Monday, 30 November 2020

All you need to know about French cider

Cider is, quite simply, an alcoholic drink made from the fermented juice of apples.

It is widely produced in Britain, particularly the West Country, and Ireland. 

The UK has the world's highest per capita consumption but the drink is also popular in France (particularly Normandy and Brittany) and even in Australia, where it is mainly made in Tasmania. 

In the US, varieties of fermented cider are often called hard cider to distinguish alcoholic cider from non-alcoholic apple cider or "sweet cider". 

In France, cider must be made solely from apples, while perry is a similar product to cider made from fermented pear juice. 

In France, the Brittany and Normandy regions compete for cider drinkers' attention. 

Harvest takes place from mid-September to December in Breton and Norman orchards. Once harvested, the apples are sorted, washed, crushed (skin, flesh and seeds included), then pressed to extract their juice, known as 'must'. 

The juice is then stored in vats (sometimes oak barrels) for fermentation. Once bottled, the cider rests in a cellar for a few weeks to several months, depending on the flavour the cider maker wants.

'Cidre fermier' is made from apples from the actual farm that produces it, and 'cidre bouché' owes its name to its cork stopper.

The most famous French cider is made in the Cornouaille area and bears its name: Cornouaille AOP cider. It is the only Breton cider to benefit from a protected Designation of Origin. 

Another popular cider is Royal Guillevic, made exclusively with Guillevic apples, while the Domaine de Kervéguen in northern Brittany produces a cuvée from organic farming, called Prestige Carpe Diem. 

Normandy has its own cider route covering the Pays d'Auge and Cotentin with stopovers in the villages of Cambremer, Beuvron-en-Auge, Bonnebosq and Beaufour-Druval. 

Nicknamed 'Norman champagne' for its bubbles, perry is made in Domfrontais, an area covering the departments of Orne and Manche in Normandy and Mayenne in Pays de la Loire. 

Information from Atout France.

Sunday, 29 November 2020

Have yourself a merry British Christmas

Christmas markets, Christmas carols, Christmas lights - nowhere does Christmas quite like Britain. 

When it comes to festive traditions – from mince pies to the Queen’s speech – no one does Christmas with more reverence than the Brits.

Christmas lights are ubiquitous, and are often switched on as early as mid-November. The Brits like their festivities to last at least six weeks. 
Twinkling fairy lights can be seen all over Britain, from Regent Street in the capital, London, to quaint market towns such as Harrogate in Yorkshire.

Electric bulbs were first used to add a touch of magic to the winter festivities in 1881, a year that saw the Savoy Theatre in London’s West End become the first building in the world to be entirely lit by electricity.

Pantomimes, known as pantos, are a Christmas tradition enjoyed almost exclusively in the British Isles, often extravagant and comedic retellings of classic tales such as Dick Whittington, Cinderella or Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. 

The history of pantomimes dates back to the Middle Ages, where religious tales highlighting the triumph of good over evil were performed. The theatrical style of the performances has its foundations in 14th-century court entertainment, which commonly featured song and dramatic mime.

One of London’s best-known festive traditions is the annual Christmas tree displayed in the heart of Trafalgar Square. First gifted to Britain from Norway in 1947, in thanks for the country’s support during the World War II, the tree has become an annual tradition and sits proudly at the centre of the square bedecked in dazzling strings of fairy lights. 

Many families also choose to celebrate the holidays with their own decorated Christmas tree, a custom first introduced to the people of Britain by Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III, in 1800.

There are special dishes also enjoyed over the holiday period, roast turkeys, mince pies and Christmas puddings among them. 

Mince pies have been enjoyed by Brits since the Tudor period, when they were stuffed with a savoury meat filling! Now mixing fruit and spices encased in a buttery pastry, they are a firm favourite in festive Britain.

Also soaked in warming spiced fruit, but with an alcoholic twist, is the classic Christmas pudding. Made from dried fruit, spices and brandy, the traditional Christmas pudding is an iconic part of Christmas day lunch across Britain. 

Dating back to medieval times, this potent pudding was created with a high alcohol content to prevent it from spoiling too quickly. To give it an added touch of festive flare, it is usually set on fire as it is served, an effect created by pouring a pre-lit ladle of brandy over the pud before it is presented at the table. 

No Christmas dinner in Britain would be complete without the ceremonial pulling of the crackers, traditionally used to decorate the table for the day’s feast. 

These paper tubes come primed with a ‘cracking’ mechanism that, when pulled by two people, creates a small bang. Each loaded with a small prize (ranging from bottle openers to magic tricks), classic paper crown hats and an inevitably terrible joke, crackers are a fun addition to the day’s festivities. 

