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 July 2011

Prune & Parsnip - Bottle 3, 28th-29th July 2011

I am now officially on holiday. Three cheers. It does translate, though, into a busy week before. Tonight, I got away from work at 7, and I shall try not to think about it over the next eight days. I shall, of course, fail. But I came home, knowing that a glass of Prune & Parsnip would be thrust into my hand as I walked through the door. And so it proved.

My first glass tonight was drunk as we harvested the last of the blackcurrants. This year our bushes have yielded a pound and ten ounces - which is not nearly enough for a batch of pure blackcurrant wine, but it does mean that I am liable to experiment with Crab Apple & Blackcurrant come October.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Crab Apple - Bottle E6, 26th-28th July 2011

And so Crab Apple 2009 - all 30 bottles of it - comes to an end.

This bottle has coincided with a busy week at work and a hefty dose of Man Flu. Because I am on holiday next week, work has predominantly been spent trying to get things ready for my absence. Unusually, I have mostly remained calm - apart from a brief strop about the absolutely rubbish biros that are standard issue. This is despite spending the last three days producing phlegm at an alarming rate and generally feeling run-down. I predict that I shan't be walking from Helvellyn to Rydal Hall on Wednesday next week. But I am getting better, and I think Crab Apple Wine can only have helped.

Tonight's glass was drunk to a fried concoction of home-grown potatoes, bacon, onions, garlic, tomatoes and parsley which was simple, colourful and tasty.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Peapod Wine - the making of ...

This wine is another experiment, and one that could go horribly wrong. If it follows the rule of thumb for wines beginning with the letter P - Potato, Pumpkin, Plum, Pear and Peach - it will at least be memorable. Actually Pineapple wasn't bad, and Prune & Parsnip is one of my regulars, so I may be lucky.

The reason I am making it at all is thanks to Julia. This year has been fecund in the pea department and she asked if I could put peapods to good use. I consulted my books and saw that I could. Julia quickly brought round three pounds of peapods and, because C J J Berry's recipe calls for five, I put them in the freezer. And there they stayed, much to Claire's irritation. We have, officially, the world's smallest freezer, and three pounds of peapods filled about half of it. This meant several meals of 'fruits from the freezer' within a week of the peapods arriving.
The world's smallest freezer
Anyway, Julia dropped in again today, 23rd July, with another pound and a bit, and I decided that this was Good Enough. Therefore, this wine has 4 lbs, 2 oz of peapods and 3 lbs of sugar, together with a mug of strong black tea as I have yet to replace my tannin powder.
The peapods being washed
I have boiled the peapods in 8 pints of water (but in two stages). Both times I brought the water containing the peapods up to the boil, and the first lot got about 25 minutes whilst the second got 45. I sieved the peapods out and poured the liquid into the bucket over the sugar and added the tea. The colour is currently a greeny-brown.
In the bucket before the yeast was added
The yeast, nutrient and citric acid went in the same night, on our return from Kayla's evening wedding party, where the music was Too Loud but the meat was plentiful. C J J Berry's recipe calls for a whole tablespoon of citric acid, which strikes me as excessive, but that is what I put in.

I put it all into the demijohn on Wednesday evening, 27th July, while listening to 'The Firebird' on Radio 3, and suffering with a heavy cold and sore throat. The wine is now an attractive yellow. I could have used half a pint less liquid.
The wine in its demijohn (but the colour is distorted)

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Blackberry - Bottle A3, 22nd & 24th July 2011

We drank half of this bottle mostly watching Torchwood, which continues to be entertaining. The second half was drunk after possibly the most joyous concert I have ever played. WYSO performed Handel's Water Music on a platfrom in the middle of a swimming pool in Bramley. We had an audience swimming around the stage, as well as one being more conventional and peering down from the balcony. At the end the swimmers formed a circle around the stage, preventing us from leaving until we played another Hornpipe.
The stage (without an orchestra)
You can read more details on my other blog, and there is a photo on the Yorkshire Evening Post website.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Orange - Bottle A1, 21st-22nd July 2011

This certainly beat the Redcurrant in deliciousness stakes. Whilst that would not be difficult, this was a particularly good bottle of Orange Wine. As I walked through the door, after a long week at work, Claire was handing me a glass. All thoughts of bassoon practice (which, it must be acknowledged, were few) melted away.

I drank this evening's ration to a particularly colourful salad containing chive, nasturtium and borage flowers, plus a healthy dose of guacamole, followed by Lentil Farmer's Pie. This is a close relation to Shepherd's Pie, but no animals were harmed in the making.

A colourful salad

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Redcurrant - Bottle A1, 19th-21st July 2011

There is something that says 'Dead Mouse' to me about this wine. For approximately seven nano-seconds I get a fine, sharp redcurrant taste and then the experience decays into rank mustiness. So, not my best ever wine, then.

