2021 in review: a year of French culture in Australia

Reading Time: 7 minutes

As we prepare to farewell 2021, we thought we’d take a look at the highlights of French culture in Australia this year on Matilda Marseillaise. We’ve had celebrations of French food and wine to art exhibitions, festivals and other events with French themes. We’ve interviewed people across many areas including international touring artists and local French and francophone people. Join us as we look back over 2021.

 

French culture in Australia: French Food days

Food is an extremely important part of French culture in Australia as much as in France. January was of course the month of the Galette des Rois which is always one of our most popular posts and has become the go-to resource for French and Francophiles in Australia to find out where they can buy this special cake around Australia.

 

We celebrated Croissant Day with a brief history of the croissant and again letting you know where you can buy croissants from French bakeries in Australia. Then we turned to a sweeter treat for Chocolate Truffle Day. Another day to indulge in all things cacao was World Chocolate Day.

 

We also wrote about Cheese Lovers’ Day for the first time with a focus on cheese subscriptions and celebrated Mouldy Cheese Day in October. As always, Christmas was celebrated with the Bûche de Noël.

French culture in Australia - food days

 

French culture in Australia: Drinks Days

You can’t have food without something to drink and we continued our French wine varietal series throughout the year with facts about the varietals and recommendations from French wine importers in Australia. We also celebrated World Bartenders Day with French cocktails.

 

We looked at French spirits and liqueurs: Chartreuse Day with a look at the history of the green drink and a day celebrating another often-green drink: Absinthe Day. In addition, we discovered strong French links in one of the most popular spirits of the moment: gin. We also celebrated another spirit that you probably don’t associate with France: vodka.

 

Champagne and sparkling wine gave us moments of celebration throughout 2021 with various festivals: Sparkling Fest, Bubbles Festival, Taste Champagne, Effervescence Tasmania.

French drinks days

 

French culture in Australia during Festival time

Australia’s borders were still shut due to COVID-19 so festival time didn’t feature any international acts in 2021. 2021 highlights instead were French themed shows or shows from artists with French links at Adelaide Fringe, Adelaide Festival and Sydney Festival. These provided opportunities to enjoy French culture in Australia.

 

Particularly strong French links were found in performances at Adelaide Fringe including music in different styles, theatre and more. The White Mouse told the story of Australian French Resistance leader, Nancy Wake. Louise Blackwell and the Paris Set took us to Paris for the night.

 

By the time June came, Adelaide Cabaret Festival was able to bring in a few international acts including Brent Ray Fraser, who paints with a very unique and personal tool. Kim David Smith gave a strong nod to Marlene Dietrich with his show Mostly Marlene also at Adelaide Cabaret Festival.

 

Auburn in South Australia’s Clare Valley was transformed into a French village and a celebration of French culture in Australia for a weekend at the inaugural Auburn Frenchfest, which will return in 2023.

 

Le Festival was held over 4 separate events throughout the year, bringing 4 weekends of French joy to Brisbane.

French culture in Australia - festivals

 

French and francophone culture in Australia: National Days

We celebrated (even if virtually for some) the national days of a number of Francophone countries: Canada Day, Bastille Day, Belgian National Day and Swiss National Day as well as Alsace Fan Day.

 

French culture in Australia via exhibitions

Fortunately, COVID-19 didn’t stop international works of art coming to Australia. Exhibition highlights included a number of exciting exhibitions with French links including: French Impressionism: From the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Camille Henrot: is Today Tomorrow, and She-oak and sunlight: Australian impressionism.

 

Most recently the NGV opened the Gabrielle Chanel: Fashion Manifesto exhibition and the Art Gallery of New South Wales opened its Matisse: Life and Spirit.

 

An international exhibition of a different scale and type, Van Gogh Alive also toured in 2021 and continues to tour Australia. Our Hearts are Still Open, a photographic exhibition and book were recently unveiled in Sydney and we chatted to Australian-born photojournalist Tony Maniaty about them.

French culture in Australia / la culture française en Australie

 

French and francophone film

The Alliance Française French Film Festival returned to the big screen in March and April 2021. Highlights for us included Bye Bye MoronsMiss among those that we reviewed. Countless others were also enjoyed. Because of COVID-19 lockdowns throughout Europe for much of 2020, Australian audiences were the first to see a number of films shown at the AFFFF 2021 including Eiffel and Delicious. We interviewed incoming Artistic Director of the festival, Karine Mauris.

 

One of our most read film reviews this year was for a film which is now on SBS on Demand: Roxane. With most of the Eastern states in lockdown over several months of the year, our articles about previous festival films available on streaming services were also well-read.