A relatively modern tradition, these cracking decorations were first introduced in the Victorian period and continue to win the hearts of Christmas-loving Brits to this day.

After the fun of roast lunches and crackers, fans of the Royal Family sit down to watch the Royal Christmas Message – a staple part of British yuletide since it was first broadcast by King George V on BBC radio in 1932. 

This royal communication is broadcast to the Commonwealth at 3pm on Christmas Day, highlighting the year’s standout events and the monarch’s personal reflections on the past 12 months.

Many churches, concert halls and music venues are filled with the sound of Christmas carols in the days leading up to Christmas and Boxing Day is marked by the start of post-Christmas sales across stores in Britain.

Info: Visit Britain 

Saturday, 28 November 2020

Taste wines from some of the best small producers in Tasmania

Calling all Tasmanian wine lovers at a loose end this Sunday afternoon.

How about a trip to the opening event of the Vino Amigos season at the Port Cygnet Cannery complex. 

With wines from Sailor Seeks Horse, Mewstone/Hughes & Hughes and Anim Wines, tacos and live music this sounds like a whole lot of fun. 

Paul and Gilli Lipscombe from Sailor Seeks Horse (above) - whose cellar door and winery is part of the Cannery complex - will combine with a rotation of their Tassie winemaker mates to pour their wines for guests to taste, drink and take away. 

On one side of the Cannery you will find wine and ping pong and on the other side there’ll be tacos, beers, cocktails, live music and beer garden games.

Guests at the first event are Jonny Hughes from Mewstone and Hughes & Hughes, and Max Marriott from Anim Wines. Both are young winemakers from the nearby Channel region. 

Music will be by Yvan and Emily, who combine alternatively tuned guitars, violins and violas with ethereal vocals. 

The opening event will run from noon-5pm on Sunday with an entry fee of $10 to support the musicians at the waterfront venue.

"We’re finally getting our act together and organising some wine events on the winery side of the Cannery," said Paul Lipscombe. 

"Vino Amigos will run once a month over summer. It’s meant to be fun and relaxed; we’ll offer tastings, wines by the glass / bottle, plus takeaway sales."

On December 6, there will be a Christmas Market at the Cannery and wineries involved include Altaness, Chatto, Elsewhere, Stefano Lubiana/Lucille Vineyard and Two Bud Spur. 

The Sailor Seeks Horse cellar door is now also open over the weekends for walk-in tastings. 

Friday, 27 November 2020

Chinese give it to Australian wine producers with both barrels

It looks like Scott Morrison, Marise Payne and their mates have seriously aggravated the Chinese Government.

The Chinese Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) today announced the imposition of preliminary anti-dumping tariffs on Australian bottled wine imports. 

The tariffs range from 107% to 212% from Saturday, November 28, 2020.
The restriction on Australia’s exports to China will adversely impact the wine sectors of both countries. 

It will also be particularly disappointing for the millions of Chinese consumers who enjoy Australian wine, and the distributors in China who have built relationships with Australian wine businesses. 

Given the size of the tariff, Australian winemakers will now be forced to consider alternative markets for export sales.

This decision will have a significant impact on Australia’s rural and regional economies, particularly in those states most invested in grape growing and winemaking, where the impact on regional employment is likely to be felt most acutely.

“These are preliminary tariffs, and both the anti-dumping and countervailing duties investigations are ongoing” said Tony Battaglene, Chief Executive of Australian Grape &Wine.

“We continue to stand firm that Australian exporters are not dumping wines in the Chinese market, nor have they received subsidies that have had a negative impact on the Chinese wine industry.

“While we are disappointed with this development, our members will continue to cooperate with MOFCOM as the investigation continues, working towards an outcome that is consistent with the facts of the case, and supports the growth of the wine industry in Australia and China.”

Sick of being a global laughing stock, village changes its name after 1,000 years

Tired of tourists sniggering and taking photos in front of the town sign, the long-suffering residents of a small Austrian village have decided to change its name.

The village of Fucking will be known as Fugging from January 1, 2021.

Mayor Andrea Holzner told Austrian broadcaster Oe24 that the small community in Upper Austria had been pushing for a name change for years, the German Press Agency reported.

The name of the town, which lies north of Salzburg near the German border, has no meaning in German.

Locals have grown frustrated by the thefts of the town signs by tourists and of milling groups of people photographing the sign.

The small village largely escaped the notice of the wider world until the birth of the internet, when it was frequently included on lists of the funniest or most explicit place names.