Over the three days this bottle has been open I have developed a hypothesis that I am allergic to Handel. Or possibly Vivaldi. Last week I came home from WYSO with a headache. This week I came home from WYSO with a headache. Both nights we played Handel, in preparation for Sunday's swimming baths concert. Only those who do not believe in conspiracy theories could argue that this was a coincidence.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Elderberry - Bottle C6, 17th July 2011

This is how Sundays should be. The furthest from the house I have ventured is the blackcurrant bushes, harvesting individual berries. I have made bread, washed up, written my November Home Farmer article and otherwise been entirely idle. Sometimes I need a day like this. Writing the article, though, was akin to medieval essay writing. The words trickled from my fingers and each sentence required thought. But unlike my MA essays, I struggled to get enough words, rather than agonising over which words to leave out.

The elderberry wine, which - incidentally - is a fine batch, was chosen to go with leg of lamb. We have not had a Sunday roast for an age, and today's October-like weather required a large slab of meat. Our first beans were harvested too - allowing us one and a half beans each.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Strawberry - Bottle 1, 16th July 2011

I can understand why this flavour always does well at my wine parties. It is both fruity and dry, and unmistakably strawberry.

This bottle was opened after a late afternoon session of bassoon quartets. I warned next door that they would be subjected to loud and comical sounds for nearly two hours (in fact it was more) but Lily e-mailed back to say she was looking forward to it.

We had a splendid time, playing pieces inappropriately arranged for four bassoons. Everything from Mozart to Mancini. Claire mostly remained in the kitchen cooking a wonderful meal for afters, and described our efforts as mass farting at a wasp convention. But in an entirely loving way.

Rhubarb - Bottle A1, 15th July 2011

Hurrah. Torchwood is back. I have spent either all week or two years looking forward to its return. The last series was so perfect and had such a dark ending that part of me thinks they should have stopped there. But the rest of me is greedy for more and I am delighted to see it back on our screens. Tonight's episode was, admittedly, silly - but the set up that no-one can die is promising and I will definitely stick with it. None of which, of course, has anything to do with Rhubarb Wine - which I finished whilst watching Torchwood, and started whilst lying, bedraggled, in bed. In between, we had a 'Bring Round' curry and I'm pleased to report that feeling vaguely ill has not killed my appetite for food. Or wine.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Elderflower - Bottle B2, 14th-15th July 2011

I think my unrelenting busy-ness is starting to wear me down. On Wednesday evening, halfway through a WYSO rehearsal, I discovered a headache - though slept it off. Then on Thursday - coming home from what proved not to be my last day working for the Police - I recognised that I needed to spend the evening in bed feeling sorry for myself. Claire's Hot & Sour Soup, together with many glasses from this bottle perked me up somewhat. As did the first courgette from our garden. Also lying in a hot bath chatting amiably with my wife. But none of it stopped me feeling generally washed out and planning to take things more gently until we go to Rydal.
The first courgette and lots of chard

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Blackberry - Bottle D3, 10th & 11th July 2011

Sunday was a day of rest. This, of course, depends on one's definitions. But it was full of dull yet comfortable domestic chores. Washing up, bathing, supermarket shopping, making wine and harvesting soft fruit from the garden all figured and it was glorious not having to rush anywhere, play anything or be sociable. Which makes me sound like a grumpy old man - though the cap fits.

We did not finish the bottle until Monday, but Sunday's portion was drunk to home-made pitta bread and our first tiny potato crop from the garden. Purple-skinned, sweet and delicious.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Strawberry Wine - The Making Of ...

Yet again, I struck lucky with the weather for my annual strawberry picking. Sunday, 3rd July has been virtually cloudless and hot. Accordingly, I covered all exposed bits with Factor 40, donned my Hat and set off.

The first surprise of the day was that there was a sign at the entrance setting out fees for picking. Not the cost of the fruit, but a price for proceeding past the notice. I was ready to get indignant. The fruit is expensive enough as it is - I could get it cheaper at the market, but picking my own reaches out to my inner hunter-gatherer. And I have been coming here for years. However, the woman at the desk read my face and waved me through, explaining that it was to stop coach parties who arrived, ate, and left again.

The second surprise was how thin on the ground (literally) the strawberries were. Unlike previous years' egg-sized fruit, the strawberries were small, sparse and mostly either over or under-ripe. I suspect that this is partly down to over-picking, but also the exceptionally dry spring may be a partial explanation. It took an age to pick all I needed - I wanted an extra 2 lbs for a future 'Crab Apple and Strawberry' but came away with 5 lbs 9 oz.

Some slightly out of focus strawberries
Once home I weighed 4 lbs of fruit, pulling off the greenery as I went and chopping out the mankiest bits, whilst listening to 'The Admirable Creighton' (Crichton?) on Radio 4. Once in the bucket I mashed the strawberries, poured over 4 pints of boiling water and added 3 lbs of sugar.

