Tasting for the Queen, screw tops and the best summer wines with Jancis Robinson

One of the world’s leading wine critics, Jancis Robinson, visited Australia to sample some of Australia’s best drops and share her wisdom on all things wine.

Jancis has been one of the leading international voices in wine for more than 20 years, and among Jancis’ many accomplishments was being named a member of the Royal Household Wine Committee, which recommends bottles offered to guests at events at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. She also edited the Oxford Companion to Wine.

During her visit, she spoke to Clare Bowditch on the ABC Afternoons program. In case you missed the conversation, here are some of her pearls of wisdom, on everything from coping with tasting hundreds of wines a week and screw-on bottle tops.

How to choose a wine fit for the Queen

Jancis explained that a specially-selected committee meets about three times a year for a blind tasting session. It chooses on the basis of quality, rather than its origin or price. In fact, the prices for the wines included in the tasting have included tipples that cost just a fraction over $10.

“There is no such thing as a direct correlation between price and quality when it comes to wine,” Jancis said, with some wines overpriced and others underpriced.

Independent wine sellers or supermarkets?

Jancis likened wine shopping to book shopping, saying the best wines could be found at an independent store, where the buyer could talk to a knowledgeable staff member about their preferences. She said bigger retailers (at least in the UK) tended to focus on price, rather than quality.

“It’s [wine] a complicated subject – it’s no good saying it’s simple,” she said.

Screw top or cork?

Jancis was uncritical on the emergence of screw top wine bottles.

“I can understand why wine producers want to be sure that what they put in the bottle is what people drink,” she said.

Other benefits she named were the time saving nature of opening a screw top bottle, compared with a cork one. However, she also noticed a move towards using better-quality corks as a sign of handcrafting of wine by modern producers.

What are the best wines for summer?

Now that the weather has warmed up, everyone is wondering what is on the drinks menu. For Jancis, rose is the go-to wine for summer. She said while Australia has been quite slow to embrace “pink wine”, it was starting to become more popular.

She also said light reds including a gamay, Beaujolais or a slightly chilled pinot noir were well-suited to warm weather.

“Lighter bodied, refreshing lighter red wine is perfect for summer,” she sadi.

How much wine does a critic drink?

Some weeks, Jancis tests hundreds of different wines. How does she cope with the effects of all of this wine? By spitting. Jancis does not like drinking during the day, but tends to enjoy a glass or two at home with her husband every evening.

Jancis’ full interview is available on the ABC Melbourne website.

Improve your wine knowledge with The Oxford Companion to Wine.


Summer Sweets: Easy Icecream

I scream, you scream, we all scream for icecream! At step 03, you can add flavouring ingredients such as chopped mango, mashed banana or ground roasted coffee beans.

Makes: 2 litres
Prep time: 10 minutes + several hours freezing
Special equipment: electric beaters, 2 litres capacity metal loaf tin
Nutrition: good source of calcium; high in saturated fat
Skills: whisking, freezing


3 cups (750ml) canned evaporated milk
400ml can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla essence


  1. Place evaporated milk, condensed milk and vanilla in a bowl and whisk with electric beaters until light and fluffy.
  2. Pour into chilled metal loaf tin, cover with foil and place in freezer for several hours.
  3. When partially frozen, remove from freezer, transfer to a chilled bowl and beat with electric beaters until mixture increases in volume.
  4. Return to loaf tin and refreeze.
  5. To serve, scoop into individual bowls or serve alongside other desserts.

9780195570403This recipe is taken from Oxford’s The Food Book.

Summer Sweets: Pavlova

Pavlova with cream, passion fruit and strawberries

Pavlova with cream, passion fruit and strawberries

Adding vinegar and cream of tartar to the meringue mixture gives pavlova a crisp crust and marshmallow centre. A range of other ingredients can be used to decorate it, including kiwifruit, banana slices, berries and grated chocolate.

