewery. Guided tours of our historic brewhouse run twice daily and follow the process from the raw ingredients through to sampling the final product.

Our range of five core cask ales – Copper, IPA, Dorset Gold, 200 and Tally Ho! - are complimented by a selection of seasonal inspired beers. The latest addition to the range is The Dorset Pale, a deliciously hoppy craft keg, a rare beer so refreshing we find it is enjoyed by lager and real ale drinkers alike. The glassware that goes with The Dorset Pale references several iconic Dorset landmarks including Portland Bill, The Cerne Giant and Golden Cap as well as local historic figures such as Thomas Hardy and Mary Anning.

Great British Life: Golden Cap Gin. (Photo: palmersbrewery.com)Golden Cap Gin. (Photo: palmersbrewery.com)

Dorset Spirits

We are an original stockist of Black Cow Vodka (made at Childhay near Beaminster), and we have carried their award-winning range of fabulous milk-based vodkas for over a decade. These sit alongside the fantastic Conker Spirit range (distilled in Bournemouth) including their award-winning Conker Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur, Bowser Leaf 0%, Port Barrel and Navy Strength gins. Palmers own Golden Cap Gin is distilled with Jurassic Coast spring water that rises from the same spring which we use to brew our award-winning ales. Golden Cap Gin is a classic London Dry style gin - botanicals include juniper, coriander, orange, lemon, lime and orris root - the perfect base for cocktails or a cracking Dorset G & T.

Great British Life: Award-winning sparkling wine from Dorset's Langham Wine Estate. (Photo: palmersbrewery.com)Award-winning sparkling wine from Dorset's Langham Wine Estate. (Photo: palmersbrewery.com)

Dorset’s Festive Fizz

Dorset has some of the best wine makers and vineyards in the UK. We have an extensive range of both sparkling and still wines from Furleigh Estate, whose vineyards are to the north of Bridport, and Bride Valley Vineyard, the creation of the much-missed wine expert Steven Spurrier. For 2023 we have added four fabulous sparkling Dorset wines from the Langham Wine Estate, whose vineyards are at Crawthorne near Dorchester. Langham won the prestigious International Wine & Spirit Competition Sparkling Wine Producer of the Year in 2020. All their wines undergo a low intervention production process and there is widespread use of oak fermentation which really sets them apart from other English sparkling wine producers.

Great British Life: Vintage ports at the Palmers Wine Store in Bridport. (Photo: palmersbrewery.com)Vintage ports at the Palmers Wine Store in Bridport. (Photo: palmersbrewery.com)

Ruby and Tawny Ports 

Red port falls into two categories: ruby port, which includes the famous Vintage Ports, and the more widely consumed LBV (Late Bottle Vintage) ports, which is mainly aged in a bottle. LBV Ports are fruit-forward and typically are how you would expect port to taste. Vintage Ports are the top level of port wines, ‘declared’ by the great Port Houses in exceptional vintages; these wines spend two years in cask before being matured in bottle, often for many decades.

Palmers Wine Store’s stocks of vintage ports range from 1955 (bottled in Bridport) to 2018. These wines were all shipped on release and matured in Palmers own cellars. We only retail Vintage Ports when they are ready for drinking, currently the bins are dominated by wines from the 1980s through to the early 1990s. Priced around the £100 mark, they are not cheap, but represent amazing value when you consider the time and investment needed to bring these wines to maturity.

Vintage Ports from 1983 and 1963 could make a special treat for Christmas. We have some 1994 ports for celebrating next year, whilst 1980, 1985 and 1955 will come into their own in 2025 for those significant milestones. Once opened Vintage Port needs to be consumed. It has spent its entire life starved of oxygen so once opened it oxidises quickly.

Tawny ports spend their entire lives in a cask before being bottled for sale. Just to confuse matters further, technically there can be some crossover between the duration in cask seen by young tawny ports and LBVs, at this more ‘entry level’ end of the spectrum the difference is stylistic.

Tawny ports are characterised by flavours of dried fruit, caramel and nutty elements. They are regularly labelled by years – 10, 20, 30 - which references the average age of the wines in the blend. The older the wine the less ‘primary flavours’ will be present and the more obvious the dried fruit, caramel, peanut brittle, apricot, plum, raisin, and walnut flavours. Once a tawny port is transferred to the bottle it no longer matures so there is no advantage to longer cellaring. Because the wine has spent its life in a cask, with access to oxygen, they tend to be more stable which means they can be enjoyed over a longer period, particularly if stoppered and stored in the fridge between servings. Bring up to room temperature before drinking.

Let’s go: Palmers Wine Store on West Bay Road, Bridport is open Monday to Saturday (9am - 6pm). Their range of bottled ales, ciders, wines and spirits can be ordered online for UK mainland delivery, dispatched next working day, or if the delivery is in West Dorset this can be the same day. Guided Tours of their historic brewhouse run Monday to Friday and includes a two-hour tour and tasting. Prior booking recommended. More at palmersbrewery.com



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