European Parliament votes against keeping the absinthe in absinthe
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – The European Commission wants clarity: the list of ingredients in the famous old Swiss drink, absinthe, must contain certain basic ingredients, its argues, and one of these is thujone, found in several plants, including Artemisia absinthium, also known as Great Wormwood.
It’s also found in sage.
The European Parliament said Thursday that it disagrees, voting 409 to 247 for the status quo, which sets a maximum amount of 35 milligrams per kilogram of absinthe – but which sets no minimum. The Commission’s goal is to standardize the drink by ensuring the same basic ingredients are used.
The vote was backed by members of parliament voicing health concerns, who said there is no need to guarantee that the “toxin” thujone is part of the drink. Absinthe was banned for most of a century in a number of countries because of fears that it poisoned drinkers; it was famous in the arts world for its hallucinogenic effects.
The drink was banned in Switzerland in 1908 but authorized again in 2005. It was given protected IGP status in August 2012, so that at least in Switzerland, makers of the “green fairy” drink must meet a set of standards.
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – Temperatures are expected to remain well into the 30sC for the next few days, and one of the things to remember is we all need to drink more.
The heat wave has prompted the Swiss finance ministry to remind employers of the impact on the workplace.
Seco also has a series of common sense tips for all of us:
- The best beverages when it’s hot out are cool water, lightly sparkling mineral water, herbal infusions, fruit teas and diluted fruit juices.
- Normal consumption, depending on weight, should be 1.8 to 2.5 litres of water a day. During a heat wave, if you work in an office you should drink an extra litre.
- The worst thirst-quenchers are milk-based and energy drinks, as well as smoothies.
- Avoid alcoholic drinks, which increase your water loss.
BERN, SWITZERLAND – One of the most famous drinks of 19th century Europe finally has its place at home in Switzerland, with a decision by the Federal Office for Agriculture (FOAG) Thursday 16 August to give IGP status to the names Absinthe, Fée verte and La Bleue.
IGP (indications géographiques protégées), officially known as Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) in English, is being awarded because of the “traditional character” of the three names used in the Val-de-Travers, birthplace of this eau-de-vie. The three names in French apply in all languages.
The European Union created the IGP seal in 1992 and it is used to protect the names of such agricultural products as France’s Bayonne ham and Champagne. French producers of a similar drink have been unhappy with Switzerland’s efforts to monopolize the use of the name, a situation that recalls the fight by the tiny Swiss village of Champagne to use the town’s name on their aperitif flutes, a fight they lost to the French sparkling wine industry.
The decision comes after the use of the names was open to public comment. The FOAG received 42 complaints, of which 20 came from outside the country. They included arguments that the names are generic rather than traditional in character ad that there is a conflict between the appellation for absinthe the drink and the name of the plant, as well as complaints that the new IGP is unfair to brands and product names that use homonyms.
The FOAG, after reviewing the complaints, notes that there is no doubt about the traditional nature of the use of these names. The first absinthe was commercially produced in the region, in the Jura region near the French border, in 1797. Daniel-Henri Dubied bought the rights from the Henriod family to produce their “absinthe elixir”, which they had been making on a smaller scale for some time.
The popular drink was made famous by artists, including Toulouse-Lautrec, Gaugin and Baudelaire, who raved about the mystical properties they assigned to what they called the green fairy.
It was banned in Switzerland in 1908 as pressure from abolitionists grew. By 1915 it was banned in most of Europe and the US. It then went underground until it was legalized again in 2005.
This week’s decision, which can be contested during the next 30 days, also argues that unless brands are protected under Swiss law, the name cannot be used, and that the public’s interest in having IGP protection for the product overrides any commercial arguments for continuing to use the names without meeting the new IGP requirements.
Absinthe tourism has become popular in the region, with a museum and several producers.
LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND – Those beautiful late-harvest wines for which Switzerland is gaining such a world reputation is part of the influence behind a new Swiss-based product, Nestlé’s limited edition Naora Grand Cru coffee capsules.
Nespresso spent two years working with the National Federation of Colombian Coffee Growers “to perfect the technique which was heavily influenced by oenology”, the company notes.
The coffee, with blackcurrant and blueberry notes, comes from Colombia’s northern Andean regions of Santander and Tolima, known for mild, sweet coffees, delicate in the cup due to high growing altitudes.
The following, from Nespresso’s press release, will sound familiar to fans and growers of late harvest wines:
“selected Colombian Castillo coffee bean ‘cherries’ are left to mature on the plant until the last possible moment, giving them a distinct taste.
“The ‘late harvest’ technique requires tight control of growing conditions to ensure the beans are picked when they have reached optimum maturity.