 

French and francophone films also featured at the Jewish International Film Festival and at the Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney Film Festivals.

 

French culture in Australia via music

We interviewed Sydney music duo Goldfynch on the occasion of their release of the beautiful escapist song “Ballooning over Paris” something we all longed to do with Australia’s closed borders. Baby et Lulu’s much anticipated Album Trois was finally released and we chatted to Lara Goodridge.  Pauline Maudy of MZAZA toured her show “Take me to Paris” around Queensland.

 

Sticking with the musical theme, we also interviewed Elena Gabouri ahead of her performances in Opera Australia’s Aida in Sydney and in Melbourne. Nicolas Fleury, French horn player from Melbourne Symphony Orchestra chatted with us. On the theme of opera and classical music, Pinchgut Opera presented Platée for the very first time on Australian stages.

 

Our favourite French festival So Frenchy So Chic announced a return to Melbourne and Sydney in February 2022.

French culture in Australia/ la culture française en Australie

 

French culture in Australia via theatre

2021 saw the return of French theatre to Australian stages. Brisbane French Theatre presented its original play Us and Them. Perth French Theatre invited you to the circle of illusionists and after many false starts, Melbourne French Theatre was able to present its new show, The Candidate.

 

French culture in Australia in sport

The French Rugby team Les Bleus played 3 test matches against Australia’s Wallabies in Sydney and in Brisbane. We told you where you could watch them around Australia.

 

Other French happenings

Adelaide’s Les Deux Coqs in conjunction with Holdfast Bay City council started Rendezvous Market, a European Market with foods and crafts from many European countries being represented.

 

Glasshouse Fragrances’ launched a French inspired collection just in time for Bastille Day with delicious scents of Montmartre Macaron and Sacred Heart.

 

We made sure you knew your French (and Belgian) dogs from the imposters for International Dog Day in August.

 

In November, Sacreblue, the Embassy of France in Australia’s brand new website dedicated to French culture in English was launched and we were finally able to announce our partnership with them.

French culture in Australia/ la culture française en Australie

 

Interviews 

We interviewed cabaret singer Caroline Nin and director Craig Ilott about L’Hôtel, an immersive theatrical world of French intrigue which made its worldwide debut at Adelaide Cabaret Festival in June.

 

We interviewed a man who is perhaps Australia’s most famous French television chef, Gabriel Gaté for International Chefs Day.

 

One of the first international productions to visit Australia since COVID-19 struck and closed our borders in March 2020 was The Little Prince, direct from Marseille to the Sydney Opera House. We interviewed Chris Mouron who adapted the book for stage, Ebony Bott of the SOH about the logistics of bringing an international team to Australia, and staging a large show during COVID-19 times. The Little Prince is making a return to Sydney for a limited season of shows in early January – read our interview with Lionel Zalachas and Laurisse Sulty

 

We chatted to Michael Boyd, illusionist and also show director of Cabaret de Paris which started its Australian tour with new lead, Rhonda Burchmore.

 

We spoke to Australian author Pip Drysdale about her thrilling novel The Paris Affair.

 

Most recently, we chatted with Priscilla Doueihy ahead of her performances at Sydney Festival 2022 show 44 Sex Acts in One Week; Erin Helyard about piano and French composers ahead of Adelaide Festival 2022 shows Four Hands at the Érard and Evolution of the Piano.

 

French businesses in Australia

We published interviews with founders of French businesses promoting French culture in Australia including:

 

French culture in Australia/ la culture française en Australie

We supported local French businesses by getting them to contribute their recommendations for Christmas gifts for francophiles. When many of the Australian states went back into lockdown, we let you know where you could purchase French take-away food.

 

Sofitel Adelaide, its French restaurant Garçon Bleu, and street level champagne bar Déjà Vu, were long awaited additions to Adelaide’s 5-star hotel and dining scene.

 

The French Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry held events both virtual and in person, where permitted, throughout the year including the French ANZ Business Days 2021 business forum which covered a number of interesting and pertinent topics.

 

It’s been a busy year! What have your highlights been? Is there anything you’d like to see on Matilda Marseillaise in 2022?

International Vodka Day is this Sunday! Find out about French vodka

Reading Time: 5 minutes

This Sunday is International Vodka Day. Below we will tell you about vodka and its origins as well as give you some French vodka suggestions and even a cocktail recipe or two. Happy International Vodka Day!

International Vodka Day

Vodka History

The word “vodka” first appeared in Eastern European writing in the 1400s. It was, and remains,  a national drink of sorts in Russia and Poland for many a century, with each of the countries claiming it was their country that invented vodka. It was only in the 1800s that Western European countries started to make their own vodkas.  

