This blog is a record of the wine that I make and drink. Each flavour made and each bottle drunk will appear here. You may come to the conclusion that, on the whole, I should be drinking less.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Crab Apple Wine - Twentieth Bottle (B3), 21st-22nd September 2017

We have a new system for watching The Great British Bake Off. Now that it has moved to Channel 4 there are advert breaks, and advert breaks translate into 'Treats'. One of us will buy baked items on the way home from work (this week, it being 'Caramel Week', I bought Millionaire's Shortbread and Stroopwafels) and a bottle of wine goes in the fridge. Then, come first advert break (but not before) I open the wine. Second break is snack one. Third break is glass of wine two. Final break is snack two.

Crab apple wine doesn't go badly with caramel based treats, but is actually better by itself.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Fig Wine - First Bottle (3), 16th September 2017

Perhaps not quite as good as my previous batches of Fig Wine. But it is still a great bottle. The aroma and taste are distinctly figgy and my one complaint is that a certain depth is absent.

We drank it with Rachel and Duncan in Cambridge, having travelled down for Emily and Marco's wedding the following day. The evening started with rhubarb gin, before moving through a Prosecco and a Riesling before ending up with Fig Wine. As the wine flowed, so did the conversation and good humour and it was just a pleasant evening spent with close friends. Hard to be beaten.

If you want to see how I made this wine, click here.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Elderberry Wine 2017 - The Making Of...

On the 18th of August, as I was driving to Harehills to buy nectarines, I noticed what looked suspiciously like ripe elderberries near Gledhow valley. I reasoned that this was my imagination playing tricks. Elderberries do not ripen in August.

Elderberries do, in fact, ripen in August
After work on 31st August I went to inspect. I found clusters of ashen fruit, over-ripe and useless. There were a couple of patches of usable elderberries, so I picked what I could. This was ridiculously early for elderberries.

The elderberries were scant
The following week I took plastic bags with me to work and during a couple of lunchtimes I went out, hunting for elder trees. The most fruitful was in someone's garden, but its branches were overhanging the pavement, so I figured that it was fair game. Elsewhere the berries were scant.

Kennel Lane

Nettles protecting fruit
On Sunday morning, 10th September, I drove to Kennel Lane near Hetchell Woods and walked to my usual field, trusting that things would be better there. In the row of trees where I usually pick, the berries were distinctly thin and protected by a wall of nettles. I took what I could (again) and pretended that I could not feel the nettle stings through my trousers. The top field boundary was far better - here were elderberries (and nettles) in abundance, so I started filling my bags, vaguely aware of a white jeep heading my way. As the farmer slowed down and lowered his window, I gave my most charming smile, which said "I recognise I'm trespassing, please don't shoot me," and asked if it was okay if I picked elderberries. He said it was and continued on his way. Phew.

Elderberries in abundance
In total I got more than 10 lbs elderberries, so have used 9 lbs to make a triple batch and the rest are in the freezer. As always, stripping them was tedious, but it is worth it. I crushed them in my bucket with a potato masher and added 8 lbs sugar and 18 pints of boiling water. On Monday morning I put in the yeast and two teaspoons each of nutrient and pectolase.

Normally I would wait until Friday to put the wine into the demijohns, but we are going on a bat-spotting walk tomorrow, so I have done this tonight, 14th September. Straining out elderberries is quicker than straining blackberries, and Claire kept me company in the kitchen, crocheting quietly. I have left a gap in each demijohn to prevent the wine bubbling over, and have filled one and a half bottles for topping-up purposes. So far the wine is behaving itself.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Orange Wine - Sixth Bottle (B5), 10th-12th September 2017

Sunday night was sponsored by Orange Wine. Not only did we drink most of this bottle, I also bottled 2017's vintage, and thus had three glasses of that between us. This older version is both darker and better, but there is little in it.

Claire had rather too much on an empty stomach and marched up to bed before the baked fish came out of the oven, leaving me to eat alone.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Elderberry Wine - First Bottle (B3), 9th September 2017

My one criticism of this wine is that it is too young. It shows promise. There is a rich, dark flavour without any hint of metal. It is dry without being overly so. But the wine's youth means there is a lack of balance and there is a certain rough quality.

I opened this bottle because I have had an 'elderberry wine weekend', spending the late afternoon on Saturday picking a disappointing quantity of elderberries. Apart from our weekly grocery shop that was my only jaunt outdoors ad it was one of those days where I felt guilty for doing nothing of any substance.

If you want to see how I made this wine, click here.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Blackberry Wine 2017 - The Making Of...

I heard rumours of ripe blackberries as July became August. For the last few weeks I have been aware of bramble clusters turning black and juicy. Blackberry, though, is a September wine so I have resisted foraging until today, Sunday 3rd September. This has also allowed me to spend time with my parents, who are only just returned from Mexico.

Mom and Claire foraging

As always, I went picking blackberries in York Victorian Cemetery, taking Mom and Claire with me. Usually we split up when picking and meet back at the car at a prearranged time. Today we picked together - I wanted to hear all about Mom's time in Nebraska, how the uncles were and whether Keith and family had a good time over there. Picking blackberries was the ideal time to hear all the news and it made ninety minutes pass quickly. At the end of this our hands were sticky with blackberry juice, our arms were covered in nettle stings and bramble scratches, and between us we had picked 13 lbs 3 oz (Claire, as always, was the winner).

I made sure some fruit came from Thomas Douthwaite's grave, and otherwise I made a note of Albert Dowsett, John Hardy Ellis (all good family names), Fred Dealtry and the delightfully named Vera Higginbottom. I will raise a glass to all when the time comes.

Our haul
Back at home I measured 12 lbs blackberries, putting the excess into the freezer, and mashed these in my bucket. This was a quick and easy job because the fruit was so ripe. I added 7 lbs 12 oz sugar (it may need more on racking) and 15 pints of boiling water (I should have added at least 16 - see below). The yeast, two teaspoons of nutrient and what was left in my tub of pectolase (more than a teaspoon) went in on Monday morning.

The blackberry pulp floating at the top of the wine
On Friday evening, 8th September, it was Book Group (The Trouble with Sheep and Goats, which got mixed reviews) so I did my best to be efficient in getting the wine into its three demijohns. Including sterilising everything, it took me somewhat less than an hour. Taking out the bulk of the floating fruit detritus with a colander helped. I stored the discarded pulp in a large plastic bowl (also sterilised) and this was a Good Thing. There was at least a pint too little liquid, and I pressed the pulp to extract all additional wine I could. The demijohns are still not full, but it is close, and they are all bubbling away enthusiastically.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Blackberry Wine - First Bottle (C2), 3rd-5th September 2017

This wine has a distinctive blackberry taste, is dry enough to make a fine partner for most food, is entirely clear and a splendid colour. Why, then, am I just a little disappointed? I think it is because 2015's vintage was so good that I know I can make better. Blackberry 2016 is perfectly drinkable, but it should be more than that. Never mind.

I opened it on Sunday following a day of picking blackberries for 2017's batch and drank a toast to the people whose graves I had picked from for this wine (Frank Roberts, George Zimmerman, Elijah and Rose Copley, and Ethel Metcalfe). Claire had a glass on Monday - she is really suffering from the job cock-up and telling her that worry is a choice won't help. We finished the bottle tonight after Bake Off.

If you want to see how I made this wine, click here.