“Even a few days delay past that point can affect the taste and mean the whole harvest is wasted.”
Alexis Rodriguez, the company’s green coffee expert in Colombia, says “Our goal was to expand the boundaries of taste to create a totally new flavour. With Naora, we have succeeded in translating a process used in viniculture for the world of coffee.”
Castillo cherries were chosen for the new coffee capsules because, according to Nespresso, “It is one of the rare Arabica coffee varieties that can overripe while staying attached to the branch, thus acquiring a maximum of nutrients and allowing aromas to better develop. Rigorous controls were implemented to guarantee that the coffee cherries could mature until the last possible minute before being picked, while avoiding the high risk of fermentation or mould.”
Timing is crucial and the 1,100 coffee growers who joined the project were obliged to adopt new harvesting practices.
“Initially it was a challenge for them to work so radically differently than they have for generations – picking cherries that are violet instead of red,” says Rodriguez.
The name Naora combines the English word now with its Spanish translation, ahora.
The coffee capsule’s launch is accompanied by two white porcelain tactile espresso cups and saucers for CHF40, illustrated by French artist Laurence Bost at creative studio Onze Dixieme in Paris.
For those who like their coffee in food form, the company offers a couple of appealing recipes. I confess I haven’t tried this one; I plan to wait for the garden fruit to ripen and we don’t yet have flowers on the branches, so it will be a while.
Recipe: Forest Treat
40 cl fresh raspberry coulis
2.5g d’alginate or 3 gelatine sheets
1 scoop of yoghourt ice cream
1 Naora espresso
2 ice cubes
2 Ritual water glasses
1 siphon for the whipped cream or the espuma
Mix the raspberry coulis with the alginate or with the gelatine sheets (previously
dissolved in hot water).
Put the mix in a siphon and leave the preparation in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Put 40ml of Naora espresso and 2 ice cubes in a shaker. Shake until the ice cubes
Serve in one of the glasses.
Put a scoop of yoghourt ice cream in the other glass and make sure that it covers the
bottom and that the surface is flat.
Add the raspberry espuma on top and serve.
Fosters, the largest drinks firm in Australian, has put its wine division up for sale, finally acknowledging that the business it spent A$7 million putting together, according to The Economist, was a disaster. The company will now return to its traditional role as a purveyor of Australian beer, with more than 100 brands, but the wine foray may have weakened it so badly that it appears to be a buyout target for global drinks companies.
The wine business, under the name Treasury Wine Estates, will be listed on the Sydney Stock Exchange 10 May, following shareholders’ approval 1 May of the demerger and the Supreme Court’s approval 4 May. Fosters renamed its wine business in 2010, but the move met with skepticism. Wine Spectator asked in July 2010 if the new name would make it more attractive to investors, pointing to the likelihood of a selloff, saying then that “analysts believe Treasury could be worth between $1.25 billion and $3.57 billion.”
Fosters added several mid-range and sometimes mediocre wine lines to its business not long before Australian wine was hit by a costly combination of over-supply and under-demand. The wine business, says the Spectator, embraces “30,000 acres, 20 wineries and 50 brands from Australia, New Zealand, France, Italy and California, including icons like Penfolds, Beringer and Chateau St Jean.”
But known names was not enough to turn a profit, says The Economist. “A series of acquisitions, including paying $1.1 billion for Beringer, a Californian label, in 2000 and culminating in the purchase of Southcorp (owner of Penfolds, Lindemans and Rosemount) in 2005 for A$3.2 billion ($3.5 billion), performed so badly that it cost Trevor O’Hoy, Fosters’ chief executive, his job in 2008.”
Geneva, Switzerland (GenevaLunch) – It’s Saint Patrick’s day, when thoughts turn to all things Irish in some households (mine), starting with the first drink of the day.
In my case, it was a fine cuppa, from a new packet of Bewley’s Irish tea, some of the best breakfast tea around, served by my husband in one of my favourite mugs, made by Irish potter Nick Mosse. This is how every day should start, not just 17 March.
If I were in Ireland I would certainly head out to the pub today. One of life’s great joys, when you get past thinking you’re drinking petrol, is nursing a slowly pulled pint of Guinness from a pub where everyone else is drinking it. I’m serious: if no one else in the pub is having the stuff, find another pub.
And if you’re drinking your Guinness outside of Ireland, some will say you’re not getting the real thing.
I probably wouldn’t imbibe in two other Irish contributions to the world of great beverages, but I am happy recommending them. A dinner followed by Bailey‘s on ice, that curious blend of cream and whisky, is a fine way to end the day. Bailey’s ice cream is quite good, for those who prefer solids to liquids.