Some rather more in focus strawberries
On Monday evening, after a barbeque in Guiseley with the Airedale Symphony Orchestra, I strained the liquid into a demijohn, keeping back the pulp. As dictated by the recipe I mixed this with two pints of tap water and let it stand whilst I washed, rinsed and resterilised the bucket. I then strained it again into the bucket, sloshed another half pint of water round the pan that had held the pulp, and then poured the contents of the demijohn in. I added yeast and a teaspoon each of nutrient and pectolase, but I have not yet added any tannin as I have run out. By tragic coincindence, I have also run out of tea.

I put the wine into its demijohn on Sunday, 10th July, which is two or three days later than I would normally have done this. But the last week has been manic and I have been out every night. There was a pint too much liquid (I added a mug of cold tea on Wednesday morning). and the taste I got at this stage was insipid. Which is disappointing.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Rose Petal Wine - The Making Of ...

This is a wine I have not made before and is one that I have been planning since June last year. Mom has a purple-pink rose in her garden that has a heavenly scent, and which immediately suggested ‘wine experiment’ to me. I have heard encouraging things about rose petal wine from other people, so thought I would try it for myself. Therefore, since late May I have been clipping roses from our garden that were just starting to look past their best.

We have three roses - two whites, which we ordered from vouchers given to us by Betty Rumsby as a wedding present, and a red that was here when we arrived. All are heavily scented. And Mom has been on strict instructions to freeze her roses as they started to fade.

Until today, 3rd July, I have been concerned about how effective freezing rose petals would be. Each time I have opened the bag containing frozen petals there has been an odd smell. Not entirely unpleasant, but certainly not rose-like. The bag was starting to take up more room in our (far too small) freezer than it merited, so I think Claire was pleased that I began this wine today.

C J J Berry’s recipe calls for four pints of rose petals, but in fact I got four and a half. The quantity was evenly shared between flowers from our garden and those from my mother’s. And there were three or four different types of rose from Mom’s garden, including one that was pink and white candy-striped.

I put the petals in the bucket along with 2 ½ lbs sugar, juice from one lemon and a litre of white grape and peach juice drink. I poured over six pints of boiling water and I am now more hopeful than I was before. Whilst freezing white petals has sent them brown, the scent from the bucket is promising.

I added the yeast and a teaspoon of nutrient on Monday morning, 4th July.

The flowers, having turned near grey, were sieved out on Sunday 10th July. But the liquid in the demijohn is an attractive orangey-pink. I had to add less than half a pint of tap water and I have wrapped the demijohn in silver foil because I do not know how stable the colour will be. It all smells delightful, and I am possibly more excited that I should be about this wine.

Blackcurrant - Bottle 6, 9th July 2011

I wanted something special to drink tonight, and this bottle fulfilled its function fabulously. We have just played 'The Hebrides Overture', Elgar's Cello Concerto and Beethoven's 7th. I say 'just' but the concert finished over two hours ago. It takes some coming down from - hence the bottle of wine. The concert was, on the whole, really rather good. I was note perfect in the Mendelssohn, which rarely happens, and only made a couple of errors in the other pieces. My lip died on the last page of the Symphony, but because it is a loud, brash piece - particularly the final movement - this did not matter.

The wine is delicious; packed with fruit. It has a sharp, bracing taste and will mostly be brought out on celebratory occasions. But it is now approaching midnight and (finally) I must sleep

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Crab Apple - Bottle C6, 6th-7th July 2011

This was a nearly explosive mid-week bottle. We came back from our last regular WYSO rehearsal before the concert, deciding that a nightcap would be Just the Thing.

Our cellist soloist turned up on Wednesday and he is how I imagine angels must be - masculine, bearing a shock of unruly dark blond hair, and Scottish. He played the Elgar beautifully and I look forward to Saturday's concert.

When I opened the bottle the wine gushed out and my usual trick (that never works) of trying to catch the wine in my mouth did not work. I lost about half a glass before pouring some into the first receptacle that came to hand - my breakfast tea mug - but thereafter no wine was wasted. I say that, but there is currently a quarter inch left in the bottle which is mostly sediment and the plug-hole will be its destiny.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Gooseberry & Elderflower - the making of ...

Between Julia, Claire and I, we picked 9 lbs 5 oz of gooseberries on Friday 24th June. This was enough for a batch and a half of gooseberry wine, or (pleasingly) a single batch of Gooseberry and a single batch of Gooseberry & Elderflower.  Claire suggested some time ago that I try this flavour, and Brian Leverett provides a recipe on page 94 of his book, so I thought I would give it a go.

