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, 31 May 2013

Blackberry Wine - Fifteenth Bottle (C1), 27th May 2013

This was meant to be a bottle of elderberry, but I couldn't find one and we were in a hurry to leave the house. Our destination was a Bank Holiday Feast at Ros's. Having drunk too much on Sunday I was on driving duties. This was a shame because there was plenty of real wine on offer. Still, I consoled myself by eating vast quantities of lamb and roast vegetables. Pudding was plentiful, and the blackberry wine was opened for this course. We had meringues, a chocolate pot each, and bowls of stewed rhubarb and strained yoghurt. All combinations were tried, and the prize went to 'meringue and chocolate'. The wine was delicious, of course (what little I had) and it was a lovely way to end a relaxing long weekend.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Gooseberry & Elderflower - Final Bottle (6), 26th May 2013

Shortly after Richard and Linda arrived I asked Richard if I should open the wine now. A desperate shout of "Yes" came from the kitchen. The cooking was not on schedule and the chef needed encouragement in the form of alcohol. Claire had forgotten how time consuming and stressful making stuffed pasta shells could be. So I poured the wine and it fizzed in the glasses. Gooseberry & Elderflower, when done well, is a wonderful flavour. It is a pity the batch I made in 2012 (and have yet to open) was quite so awful on bottling.

Anyway, we had a fabulous evening with Richard and Linda. They are flying to Minnesota on Wednesday, which was the unnecessary excuse for a feast. The food was exquisite: mussels in a rich onion sauce, green salad, fresh spelt bread, locally grown asparagus, ravioli stuffed with blue cheese and walnuts in a tomato sauce, and, for pudding, a lavendar and cardemon infused custard. Washed down with lots of wine, of course.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Redcurrant Wine - Final Bottle (6), 24th-25th May 2013

Much of Friday was spent looking round Stonebridge Homes' sites - those that we are in the process of buying, and those in the process of being developed. This should have been a fun day out - seeing the physical manifestation of what work is all about. Instead, it was bitterly cold and wet. My site plans turned into soggy tissue paper. It is late May. Surely by now we should have left winter behind. I decided during the heaviest rain and muddiest field that I would open something nice when I got home. The last bottle of redcurrant was a good choice. It is a fabulous colour and has a sharp, fruity taste. The flavour was on trial, after the 2010 batch, but the six bottles from 2011 have passed with flying colours and when I get a chance, I will repeat this wine.

There was still a glass left for tonight - and today the bad weather is a distant memory. It has been sunny and warm, and my right arm has gone pink - indeed, the colour of this wine.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Tea Wine - Final Bottle (2), 22nd-23rd May 2013

Claire has given me specific instructions to write 'Never Again' in my diary, so that when in the future I check how to make Tea Wine, I realise that it is a better idea not to. I suspect this was my last ever bottle of this flavour. It was a worthy experiment - repeated from 2006 (I think) - and having made tea wine twice, it can safely be removed from the list.

In fact, this bottle was an improvement from the last, but it is too sweet, cloying and strong - without being entirely unpleasant. It began life as a post-WYSO bottle. Amy turned up, which was lovely, and I was praised for a straightforward crescendo on a B natural while all around me people were playing fiddly semiquavers.

This evening I began drinking just as the vegetarian shepherd's pie was coming out of the oven and I was filling the kitchen with smoke by cooking aubergines on a hot griddle. I only now realise that I forgot the lemon juice. Bah!

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Crab Apple & Strawberry Wine - Fifth Bottle (4), 19th-20th May 2013

Either I have remembered it wrong or there has been a signifcant improvement in quality, but this bottle was a surprise. I have memories of something too dry and dull, whereas this bottle was delightful. It had a subtle strawberry taste and a champagne fizz. Definitely one to do again, and I am glad Claire persuaded me of this last October.

We drank the majority of the bottle after returning from York. Having eaten vast quantities of processed meat, cholesterol and rubarb pie (all delicious) we cleansed our palates with a mint and pea soup and this wine was the accompaniment. I then watched the season finale of Doctor Who again, it being so good the first time round.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Rose Petal Wine - Final Bottle (6), 18th May 2013

It was fitting that I bring my final bottle of Rose Petal wine to an evening spent in York. And it was an evening of many pleasures. The wine was certainly one of them. It has matured nicely and I will try to do it again this year, although I will have to rely on my father to store the petals as Mom is off to Nebraska shortly. Then there was the season finale to Doctor Who, which was an emotional rollercoaster of an episode with a jaw-dropping final few seconds. As a low-key, understated follow up was the Eurovision Song Contest. Best act of the evening was a transvestite Romanian vampire on stilts surrounded by naked dancers. What's not to love?

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Rhubarb Wine 2013 - The Making Of ...

