Shop local: Essex gin and wine producers making perfect Christmas presents
PUBLISHED: 10:31 10 November 2020 | UPDATED: 10:46 10 November 2020
Starting to get that festive vibe? Whether you’re looking for the perfect present, or planning your top tipples, meet Essex’s most exciting gin and wine producers
Liz Baker of Wilkin & Sons, Tiptree
Last year Wilkin & Sons of Tiptree launched a rather fine Christmas Pudding Rum which went down an absolute storm with customers (me included). This is the very essence of Christmas in a bottle.
Liz Baker, marketing manager at Tiptree, explains: ‘Initially we launched it as a limited edition, but people have enjoyed it right throughout this past year. It’s available to purchase via our website, plus in all of our shops and many of our retail outlets.’
This year you might also want to sample some of Wilkin & Sons’ English Raspberry gin liqueur: ‘It’s made with the raspberries grown on our farm. In fact, all of our drinks have a Tiptree element to them. We use either our homegrown fruit or one of our products. The raspberry liqueur is ideal at this time of year in a glass of Prosecco or Champagne as it makes a lovely, festive Raspberry Royal. There’s just enough of a sweet, fruity tang to cut through the fizz.’
Liz also suggests you try offering your guests a special Tiptree-inspired, salted caramel martini: ‘We sell a salted caramel vodka using our Tiptree salted caramel spread. Basically, you make the martini by mixing ice, Tiptree salted caramel spread and our salted caramel vodka. It’s really rather nice.’
Looking for the perfect Christmas gift is easy too as there are a delightful range of mini sets to choose from at one of the Tiptree shops or online. The collection includes miniature fruit gin liqueurs in a pretty box containing four different gins blending local Hayman’s gin with English strawberries, raspberries, damsons or rhubarb.
If spiced rum warms your heart, there is a box of four pineapple, coconut, traditional English and chocolate spiced rum too. Or how about vodka? You’ll find strawberry, salted caramel, chocolate orange and tawny marmalade flavours to keep you merry. You can of course also buy these spirits in full size individual bottles and you can even buy them with a glass as a rather snappy snifter set.
There’s even an English spirits advent calendar for the grown-ups and cocktail fizz cans to keep the younger members of the family happy (of drinking age of course). The cans have a bright, striped retro look about them and come in raspberry and rose, strawberries and cream soda, and apple and salted caramel flavours.
Finally, you can order a personalised bottle of gin liqueur so you can add your own message to your bottle label. Each one comes with a gift bag and hand-tied ribbon. Just allow at least 10 days for the processing of your order plus delivery time.
Factory Hill, Tiptree, Colchester CO5 0RF; 01621 815407; tiptee.com
Ben Mann, Nichole North & Simon Burrows of East Coast Distillery, Tendring
Ben Mann along with Nichole North and Simon Burrows set up the East Coast Distillery in May of last year and were due to launch this April.
‘Obviously with the pandemic everything changed so our original launch was delayed. Instead we used World Gin Day on June 13 to launch ourselves as a new gin producer here in Essex.’
During these extra few months they used the time to get the new premises in North Essex up to scratch.
‘It was originally an old farm site so the building used to be an old cow shed. Now it’s a slightly more glamorous cow shed. Finding this site was serendipitous as we wanted to celebrate the North Essex coast. Where we live is a beautiful coastal backwater, and it is also the site of Arthur Ransome’s Secret Water map. We are right on the Tendring Estuary and it’s just a fantastic spot.’
As well as being a tranquil spot to set up a new business, the location provides two of the botanicals they forage for their new style of gin.
Simon explains: ‘It’s a nice relationship. Our USP is our relevance to the local area and the botanicals we use to distil our gin include sea buckthorn.’
You can find this coastal berry growing locally on Jaywick beach but the team leave those berries to nature and instead have their own specially grown for them by a local farmer.