Purists will take their whiskey straight, and so they should if they have access to the best. Ireland is right up there with Scotland for this.
And a reminder, from a nephew who enjoys his Irish heritage, the whiskey or just about anything else, without the devil of a bit of music, isn’t quite Irish, is it? A classic, from the Clancy Brothers, to ease you into the business of Irish drinking and more (Sláinte!):
Loose and dark and Irish: great tea
Bewley’s on Grafton Street in Dublin has long had a reputation for coffee, but it started on something of a tea gamble. The Irish were not yet tea drinkers in 1835 when an Irish father and son team broke the East India company’s stranglehold on the business, or so Bewley’s history has it. The pair imported 2,099 chests of tea into Ireland hoping to convince the Irish to drink it. Today the company says more than 600 million cups of their tea and coffee are made every year.
Irish breakfast tea is not the same as English breakfast tea: the first is a blend that usually has a good deal of Assam, making it a strong tea, while English tea often blends Assam with Ceylon or Kenyan tea, and it tends to have a more golden tone. Bewley’s version of Irish tea is a high-grade strong blend of mountain Assam and Darjeeling teas, blended in India. The loose tea in a box shown here requires a trip to Dublin or a truly kind friend who’s just been there.
The perfect home brewed means brewed at home, aka Ireland
A battle has raged for years among fans of stout, over whether it is true that the best Guinness is in Ireland. The subject has kept pubs open late for years, while patrons debate it. The brewery thought to put an end to the arguments and sell more of its brew around the world by testing it: their judges concluded a Guinness here is as good as a Guinness there.
The Irish can be stubborn, however. MSNBC, which has a wonderful article today on the scientific side of what makes Guinness foam, mentions that four researchers concluded that Guinness in Ireland is the best.
If you think they’re taking the mickey out of us you’re wrong, for the serious Journal of Food Science has published their results. “This difference remained statistically significant after adjusting for researcher, pub ambience, Guinness appearance, and the sensory measures mouthfeel, flavor, and aftertaste.” The panel of four “non-expert judges” was researching the question, “does Guinness travel well” and they concluded that “the enjoyment of Guinness consumed in Ireland was rated higher” by a statistically significant difference.
And then there’s the whiskey
The world’s first whiskey license was handed out by an English monarch, in 1608, to an Irish distillery. They’d been perfecting the recipe and technique created by monks some 500 years earlier. Bushmills, for that was the brewery, was a name I grew up with, my father’s treasured beverage (1 jigger on the rocks, tiny splash of water), something he had every workday in Iowa, in the US, when he came home. It marked the hour between the office or the road, for he travelled a good deal, and the evening with family. It was a sacred hour: we children were not, under any circumstances, allowed to bother him. Shoes off, feet up, newspaper in front of him, the glass of Bushmills next to him.
In my 30s I was sent to Bushmills by a US travel magazine for part of an article on Northern Ireland. When I told the head of the distillery that my father was one of their most loyal fans and that I hadn’t realized for years they were quite famous beyond our household, he gave me a very special tie and a bottle of Black Bush to take to my dad, who was thrilled. He treasured them for years, along with the photos I took of the beautiful distillery on the coastline, not far from the Giant’s Causeway, where the Irish mythological hero Finn McCool built stepping stones to Scotland.
Tip: a dram of whiskey helps warm you to the local tales.
How the whiskey made friends with the cream
I’ve just learned that Baileys and I were born together, back in 1951. I was only 9 months in the making, but the mix of cream and alcohol was two years in the making, in order to find a recipe that would blend the two and allow them to stay together in a stable manner. Here’s what wikipedia has to say about it:
“Baileys was the first 44% liqueur to use cream, honey, coffee, cocoa and alcohol together in a manner sufficiently stable to allow commercial distribution. The alcohol in Baileys is produced from a bacterial fermentation of whiskey. The cream and alcohol, together with some whiskey are homogenized to form an emulsion, with the aid of an emulsifier containing refined vegetable oil. This process prevents separation of the whiskey and cream during storage. The quantity of other ingredients is not known but they include natural herbs and sugar.”
Two important points are that no preservatives are required to keep the cream from going off and that the lush rolling hills of Kilkenny in southern Ireland have been supplying the cream from the area’s happy cows for the past 30 years. The blending and bottling are done in Dublin.
Baileys offers you a chance to meet the cows, learn more about its Irish cream and have a cheerful bit of the crack, online.
Saint Patrick, by the way, has contributed only his feast day to the Irish love of a good drink, but that’s quite a lot if you look at 17 March consumption of Irish beverages, I suspect.