It has been a busy Sunday. Technically Claire and I are still on holiday, having returned from a fabulous week in Gloucestershire only yesterday. However, today - 12th May - has been industrious. I have made bread, done the weekly shop, washed more dishes than is reasonable, practised the impossible fourth movement of Britten's Sea Interludes, started my dandelion wine, bottled 2012's crab apple wine, made onion gravy, dug some of Julia's allotment and still had time to start this year's Rhubarb Wine.
Julia's enormous rhubarb patch

Julia has an enormous rhubarb patch and she encouraged me to take lots. I pulled up several stalks, mostly remembering to grip from the base so that they made a satisfying 'pop' as they came away from the root. This way I got four pounds of rhubarb, and Claire harvested me a further two pounds from our patches at home. I don't think she trusts me not to destroy our plants. There is one stalk from her grandmother's patch and three from Shirley's (which is the pinkest of the lot).

I sliced each stalk thinly and put them all in my bucket. I have covered this with fourteen-and-a-half pints of boiling water and will leave it just over 24 hours.

When I got home from work on Monday evening, 13th May, I added six pounds of sugar, the yeast and two teaspoons of nutrient. Then on Friday I transferred it all into the demijohns, sieving out the rhubarb while listening to Michael Tippet's First Symphony on Radio 3. This was a long, sticky process but has produced a delightful candy-pink liquid. I have not filled the demijohns to the neck as I suspect the fermentation will be violent.

If you want to see how this wine turned out, click here.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Christmas Tutti Fruti - Sixth Bottle (B4), 17th May 2013

Friday night began with gins and tonics at ten past the yard arm and continued from there. It was a wine making night, so I spent most of it surrounded by glass containers and sterilising solution. I racked the orange and transferred both my dandelion and the rhubarb into their demijohns - a sticky process aided by Claire chatting amiably in the kitchen. We were late eating cabbage leaves stuffed with rice and courgettes, covered in a tomato sauce (we both decided that they would have benefitted from some minced lamb) meaning most of a bottle of Christmas Tutti Fruti sent each of us squiffy. So, all in all both a pleasant bottle of wine and pleasant evening in an unremarkable sort of way.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Crab Apple Wine - First Bottle (B6), 15th-16th May 2013

I am disappointed with this vintage of crab apple. It is drinkable but little more. There is no fizz, which is a pity, and the overall impression is one of unexciting tartness. As I get older it appears I like my wine sweeter. Hey ho. Claire is less damning than I and in fact thinks it quite good.  My prediction is that this will remain a mid-week bottle, generally opened after WYSO and finished on a Thursday. Maybe there is too much that is routine in my life. Anyway, that is what happened with this bottle. Thursday's glass was drunk to the best Doctor Who in the current series in which our hero was imperiled by cybermen. Episodes involving cybermen are nearly always good.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Dandelion Wine 2013 - The Making Of ...

The raw ingredients
 I thought I had missed the dandelions this year. Generally dandelion wine is one to make in April. Today is 11th May. However, we suffered the coldest April in decades, meaning everything is late flowering. Walking through Gloucestershire fields last week, it became apparent that the dandelions were just hitting their peak, meaning there would be no problem getting enough 100 miles north in Leeds. I mentioned my quest for dandelions to Julia when discussing relieving her of several rhubarb stalks and she told me there were plenty of them surrounding her allotment. I would be doing her a favour to take as many as I needed before they turned into clocks.

The weather this Sunday afternoon was not ideal for picking dandelions. Generally one wants bright sunshine so that the flowers are fully open. Instead my only choice was drizzle. The dandelions were mostly three-quarters open, and this was good enough. I took a measuring jug and plastic bag with me and collected six pints of flowers, which was about half an hour's work.

Back at home I put all the dandelions in a bucket and collected a handful more from our back garden. I poured over 7 pints of boiling water and I am now meant to let them sit until Tuesday. My timetable does not allow for that, so I will do the next stage late on Monday night instead.

Before the water went into the bucket
I arrived back from Airedale at 10:15 p.m. already tired and set to work. The dandelions and liquid were poured into the big pan and set to boil. This revealed several blades of grass and a slug. It was a very small slug, but a slug nonetheless. I removed it and will pretend I did not see it.

I sliced thin peel off two lemons and an orange and put these peelings in the pan. Three pounds of sugar went in and I boiled it all for ten minutes. Meanwhile I minced a pound of raisins and juiced the citrus fruit, and these ingredients went into the (slug-free) bucket. I poured over the pan contents and left it over night (during which I slept remarkably badly). On Tuesday morning I added the yeast and a teaspoon each of nutrient, pectolase and tannin. I put this into its demijohn on Friday, 17th May. It is remarkably brown, but smells fabulous.
Remarkably brown wine
If you want to see how this wine turned out, click here

Friday, 17 May 2013

Elderflower Wine - Tenth Bottle (A6), 11th May 2013

I am weak. Having returned home from seven days in Gloucestershire where I drank significantly more than the government recommended alcohol limit, Claire suggested that we open a bottle of wine. Afterall, she pointed out, she hadn't drunk all that much over the week. And once the bottle was open, despite all good intentions, I drank half. But elderflower wine is tasty - dry and summery. In my defence, I did not start with a gin & tonic or finish up with the best part of another bottle. So I look on it as reducing the alcohol intake in a manageable fashion. Going cold turkey is not my style.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Celery Wine - Second Bottle (6), 6th-10th May 2013

Celery wine was not popular. I brought it with me on our holiday in a Gloucestershire cottage. In company where bottles of wine have been emptied in seconds, this took five days to drink. Claire declared it the worst wine I have ever made and Duncan pulled remarkable faces. However, it did have its defenders, who described it as only disappointing.