‘It’s grown right here and harvested here too. We chose it due to its locality as we wanted to be true to our coastal roots. However, we didn’t realise quite how trendy sea buckthorn was becoming.’ Also in their gin mix is sea purslane which coats the riverbanks right on their doorstep. ‘We also grow our own fennel. Our whole brand is tied into celebrating the traditions and heritage of the Essex coast.’
Originally it was Ben and Nicole’s idea to start their own business. Ben explains: ‘We wanted to be more of our own boss, and to do something with a creative outlook and to provide a legacy. To be honest it was a bit of a pipe dream for 12 months, but then we committed to it and decided to do it. We did courses with a gin foundry about how to open a distillery.’
It’s a tough market to launch into with already more than 500 gins for sale in the UK, but the team have invested, not only in a great location and story for their gin, but also in environmentally friendly, smart packaging too.
‘Being a coastal product produced right by the sea, it is really important to us to look after our oceans, so our packaging is all about reducing or eliminating single use plastics. All of our packaging is made from recycled cardboard. It works visually and has a lovely tactile sleeve inside a cardboard box, rather than an inflated plastic sack or any shrink wrapping.’
To get hold of bottles of Tide’s Fortune with its crisp, classic juniper flavours, you can order directly from the website. You can also visit them at the distillery on a Friday or Saturday. They are open between 10am and 3pm on both days.
Landermere Farm Building 3A, Landermere, Thorpe le Soken CO16 0NH; eastcoastdistillery.co.uk
Robin James of Mr Wheeler Wine, Dedham
Finally, your festive table wouldn’t be complete without some carefully chosen wines to complement your culinary prowess. Wine specialist Robin James, from Mr Wheeler’s Wine, has all the answers.
‘Brut Tradition Blanc de Noirs, Champagne Michel Guilleminot has been a company favourite for years. Our House Champagne is made from 100% pinot noir, sourced exclusively from the Guilleminot family’s own grapes that grow on the hills just behind their home and then are vinified just metres away. Critically acclaimed year after year, Guilleminot brut offers a delightful weight and texture along with a complexity that you just wouldn’t normally expect in a wine at this price level. At just £23.50 per bottle it’s significantly less than all of the larger brands who tend to dominate the market and, dare I say, it’s a lot better too.
‘When it comes to choosing your Christmas whites it’s also worth bearing in mind that food around this time of year tends to be a little heavier and therefore a fuller style of white is usually a better match. Chardonnay still rules in most cases and in the case of the 2019 Mâcon Uchizy from Domaine Talmard, you have the perfect all-rounder. At £15, this unoaked chardonnay (for those of you who may not like an oaked style) goes brilliantly with everything and is just as good as an aperitif as it is as a dinner wine. Citrus flavours combine alongside a touch of tropical fruit to deliver a wonderfully fruit-forward style with that touch of extra weight to give it an indulgent rich finish.
‘For this year’s Christmas Claret I highly recommend one of our best finds and biggest sellers of the year, the 2010 Chateau Ramafort. On offer at £17.50 this brilliant Bordeaux from one of the best vintages this century is drinking superbly at the moment, but will also continue to improve making it not just the best wine to enjoy yourself, but the perfect gift too.
‘Finally, if you’re feeling like treating yourself a little, it wouldn’t be Christmas without a touch of sweetness and our Australian Rutherglen Muscat, from Pfeiffer, is a perennial favourite that’s always guaranteed to get you in the Christmas spirit. As soon as it’s poured you’ll be seduced by the wonderful aromas of rich, raisined fruit while the sweet caramel taste in your mouth just lasts and lasts – absolute heaven. It’s just perfect alongside Christmas pudding, but versatile enough that you can also enjoy it with cheese or simply on its own. So why not treat yourself to a bottle for this year’s table at £15.95 a bottle?’
So that’s your Christmas tipples sorted, with plenty of emphasis on high quality, using some of our artisan, local distilleries and wine houses you’ll create an instant talking point with your guests. Whichever shape or form the festive season comes this year, make sure you enjoy it safely and raise a glass to those dearest to you.
Birchwood Farm, Birchwood Road, Dedham CO7 6HX; 01206 322875; mrwheelerwine.com