Serves: 6
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 75 – 90 minutes
Special equipment: baking tray, baking paper, electric mixer
Nutrition: good source of protein; high in saturated fat
Skills: whisking


1 table spoon (20g) cornflour
6 egg whites
1 teaspoon (5g) cream of tartar
1 1/3 cup (335g) caster sugar
1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
1 teaspoon (5ml) white vinegar
1 cup (250ml) thickened cream
2 passion fruit
1 mango to serve


  1. Preheat oven to 110°C. Line baking tray with baking paper, marking it with a 24cm circle. Sprinkle paper with 1 teaspoon (5g) cornflour.
  2. Place egg whites and cream of tartar in bowl of electric mixer and beat until soft peaks form.
  3. Gradually add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until sugar has dissolved and mixture is thick and glossy.
  4. Add remaining 3 teaspoons (15g) cornflour, vanilla and vinegar and fold through with a metal spoon.
  5. Pile meringue mixture onto baking paper, using circle marking as a guide.
  6. Place in oven and cook for 1 ¼ to 1 ½ hours, or until firm and crisp with no sign of browning.
  7. Turn off oven, open door and allow pavlova to cool completely in oven.
  8. Before serving, beat cream until thick. Remove pulp from passionfruit. Peel and chop mango.
  9. Spread shipped cream over pavlova and decorate with mango and passionfruit pulp.
  10. To serve, slide pavlova onto large serving platter and cut into wedges.

9780195570403This recipe is taken from Oxford’s The Food Book.

Oxford Festive Gift Guide for Adults

Need some help with your Christmas shopping this year? We’ve got you covered.

‘Tis the season for gift guides, so we have selected a variety of titles to help you buy for all of the foodies, history buffs, marketers and word nerds in your life. Books make the best gifts so take advantage of our special offer for Christmas below.

Oxford Companion to Wine9780198705383 Wine
Hardback | RRP $81.95
Illustrated with maps of every important wine region in the world, and featuring charts, diagrams and stunning colour photographs, this Companion will give provide wine lovers with everything they needs to show off a little while enjoying a glass of wine.


Oxford Companion to Beer Oxford Companion, Beer, father's day, gift for dad
Hardback | RRP $78.95
Know someone who loves beer? If the answer is yes, then we recommend the most comprehensive reference book ever published on the most popular drink in the world (after water and tea). From the brewing process to beer history, from beer styles, food paring, this book will satisfy beer fans whether they are a brewer, food and beverage professional, or just an enthusiast.

H9780195596267ow Brands Grow: Part 2
Hardback | RRP $39.95
For the business professional, How Brands Grow: Part 2 will change the way they think about marketing forever. Following the success of international bestseller, How Brands Grow: What Marketers Don’t Know, comes a new book that takes readers further on a journey to smarter, evidence-based marketing.


The War at Home: Volume IV9780195576788
Hardback | RRP $59.95
The latest volume in The Centenary History of Australia and the Great War series will help history buffs understand the experience of the Australian people during the Great War in Australia itself, in the politics of war, its economic and social effects, and in the experience of war.



Oxford Dictionary of Humorous Quotations
Paperback | RRP $22.95
We all know someone who loves being the centre of attention, dominating Christmas dinner with terrible jokes. The Oxford Dictionary of Humorous Quotations will lend some sparkle to their speeches and hopefully provide them with some new material for the next family gathering.


Special offer for Christmas
20% off and free delivery*
Discount code: xmas15
To take advantage of this special offer, visit the Oxford University Press website and enter the discount code xmas15 at the checkout.

*Online offer only available to Australian customers. New Zealand customers free call 0800 442 502 or email cs.au@oup.com to receive the same discount on the NZ price. Offer only on selected titles above. The discount cannot be combined with any other offers. Offer expires 31st December 2015.

Wine Facts You Didn’t Know

Wine has been enjoyed as a delicacy by many people around the world. Through the various techniques in preparation, there are endless varieties of wine to suit the diverse preferences of wine lovers. Its timeless influence has seen it span from historical cultures to the modern day. Here are some interesting facts you didn’t know:

Not all wines benefit from ageing

When fine wine is allowed to age, spectacular changes can occur which increase both its complexity and monetary value.  Ageing is dependent on several factors: the wine must be intrinsically capable of it; it must be correctly stored (in a cool place and out of contact with air); and some form of capital investment is usually necessary. The ageing of wine is an important element in getting the most from it but, contrary to popular opinion, only a small subgroup of wines benefit from extended bottle ageing.