On Friday night, when all other options for alcohol had been drunk, Nick suggested that he and I finish off the Celery, rather than pour it down the sink. It seemed like a sensible suggestion at the time, and in fact age had not withered it. If anything, it was slightly more palatable, and we had a pleasant half hour chatting about prehistoric man.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Rhubarb Wine - First Bottle (A5), 10th May 2013

The first bottle of Rhubarb 2012 coincided with our last evening of staying in Flaxley, Gloucestershire. It has been an alcoholic and relaxing week involving lots of walking, eating and drinking. This bottle proved to be the most popular of the six I brought, which was a pleasant surprise. It is just as dry and fizzy as previous versions and there is the subtlest of pink blushes to it (though not as pronounced as in earlier years). Someone round the table compared it to a Cava and Ann poured herself a second glass. High praise indeed.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Blackberry Wine - Fourteenth Bottle (A1), 9th May 2013

Gloucester Cathedral
I brought this bottle to Gloucestershire with us as an example of home-made wine at its best. It garnered far fewer comments than my earlier example of home-made wine at its worst. People drank it amongst the several other bottles that evening and appeared to enjoy it. The day was fabulous, though. It was the one rainy day of the holiday and we spent it in Gloucester. I was quickly adopted by an octogenarian guide in the Cathedral, who gave me a ninety minute personal tour of the building and its history. It was a wonderful, unique experience and has been the highlight of an already excellent holiday.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Gooseberry Wine - Final Bottle (6), 8th May 2013

This final bottle of gooseberry wine came immediately after a local cider tasting session. We are staying for a week in the Forest of Dean and I bought three bottles of Wye Valley cider after a seven mile walk round Tintern Abbey. The first tasted of vinegar and they went downhill from there. It was suggested that I had chosed specially so that the gooseberry wine would be a welcome relief afterwards. In fact the wine was enjoyed by all, with good reason, though there was something a little musty on the nose. Of all the bottles I have brought with me on our holiday this has so far been the best. The celery remains half drunk, and I can safely predict that the remainder will go down the sink.

A view from our walk

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Spiced Beetroot Wine - Fourth Bottle (3), 5th May 2013

Spiced Beetroot used to have an exciting magenta colour. This bottle was a dull pink. However, what this has lost in colour it has made up in taste. Even Ann finished her glass and declared it drinkable. There is a strong clove taste, but the overall experience is more than that and everyone agreed it was nicer than Exotic Tinned Fruit.

We drank the bottle to a large leg of lamb, advertised as capable of feeding ten to twelve. The six of us made short work of it. Still, we had done an 8.5 mile walk, so we deserved a reward. And our reward was more than the lamb - there were also several bottles of red wine and a yoga session.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Exotic Tinned Fruit Wine - Second Bottle (B2), 4th May 2013

Ann did not like this bottle. She poured herself only a small glass, declared it tasted of chemicals and tipped the majority down the sink. Nick struggled with his, and Rachel and I coped rather better.

The Old Mill
The double height kitchen/dining area with its fine timber workWe have hired a cottage in the Forest of Dean and tonight is our first night here. It is a converted barn and is absolutely wonderful. The whole place is flooded with natural light, with a split level and open plan kitchen and living room. I have brought six bottles with me, of which this is the first. Whilst I take Ann and Nick's point, I think this flavour is alright - it is light and fruity and only tastes a bit of pear drops.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Orange Wine - Third Bottle (A6), 1st-2nd May 2013

It has happened again. Despite all my best intentions, I find myself with a new committee position. On Wednesday night I was elected WYSO secretary. Bah! And I continue as woodwind rep. A large glass of orange wine was required to soften the blow.

In fact, I knew this was coming. Jude and Katie had asked me nicely a few weeks ago and I said that if no-one else volunteered I would do it. I think I can spot the fatal error. However, I dearly love WYSO and therefore I will hate the role less than I hated being Music Club secretary. There - that's positive thinking.

The bottle was finished on Thursday night after Claire and I had returned from our chamber ensembles. We are now on holiday for over a week - off to the Forest of Dean - so sat up late celebrating.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Blackberry Wine - Thirteenth Bottle (B4), 27th-28th April 2013

After four margaritas and a bottle of pinot grigio, one might argue that half a bottle of Blackberry tips the evening into excess. However, as this was all shared between four, I would suggest that it remains within the bounds of 'reasonable'.

The Hepworth Gallery

Claire and I took Bob and Judith to Pinche Pinche for a Mexican meal after having spent the afternoon at the Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield. Both experiences were well worth the effort. The Hepworth building itself is fabulous - jutting out where a canal meets a river - with huge white rooms and enormous windows. Some good art too.

We finished the bottle on Sunday while watching Doctor Who: the episode was the best of a pretty shaky recent bunch. I have yet to fall in love with the companion.