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.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Dandelion Wine 2015 - The Making Of ...

On the four-hundredth anniversary of Shakespeare's death I found myself in a field on the edge of Gledhow Valley Woods picking dandelions for wine. A quick trawl of the internet tells me that Shakespeare never mentioned dandelions by name and only referred to them obliquely (if that) in Cymbeline: "Golden lads and girls all must / As chimney sweepers, come to dust." I was early enough in the season to catch them before the flowers became clocks and 'come to dust'. Indeed, 23rd April - St George's Day - is the traditional day on which to pick dandelions for wine.

My plan had been to collect flowers from the allotments off Harrogate Road, but all entrances were locked and since Julia died I no longer have access. I wandered around the adjacent park, where dandelions were sparse and mostly half-opened, and then down the hill to Gledhow Valley Road, where I saw an open area of grass dotted with points of gold. From here my spirits lifted and I picked six pints of flowers in the sunshine, feeling only slightly self-conscious as cars, joggers and pedestrians passed.

Back home, after all of Saturday's chores and a quintet rehearsal, I started taking the petals from the green base of each dandelion head. This was slow going and I had little time, so after doing about a tenth, I gave up and poured all flowers into the stock pot. I covered this with seven pints of water and put in 2 lbs 9 oz of sugar and the thin peelings of two lemons and an orange. This was brought up to the boil and I let it boil for either ten or twenty minutes (I forget). Meanwhile I minced half a kilo of sultanas and squeezed the juice from the lemons and orange and put these in the bucket. Once the dandelions had finished boiling I poured all this in too and let it sit overnight.

On Sunday morning I added a teaspoon each of nutrient, tannin and pectolase and sprinkled in the yeast.

After a very busy Thursday at work, getting everything done before a week's holiday in Cornwall and staying until 6:30, I put this into its demijohn. Its colour is a gorgeous mustard yellow and I get a good feeling about this wine.

The gorgeous yellow doesn't look quite as biege as this!

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Rhubarb Wine - Tenth Bottle (A4), 22nd-23rd April 2016

For a second night on the trot I left Claire home alone while I was out galavanting. This time I was drinking (too much) beer with Matthew and John, reminiscing about Emsleys and catching up with each other's news. Claire had rhubarb wine for company and a quiet night.

On Saturday we each had a large glas before Music Club - I was performing a Peter Muller wind quintet and thought wine could only help. It didn't. I remained as nervous as ever. We played fairly well, and I don't know why I feel more pressure playing at Leeds Music Club than anywhere else.

Where Matthew, John and I went drinking

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Elderflower Wine - Eleventh Bottle (A2), 20th-21st April 2016

I opened this bottle after our first WYSO rehearsal for the summer term. Mostly we are playing crowd-pleasing medleys (James Bond, Phantom of the Opera) but there is some real music too: Beethoven's Fifth, Night on a Bare Mountain.

I drank a couple of glasses while finding clips of Victoria Wood on i-player. Generally I am only vaguely interested when a celebrity dies, but I am genuinely upset about Victoria Wood. She was so funny, so talented and provided such a distinctive northern voice. It is too early for her to die.

The two videos I have posted are two of her best songs

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Blackcurrant Wine - Twelfth Bottle (A5), 17th April 2016

Hallelujah. Repeat ad nauseum. Actually, it is a fabulous piece of music amongst several wonderful arias and choruses in The Messiah.

I made short work of the bottle of wine after returning from a performance of this oratorio. The bassoon part is the same as the cello, which means non-stop quavers with nowhere to breathe. Therefore I more than earned my wine, and it was delicious. Claire, Rachel and I drank it (alarmingly quickly) to olives, cured meat and flat bread before I staggered off to bed and dreamt of essays to be handed in.

NB - The two videos posted are two of my very favourite YouTube videos, and both relate to The Messiah

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Fig Wine - Fourth Bottle (4), 16th April 2016

Fig wine is delightful. We drank it on Saturday evening in front of (possibly) our last fire of the season. April continues to be cold and there was snow in some parts of West Yorkshire. The wine was our reward for a day of solid playing. St Matthews in Chapel Allerton had a 'Come and Sing Messiah' this weekend and Claire and I were in the (small yet perfectly formed) orchestra. Rehearsals started at 10:30. By 11:20 my lip was starting to die, and there was still another 6 hours to go. At lunch I ate vast quantities of cake in the hope this would resurrect it. It did. Hallelujah.

St Matthews - the exterior

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Clementine Wine - Second Bottle (1), 14th-19th April 2016

With cries of "That's disgusting" and "Did you make this from a gold-miner's drowned daughter?" Claire decided not to finish her glass. I admit that there is an element of bitterness to the flavour and that it is otherwise dry and unremarkable, but I think she is being a little unfair. I won't make clementine wine again, but in my opinion it is still drinkable. The bottle did stay in the fridge for five days, though. During this period I performed in the Messiah, had a first rehearsal of Rachmaninov's Second Symphony (difficult) and saw Northern Broadsides do The Merry Wives of Windsor. This was fabulous. I haven't laughed so much in the theatre ever. The two wives were particularly good and the physical comedy was superb.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Orange Wine - Second Bottle (A5), 10th April 2016

I do like orange wine. This vintage is the best that I have ever made: beautifully clear with a strong orange taste minus any bitterness that sometimes affects this flavour.

We drank it after a lovely day mostly spent in the garden. Jenny, who has done a garden design course, came round for lunch with leaflets and ideas, and we ate Morrocan food. Then in the evening we drank the wine listening to The Archers and discussing what might come next in the gripping domestic abuse story line (which has resulted in a rather-too-dramatic stabbing).