Wine consumption may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease

There is evidence that those who drink moderately are less likely to develop coronary heart disease than either those who heavily drink or those who never drink alcohol. A growing number of studies conclude that the way alcohol is consumed – the pattern of drinking – is key to potential health benefits. Studies show that regular moderate consumption, predominately with meals, significantly reduces the risk of a heart attack. It is likely that it is the combination of alcohol, its phenolic compounds, and the usual consumption pattern of wine that makes wine the most beneficial alcoholic beverage for cardiovascular health.

Wine has often been mentioned in religious texts

Historically, wine was so important to the prosperity of the human population, that people saw it as a suitable offering to superhuman authorities. Along with animal sacrifices and offerings from other crops, liberations of wine were poured out to the gods by Italians and Greeks and there were similar practices in the Levant.

Grapes growing in vineyards may experience sunburn

Classical sunburn produces a round halo of burnt skin on the side of the berry facing the sun’s position in the western sky, as damage normally occurs in the afternoon. Whether exposure is harmful to the berry is arguable, and exposure to the sun encourages the production of a range of phenolic compounds, including quercetin, which are generally associated with wine quality, especially for red varieties.

9780198705383 Wine9780198705383
The Oxford Companion to Wine
Fourth edition


Visit the Oxford University Press website and enter the code 20Wine15 at the checkout to receive 20% off and free delivery* on the title above. Offer expires 31st December 2015.

Films through the dessert lens


Sweets in films carry messages, bringing a key plot point, theme, or character into healthier view. Sweets elicit sympathy, expressing love, healing and togetherness, as well as heartbreak, sadness and sickness. Sugar is so facile in films that it can function as the stocky nectar that binds characters to each other or as a poison powder that dries relations to a crumble.

The following list of films employ sweets to tell their stories, showing the different ways sweets can be used to heighten the flavour of a films narrative fiction or feed the premise of a documentary.

  1. Forrest Gump
    When the affable and egoless title character utters, “My momma always said, ‘Life is a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get’”, he sets in motion the film’s key metaphor, as Forrest finds himself a part of the major American cultural events of the second half of the twentieth century, in contrast with the less charmed life of the girl he has loved since boyhood.
  2. Marie Antoinette
    Set against a modern soundtrack and decorated with Ladurée pastel macaroon pyramids to demonstrate Marie Antoinette’s love of all things stylish, pretty and decorative, this amped-up story of the legendary queen of Versailles is a lavish, decadent affair, regardless of whether she actually uttered the phrase “Let them eat cake.”
  3. Grease
    This kitschy teen dream of a musical about love between a good girl and a bad boy includes many misguided attempts at sophistication among the young characters, including drinking wine with Twinkies. “It says right here it is a dessert wine,” says Jan, the chubby compulsive eater in the Pink Ladies.
  4. Pulp Fiction
    This off-kilter crime treasure is so packed with sweet foods it almost induces a coma, including noteworthy scenes with Pop-Tarts, doughnuts, blueberry pie, and a “five-dollar shake” that eases the chill between Mia and Vince, eventually leading them to the dance floor together.
  5. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
    A musical fable about five children who win a chance to visit a magical candy factory, where, when faced with sweet temptations, the reveal their selfishness and suffer an array of confectionary punishments. The 2005 remake, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by director Tim Burton, decreases the sugar and ups the Grand Guignol.

Do you know any other sweet films? Let us know in the comments!

This extract is oxford-companion-to-sugar-and-sweetstaken from The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets. Celebrating sugar while acknowledging its complex history, this Companion is the definitive guide to one of humankind’s greatest sources of pleasure. Like kids in a candy shop, fans of sugar (and aren’t we all?) will enjoy perusing the wondrous variety to be found in this volume. ISBN 9780199313396 | AU$78.95

Winter warmers: Doughnuts

Popular around the world, doughnuts are made from balls or rings of fried dough. They can be dusted with cinnamon and sugar, covered with icing, or filled with jam, cream or custard.

Makes: 15
Prep time: 95 minutes
Cook time: 10 – 15 minutes
Special equipment: small saucepan or microwave, sieve, deep-frying pan, rolling pin, 3cm and 7cm cookie cutters (or 6cm double ring cookie cutter), baking tray, slotted spoon
Nutrition: high in carbohydrate and saturated fat
Skills: sifting, rubbing in, kneading, rolling out, deep frying


1 ¾ teaspoons (9g) dried yeast
2 tablespoons (40g) castor sugar
1/3 cup (95ml) milk
1 ½ cups (225g) flour
¼ teaspoon lemon rind
1 ½ tablespoons (30g) butter
1 egg
5 cups (1L) oil
Cinnamon and caster sugar to serve  


  1. Place yeast and 2 teaspoons (10g) caster sugar in a bowl.
  2. Warm milk in small saucepan or microwave until lukewarm.
  3. Stir milk into yeast mixture to form a smooth paste. Set aside for 10 minutes, or until frothy.
  4. Sift flour into large mixing bowl. Add remaining 1 ½ tablespoons (30g) sugar and finely grated lemon rind.
  5. Rub butter into dry ingredients.
  6. Beat egg lightly in another small bowl. Add egg and yeast mixture to dry ingredients and mix well with a spoon or your hands to form soft dough.
  7. Place dough in a clean bowl, cover with oiled cling wrap, and set aside in a warm place to prove for 30 minutes, or until doubled in size.
  8. When mixture has nearly doubled, start to warm oil for deep frying. It should be 190°C.
  9. Place dough on a lightly floured surface and knead lightly to expel air. Roll out to 1cm thick. Cut out doughnuts with a 7cm cutter and a 3 cm cutter for the hole, or use a 6cm double ring cookie cutter.
  10. Place doughnuts on a lightly floured tray and allow to rise in a warm place for 10 minutes.
  11. Fry doughnuts in batches of 3 for about 1 minute each side until golden brown. Lift doughnuts out of the oil carefully with a slotted spoon and drain on absorbent paper.
  12. To serve, roll doughnuts in cinnamon and sugar while hot and serve immediately.

This recipe is taken from Oxford’s The Food Book.

Winter Warmers: Minestrone Soup

Minestrone SoupLiterally meaning ‘the big soup’ in Italian, minestrone is technically a hearty stew – soup made from vegetables, dried beans and pasta. A range of beans can be substituted for kidney beans, including cannellini, lima and borlotti.

Prep time: 25 min
Cook time: 65 min|
Special equipment: large saucepan
Nutrition: good source of dietary fiber and lycopene; low in saturated fat
Skills: dicing, sweating, simmering


  • 1 onion
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 sticks celery
  • 1 leek
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 6 teaspoons (30ml) olive oil
  • 200g pumpkin
  • 1 potato
  • 400 can tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons (40g) tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 4 cups (1L) vegetable stock*
  • ¼ cup (25g) small shell pasta
  • 2 zucchini
  • 400g can kidney beans
  • ½ cup (12g) flat-leaf parsley
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 20g parmesan and crusty bread to serve up



  1. Peel and dice onions and carrots, slice celery and leek and crush garlic.
  2. Heat oil in large saucepan and sweat onion, carrots, celery, leek and garlic for 5 minutes.
  3. Peel and dice pumpkin and potato. Chop tomatoes and retain juice.
  4. Place pumpkin, potatoes, tomatoes and juice, tomato paste, oregano and basil in large saucepan with vegetable stock.
  5. Bring to boil over medium – high heat.
  6. Reduce heat to medium – low and cook for 40 minutes.
  7. Add pasta and cook for 10 minutes.
  8. Slice zucchini, add to saucepan and cook for another 10 minutes.
  9. Drain and rinse kidney beans and add to saucepan. Cook for another 5 minutes.
  10. Pluck parsley leaves from stalk, finely chop and add to saucepan. Season to taste.
  11. Finely grate parmesan cheese.
  12. To serve, ladle into 4 soup bowls, sprinkle with parmesan and eat with crusty bread.

Slow-cooker minestrone soup with beef and bacon
Follow recipe above, replacing vegetable stock with beef stock. Add 200g diced stewing beef and 1 rasher diced bacon to ingredients. Place all ingredients, except pasta and kidney beans, in slow cooker and cook on high for 5—6 hours (or on low for 10—11 hours). Add pasta and beans in final 20—30 minutes of cooking.

*To make your own stock, you can use the recipe from pg. 186 of The Food Book.

The Food BookThis recipe is taken from Oxford’s The Food Book.

The iconic ANZAC biscuit

ANZAC biscuitsAn Australian icon, these crunchy biscuits originated during World War 1. It is generally believed that the ANZAC biscuit were created by the Australian and New Zealand wives, mothers, sisters and sweethearts who wanted to make a treat for their loved ones that could survive the long journey to the front, that’s why they keep particular well.

In celebration of these iconic biscuits, we’re sharing our favourite recipe for a crunchy ANZAC biscuit, but if you prefer a chewier version, reduce the baking time to 18 minutes.

Makes:  36
Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 20 min
Special equipment: 2 baking trays, baking paper, large bowl, small saucepan, egg slide, wire rack


1 cup (150g) plain flour
1 cup (100g) rolled oats
1 cup (250g) caster sugar
¾ cup (70g) desiccated coconut
½ cup (125g) butter
1 tablespoon (20ml) golden syrup
1 teaspoon (5g) baking soda
2 tablespoon (40 ml) boiling water


  1. Preheat oven to 150° C. Grease 2 baking trays or line with baking paper.
  2. Sift flour into large bowl.
  3. Add oats, sugar and coconut. Mix well to combine.
  4. Melt butter and golden syrup in a small saucepan on low heat.
  5. Dissolve baking soda in boiling water and add to butter mixture. Stir to combine.
  6. Stir butter mixture into dry ingredients.
  7. Using your hands, shape tablespoons of mixture into balls and flatten.
  8. Arrange on trays, allowing space for biscuits to spread.
  9. Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Loosen from baking tray immediately with egg slide.
  10. Leave biscuits to cool on trays for 5 minutes before transferring to wire rack.
  11. Store in airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

The Food BookThis recipe is taken from Oxford’s The Food Book.

Easter feasts: hot cross buns at home

hot cross bunsEaster is fast approaching and for some it can mean a long weekend filled with chocolate. If you’re interested in eating something else this Easter weekend, grab your baking trays and try this hot cross bun recipe.

For a chocolate alternative, replace the currants and sultanas with choc chips for a bun that will melt in your mouth.

These traditional British Easter buns are enriched with dried fruit, milk, butter, egg and spices. If you do not have a piping bag to make the crosses, improvise by snipping the corner tip off a small plastic bag.

Makes: 10
Prep time: 120 min
Cook time: 20 min
Special equipment:  baking tray, baking paper, small saucepans, pastry brush, wire rack, piping bag
Nutrition: high in carbohydrate
Skills:  sifting, kneading, proving, glazing


¾ cup (190 ml) milk
3 teaspoons (15g) dried yeast
3 tablespoon (60g) caster sugar
2 ½ cups (375g) plain sugar
½ teaspoon (2.5g) salt
½ teaspoon (1.25) mixed spice
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons (30g) sultanas
2 tablespoons (30g) currants
1 tablespoon (15g) mixed peel
1 egg
1 ½ tablespoons (30g) butter

Cross mixture
3 tablespoons (30g) plain flour
2 tablespoons (40g) caster sugar
1 ½ tablespoons (30ml) water

2 tablespoons (40g) caster sugar
4 tablespoons (80ml) milk
Extra butter to serve









  1. Grease baking tray and line with baking paper.
  2. Warm milk in a small saucepan until luke warm.
  3. Mix yeast and sugar in a small bowl with a little warm milk. Allow to bubble.
  4. Sift flour, salt and spices into a large mixing bowl. Add dried fruit.
  5. Lightly beat egg.
  6. Melt butter in another small saucepan, and add remaining milk and egg. Stir in bubbling yeast mixture.
  7. Add liquid ingredients to dry ingredients and combine to form a dough.
  8. Knead on a lightly floured surface for 8-10 minutes, or until smooth and elastic.
  9. Return dough to bowl and cover lightly with oiled cling wrap. Leave in a warm place to prove for 40 minutes.
  10. Return dough to floured surface and knead for 2-3 minutes to expel air. Divide dough into 10 even pieces, shape into balls and arrange about 1cm apart on tray.
  11. Set aside to prove for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 180°C.
  12. Make cross by combining flour, sugar and water in a small bowl to form a smooth paste.
  13. Put mixture into a piping bag and pipe a cross onto each bun.
  14. Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.
  15. While buns are baking, make the glaze by dissolving caster sugar in milk in a small saucepan on low heat. Boil for 1 minute.
  16. Remove buns from oven and immediate brush tops with warm glaze. Cool slightly on a wire rack.
  17. Serve warm with butter.


The Food BookThis recipe is taken from Oxford’s The Food Book.