I was worried that it would be too late for elderflowers - afterall, it was three weeks earlier that I had made my neat elderflower wine. And if I could not find enough elderflowers I would not have been able to bulk up the gooseberries with those from our garden as they are not yet ripe. Happily, the fields across Stonegate Road had a tree just in flower. It was definitely past its first flush of youth - in that many flowers were brown in tinge and there were already prototype berries. However, there was sufficient bloom to make this wine possible.

The recipe calls for four flower heads, but all the bunches I picked were small, so I probably over-compensated. I ended up (after at least a half hour stripping session) with half a pint of flowers. These were added to 3 lbs 5 oz crushed gooseberries and 8 oz minced sultanas. According to the recipe, the elderflowers and sultanas should have been put in a muslin bag and then removed after 72 hours, but I don't have one of those, so they can stay in situ.

I poured over two pints of boiling water and added 2 lbs 12 oz sugar, and stirred it all up. I then added a further two pints of cold water, and I am sure it will need more when going into the demijohn. The same evening, though after a curry and several beers with Rachel and Duncan, I added the yeast and a teaspoon each of nutrient and pectolase.

I sieved out the fruit, flowers and sultanas on Sunday morning, 3rd July, and the liquid went into its demijohn. I was right - it needed another two pints of tap water. Berry wines usually need six pints of water in total. The colour is an unattractive biege - which must be the sultanas,

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Gooseberry - Bottle A6, 3rd-4th July 2011

We came back from a wonderful weekend in York spent celebrating my parents' 70th birthdays to find this bottle open and half a glass missing. Either there had been a careful and abstemious thief or the warm weather had caused another explosion. I suspect the former. I put another cork in the neck and into the fridge it went.

The half bottle of Christmas Tutti Fruti proved Not Enough on Sunday night, so we drank (rather more than) half of this too. Our meal was a spinach and tomato quiche, potato salad made with mustard seeds, lemon juice and olive oil, and a salad from the garden incorporating nasturtium flowers - colourful and tasty. The gooseberry wine was fizzy (obviously) and both sharp and sweet, making it an excellent accompaniment.

Our meal

Claire finished the bottle on Moday with a little help from me after I returned from my Orchestra barbeque.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Christmas Tutti Fruti - Bottle A1, 30th June-3rd July 2011

Summer has obviously arrived. One can tell this by the light nights, the abundance of roses and the exploding bottles. I noticed on Thursday that this had popped its cork so put it in the fridge. Claire retrieved it the same evening whilst I was out at an Italian wine-tasting event. There were 27 bottles to try, and I probably got through 15 of them - following it up with a curry and more wine. Which meant Friday was spent feeling delicate.

We finished the bottle tonight after a day filled with wine-making activities and little else. The final glass was drunk during a wander round our garden, harvesting blackcurrants and admiring the first courgette of the season. Very shortly this will cease to be exciting.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Gooseberry Wine - the Making of ...

Julia has been telling me that her gooseberries are ready for picking for some time. But the first evening I have been free was Friday, 24th June. Life has been pretty frantic recently, what with working full time and being in the middle of concert season. But it was important that I did not miss out on Gooseberry Wine this year as it has, at its best, been exquisite in the past. So, Claire and I  turned up to Julia's allotment on Friday evening armed with plastic bags and set to work.

The fruit was thinner on the ground than previous years, but an appropriate amount of crouching and stretching resulted in successs. Julia's bushes are dense and invaded by knot weed. This, apparently, is a suitable nesting place for robins, and Julia disturbed one whilst picking. She was upset about this as robins are nervous creatures, so I avoided this area and picked elsewhere.

My arms still bear the marks of Friday evening's activity, looking like I have been playing with a bad-tempered cat. This is a small price to pay.

I was going to make the wine on Friday evening, 24th June, but we did not finish eating until quarter past nine, so I left it until Sunday 26th June instead. I washed the gooseberries, thought did not bother to top and tail them, and crushed them in the bucket. Most of the six pounds were picked by me, though 4 oz came from Julia and Claire's bag. The gooseberries crushed more easily than in previous years, and therefore were probably riper. I suspect there will be a large deposit.

One pound of gooseberries
I poured six pints of boiling water over the crushed fruit and it sat around in the kitchen for about five hours before I added a teaspoon of pectolase.

On Wednesday night, after a satisfying WYSO rehearsal, I sieved the liquid into a demijohn.  Much of this was the colour and consistency of a stew made up mostly of broadbeans, and so this process took longer than deal and made me irritable. I added the sugar to the (freshly washed and sterilised) bucket - 2lbs and 10 oz of it - and poured the liquid back. After stirring it all up, I put in the yeast (Bordeaux variety) and one teaspoon of nutrient. I put it into its demijohn on the morning of 3 July whilst listening to Rodeo on Radio 3 - an exciting piece of music that WYSO will be playing next term. The wine is an attractive pale green.