Wurzels combine with Thatchers cider

09 March, 2007

Not only is cider enjoying a popularity explosion, it is now following Cognac and Champagne into the realms of the celebrity tipple. Somerset cidermaker Thatchers has created the official cider for "iconic" West Country band The Wurzels, famed for such anthems as Combine Harvester (Brand New Key), I Want To Be An Eddie Stobart Driver and, of course, I Am A Cider Drinker - now 30 years old and being re-released in a celebrity version with TV's Tony Blackburn. Thatchers' Wurzel Me Cider has 4.8 per cent abv and will cost £1.79 for a 50cl bottle, with 5p from each bottle going to the BUI Prostate Cancer Care Appeal.

Fridge magnate

A US inventor has come up with a "beer-launching fridge" - a robotic chiller which hurls beer cans at drinkers too lazy to stand up and walk to the fridge for their next fix. John Cornwell said: "Have you ever got up off the couch to get a beer for the umpteenth time and thought, 'what if, instead of me going to get the beer, the beer came to me?' (No. Ed.) Well, that was how I first conceived of the beer-launching fridge." It took him three months to design the machine, which he prices at about $2,500. A video demonstrating how the fridge works shows it loaded with light beers - perhaps because it's easier to duck the icy missile hurtling towards you if you're reasonably sober.

Wine's sporting chance

Oxford and ­Cambridge Universities' wine societies are ­campaigning to have wine tasting recognised as an official sport. If the authorities agree, tasters competing in the annual wine tasting contest - or varsity match - between the arch-rival universities could be awarded "Half-Blues" in recognition of their sporting achievement. "Half-Blues", or "Colours", are a lower version of the "Blues" awarded to players competing in more established university sports such as rugby or the boat race. A wine tasting contest has been held between the two universities every year since 1953 and has been sponsored by Pol Roger Champagne since 1992. This competition is, of course, conducted in a thoroughly responsible manner and should not be confused with other sorts of student drinking sports, such as stealing traffic cones and pouring beer over each other's heads.

Dieting digestif

In Armagnac the locals say it is thanks to the effects of their favourite eau-de-vie that they can put away lorry-loads of foie gras, chocolate pudding and other high-cholesterol foods - and now a medical report says they could be right. Nicholas Moore, professor of pharmacology at the University of Bordeaux, has been feeding some lucky lab rats a high-fat cafeteria diet - with a digestif of Armagnac. The rats who drank Armagnac did not gain weight like the control rats - even when the control group had a little drink with their supper. Moore concluded it must be the extracts of Armagnac, either from the grapes or the Gascon wood in which it is aged, that kept the rats trim. The OLN team would like to suggest that, in the interests of science, the experiment should be tried on humans. And we volunteer to be in the Armagnac-swilling group, please.

Camra radical thinking shock

The Campaign for Real Ale's Mike Benner could earn himself the moniker "Germaine Beer" if he carries on with the kind of radical, avant-garde thinking he displayed at OLN's International Beer Conference. "It is time we stopped treating women as objects with regard to beer," he said, "and started treating them as customers." Watch it Mike! You could be lynched for that sort of reformist thinking. It's like the 1970s never happened.

Too much bottle

The "culture of disapproval" surrounding drinking in this country is having a big effect, according to Paul Flatters, of the Future Foundation. There is even, he joked at the beer conference, some nervousness about going to the bottle bank with too large a load lest the neighbours raise a puritanical eyebrow. It seems that some people are making alternative arrangements for their empties - future archaeologists are likely to find hundreds of spent Blossom Hill and Hardys Crest bottles buried in suburban gardens by guilt-ridden wine lovers.

Good nudes

It's certainly getting seedier in the drinks trade. Normally respectable people are sidling up to anyone who hasn't got two heads and suggesting they get their kit off for charity. We can all think of certain characters who don't need much persuasion to bare all in public but these approaches are being made to retiring types who tend to keep their bits to themselves. It's all in aid of a nude calendar and may explain why so many people in the business appear to have joined a gym this year.

What's in a name?

Chardonnay has fallen out of favour as a girl's name - perhaps we'll see a surge in popularity for the somewhat more dignified Chablis. Stella, surprisingly, hasn't yet registered in the top 100 but Jack is still a favourite among the boys - which may have something to do with a certain Tennessee sippin' whiskey. OLN will pay a £5 reward for documentary evidence that anyone has named their child Tia Maria, Breezer or Buckfast.

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English wine: a happy harvest for Christmas

All across England and Wales, vineyards are being harvested. Down winding country lanes come armies of welly-wearing conscripts wielding secateurs and buckets, ready to reap the rewards of our vines. Happily they come, their cheeks ruddy with pride. Half an hour later they’re crawling over muddy clods with lacerated hands, drenched in claggy juice and cold sweat, as if ploughing through an endurance race.

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