 

What does the word vodka mean?

The word “vodka” is said to come from the slavic word “voda” which means water. The reason vodka is named after water is because vodka is generally made up of ethanol and water. 

 

How is vodka made?

What constitutes vodka has been defined by the European Union. In accordance with regulation No 110/2008 of the European Parliament and European Council of 15 January 2008:

 

Vodka is a spirit drink produced from ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin obtained following fermentation with yeast from either:
(i) potatoes and/or cereals, or
(ii) other agricultural raw materials,
distilled and/or rectified so that the organoleptic characteristics of the raw materials used and by-products formed in fermentation are selectively reduced.

This process may be followed by redistillation and/or treatment with appropriate processing aids, including treatment with activated charcoal, to give it special organoleptic characteristics.

The minimum alcoholic strength by volume of vodka under this regulation is 37.5 %.

 

Some famous French vodkas 

You may well have heard of Grey Goose which is most likely France’s most well-known vodka internationally.  Grey Goose is made from soft winter wheat grown in Picardy, France and water from natural springs filtered through champagne limestone in Cognac. While it is made from wheat, it is gluten-free as distillation removes gluten from the final product. 

The name Cîroc Vodka may also be familiar. Perhaps you didn’t know it was French – after all the name doesn’t give that away. Ciroc, unlike Grey Goose, is not made from grain but rather from French grapes, namely Ugni blanc and Mauzac blanc. You may remember Sean “Diddy” Coombs promoting the vodka brand in the early 2000s.

Coming along a little later than Cîroc Vodka is Cobalte, a vodka made exclusively from champagne grapes not used by champagne makers: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.

 

French vodka recommendations for International Vodka Day

We asked a few French spirits importers to recommend some French vodkas for International Vodka Day and to tell us how they would drink them. 

 

Cerbaco

Emmanuel Conde, Ambassador NSW & TAS at Cerbaco tells us his recommendations for International Vodka Day

 

Does Cerbaco sell any French vodkas? 

Grey Goose revolutionised the market 10 or so years ago.

Yes, because France has everything needed to produce high quality vodka:

  • raw materials, notably wheat, which is world-renowned;
  • savoir-faire in distillation and control of alcohol;
  • art de vivre.

 

Which French vodkas do you recommend? 

At Cerbaco, we import two brands of French vodkas: 

  1. NAUD, the wonderful “Noble and Unusual Distillery” of the Naud family. 
  2. SUMMUM, a Franco-Russian collaboration, located in Cognac. 

International Vodka Day - NAUD Vodka Cerbaco

 

How are these vodkas different to the more well known vodkas?

Our two vodkas offer, above all, a beautiful texture in which the balance between aromas, tastes and alcohol is perfectly managed.

 

The SUMMUM range is available in lemon and Espelette pepper, with no other addition than citrus or the famous spice.

 

How do you drink them? Do you have any cocktail recipes to share?

Cocktails allows our vodkas to express themselves at their best:

  • Moscow Mule with the alcohol-free beer Pimento,
  • White Russian for a creamy cocktail, or
  • Espresso Martini with the coffee liqueur Massenez d’Alsace.

 

Noble Spirits

Grégoire Bertaud, Founder & Director of Noble Spirits speaks to us about French vodka for International Vodka Day.

 

Which French vodkas do you recommend for International Vodka Day?

FAIR Vodka from Cognac, South-West of France.

International Vodka Day - FAIR Vodka

It is made out of organic Fairtrade Certified quinoa seeds which makes it very silky and elegant. The production is quite interesting as the master Philippe Laclie is using a technique used in the whisky production.

 

How do you drink it? Do you have a cocktail recipe to share?

I would recommend it with soda water or in this really nice cocktail:

 

The watermelon quinoa martini:

30ml FAIR Quinoa Vodka
15ml FAIR Goji
15ml Vanilla syrup
30ml Watermelon juice
15ml Lemon juice
Garnish with Watermelon slice

Glass: Martini

Method:  Shake and fine strain

 

Where can we buy it? 

You can find it in selected Dan Murphy’s stores or simply at Grégoire’s store The Drink Hive in Rosebery, NSW.

 

The Playford Hotel, Adelaide

We also asked Adelaide’s beautiful art-deco inspired The Playford Hotel to share a vodka based cocktail for International Vodka Day.

 

Snow White

Vodka,  egg white, triple sec and bitters 

International Vodka Day - Snow White

 

How will you be drinking your French vodka for International Vodka Day this Sunday?

Do you like spirits?

You might also like to read our articles about:

International Crème de Menthe day

International Cognac Day 

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International Vodka Day