Fugging apparently better reflects the pronunciation of the town by locals. It is unclear what will happen to the current town signs.

No news has yet emerged about possible name changes to the nearby hamlets of Oberfucking and Unterfucking. The town has been known as Fucking for around 1,000 years.

No news yet on whether the Germany village of Wank will follow Fucking's lead.

Katnook's new owners swoop to sign winemaking talent

Accolade Wines has swooped to sign Natalie Cleghorn as senior winemaker and manager for Katnook Estate as it completed the acquisition of the renowned Coonawarra wine brand.

Cleghorn has been making award-winning wines from the Coonawarra region for more than 10 years. 

Accolade produces a range of heritage-rich wine brands including Grant Burge, Petaluma and St Hallett. 


Katnook Estate is the company’s first acquisition under the new leadership team and Carlyle group ownership. Accolade Wines was first attracted to the region of Coonawarra and then to the heritage of the Katnook winery and vineyard.


Katnook lies in the heart of Coonawarra, a region with a wine history stretching back to 1867. 

Cleghorn starts her new role on January 4, in time for the 2021.vintage. 

“I am thrilled to be joining Katnook Estate and the broader Accolade Wines team," Cleghorn said. 

"I have a great passion for the wines of Coonawarra and the region as a whole. I am looking forward to being able to fully immerse myself focusing on the region, wines and winery and I am excited by the prospect of working with the experienced team to guide this historic brand into the future.”

Cleghorn, a former track rider for the Hayes family at Lindsay Park,  has 21 years of industry experience. 


She has worked for the Hill Smith family’s estate vineyards, including Yalumba, Oxford Landing Estates and Dalrymple as well as a vintage at Clos Figueres in Priorat, Spain. 

She has been working on Yalumba's Coonawarra brands for the past decade. 

Katnook Estate wines are offered under three ranges: Katnook Founder’s Block; Katnook Estate and the limited release range of iconic Coonawarra wines from exceptional vintages, including the Odyssey Cabernet Sauvignon and the Prodigy Shiraz.

MONA's Christmas present to Tasmania and tourists

Tasmania's biggest tourism drawcard - MONA, the Museum of Old and New Art - will reopen its semi-subterranean galleries, outdoor art and bars and restaurants on Boxing Day. 

MONA will initially be open for four days a week - from Fridays to Mondays "'provided the world and its many surprises don't intervene". 

The galleries have undergone a major revamp, displaying owner and founder David Walsh’s extensive personal collection of ancient, modern and contemporary art. 

From old favourites to hidden gems that have never been seen at Mona before, the rehang comprises around 350 collection highlights (and lowlights).

"We are, of course, aware that we are reopening just before our 10th anniversary, so we've dug out some old stuff to commemorate our opening," Walsh said. "We are also looking to the future. In this time of crisis, community is more important than ever, and so we are looking inwards while we look outwards"

Outside, a giant sculpture by American artist Tom Otterness will double as a children’s playground. Titled Gals Rule, the sculpture features two figures with slides for limbs. It is over 7 metres high and made from bronze. 

A brand new venue, Dubsy’s, will serve burgers nearby on the lawns, which will also play host to live music every operating day selected by MONA music curator Brian Ritchie and his team.

Inside the museum, Tasmanian musician Ben Salter will be in residence each day writing songs, and occasionally performing them, in a gallery designed to feel like an art-filled lounge room. Another new lounge area is to offer pizzas and cocktails.

The Moorilla Wine Bar, The Source, and the Void Bar will be open. Faro, which has been serving lunch and dinner experiments while the rest of the site has been closed, will continue to operate—bookings required.

Mark Wilsdon, the MONA Co-CEO said:  "After nine months of being closed we’ve been busy doing our own reno. With major changes to the art, a daily music program and a playground, not to mention plenty of delicious things to eat and drink, we’re ready to throw open the doors once more. Whether you’re a local who has been to Mona regularly or a first-timer planning a trip, we’re looking forward to having you."

All visitors must have a pre-booked ticket. MONA will offer site-only or full museum entry tickets. Although entry remains free for locals, all Tasmanians will be required to pay a deposit, which can be refunded following a visit.

Visitors will also be required to download Mona’s app (The O), which will become their digital guide to the museum and grounds - and to bring headphones to access additional audio content. The O is now available on iOS and Android.

Mona will reopen Friday to Monday, 10am-6pm, from December 26, 2020.

The MONA ferry will resume a regular service from Brooke Street Pier to the museum, with tickets costing $15 until the end of January. The MONA Pavilions will be available to book for overnight stays Thursday through Sunday.

For more information or to purchase ticket: