Greetings

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.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Rose Petal Wine - Fourth Bottle (C1), 15th October 2017

This rose petal wine is splendid. The colour and clarity cannot be criticised, and the taste is delightful. Floral and exotic. It has been our treat after a concert full of Fifth Symphonies (Beethoven and Mendelssohn), where the audience failed to clap after the end of Mendelssohn's. I think this is because they hadn't realised it had ended, rather than we played it badly (which we did not!). Since the concert, Claire and I have drunk the wine, chatting companionably in the front room. It has been a lovely evening.


Thursday, 12 October 2017

Blackberry Wine - Tenth Bottle (B4), 8th-9th October 2017

A bitter-sweet bottle of wine, and that does not describe the flavour, which was full and fruity. This was our first bottle after a fabulous week in Corfu, where we had blue skies, golden beaches (only one of which contained nudists), mountain walks and wonderful food. I came back, though, to the news that Aunt Jennifer had died. She was a woman I liked enormously and there is an empty space where she should be. Everyone has their time - but it should always last just that little bit longer.

The distant sandy beach had more bare flesh than you can shake a stick at

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Blackcurrant Wine - Eighteenth Bottle (D6), 30th September 2017

This time tomorrow I should be in Corfu, and I have been ridiculously excited about it for a week. I have not been sleeping well. I am 47. Maybe this bottle of blackcurrant wine will help tonight, but I can already feel that buzzy sensation above the stomach and below the heart that anticipation brings. Next, the bottom of my feet will start tingling, the way they do when I am on a high bridge, looking over the edge. I have tried to keep this evening as normal as possible which of course involves a bottle of wine (delicious, by the way) but also a mountain of washing up and an episode of Bake Off cuddled up to Claire on the sofa.

Looking over a bridge (of sorts) in Corfu!

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Prune & Parsnip Wine - Eighth Bottle (A3), 29th September 2017

I hadn't meant to open this bottle, but it was clear that once the elderberry was empty something further was required. And we are officially on holiday (Corfu on Sunday!) so there is excuse enough.

Rachael, Paul and Myles were here to help us share the wine (well, not Myles - he's four) and of the three bottles, this was Rachael's least favourite - too sherry-like. We discussed the Hardy method of washing up and how Rachael and I are both excellent at balancing clean dishes to dry. I wonder if Chris and Keith at both similarly good.


Sunday, 1 October 2017

Elderberry Wine - Seventh Bottle (B4), 29th September 2017

For Rachael, Paul and Myles's visit, I decided to open two bottles; one white, one red and both originating from the elder tree. (It actually turned into a three bottle night, but who's counting?) I drank more of this one than the other even though our meal of roast chicken called for a white. It gave me sufficient Dutch courage to deal with the largest spider I have ever seen outside of California. Paul said 'Tarantula', pointing at the wall, and there was an enormous wolf spider. I caught it in a glass after a bit of shrieking from Claire, and deposited it outside. The cat flap remained well and truly locked.


NB - I'm away for a week, so there won't be any new updates until at least 7 October.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Elderflower, Rhubarb & Mint Wine - Fourth Bottle (5), 29th September 2017

While I was baking 'Traveller's Biscuit Cake' on Thursday night, during a critical moment in the process, Rachael rang. I said I would ring her right back and went to save the cake. She was coming over on Friday, and could she stay? Friday morning I put this bottle into the fridge as Claire thinks it is my best, and we opened it an hour before Rachael, Paul & Myles arrived (their journey had been an hour slower than planned). When Rach tried the wine she described it as 'cheeky' and thought it the best of the three bottles we got through.

It was a delight having them over and I'm so pleased they came. Rachael was concerned about the short notice, but need not have been.




Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Blackberry Wine 2014 - Final Bottle (B2), 24th September 2017

I wrote myself a list of jobs for the day. Saturday had been wasted arsing about on the computer and napping; Sunday had to be better. So I baked bread, made Mediterranean lemon squares for work on Monday, paid bills, tidied, cleaned and swept. Consequently I felt rather better about myself and opened this final bottle of blackberry wine as a reward. It was sausages, onion gravy and mash for tea therefore the wine had to be red. In fact, this wine has aged badly - and it was never the best vintage of blackberry anyway. It was drinkable with more than a hint of blackberry taste, but its flavour has started to decay and, unlike the day, the wine was disappointing.


Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Rhubarb Wine - Seventh Bottle (B3), 23rd September 2017

I have discovered that Claire thinks my onion cooking technique is poor. Apparently I don't let them fry for long enough - particularly when making Boursin Noodles. My bacon cooking technique also has room for improvement. With this in mind, and a glass of rhubarb wine to hand, I made sure the onions were meltingly soft and that there was some browning to the bacon for the evening meal. We should have been at Music Club, but an evening in the company of rhubarb wine (which is excellent this year) and an episode of Torchwood on the sofa seemed preferable.



Here is an occasional recipe for Boursin Noodles (serves 2) - which are both easy and delicious:

Ingredients

1 onion
Large clove of garlic
Olive oil
3 or 4 rashers of bacon (maybe streaky, can be smoked or unsmoked)
several mushrooms
A good dollop or two of soft cheese (I used Philadelphia - the recipe says it should be Boursin)
Parsley if you have any and can be bothered.
Some pasta or noodles

Method

1. Slice the onion thinly and fry it in your main pan in the oil for longer than you think is absolutely necessary, making sure your partner is happy with the result.
2. At some point during this frying, crush the garlic and add that
3. Cut the bacon into strips and fry that in a different pan until it goes brown enough to your partner's satisfaction.
4. Put the bacon into the pan with the onions and garlic. Let it fry a bit longer.
5. Slice the mushrooms and add them.
6. Cover the pan and let the liquid come out of the mushrooms
7. When it all looks like it might be done, stir in the one or two dollops of soft cheese and stir.
8. By now you should have been cooking the pasta or noodles.
9. When the pasta or noodles are done, add the parsley to the oniony-bacony-garlicky-mushroomy-cheesy mix.
10. Serve up the pasta and sauce.
11. Eat and enjoy.

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.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Zucchini Wine - The Making Of...

Back in the early summer, I freecycled a stack of roof tiles that had been in our garden, gathering spiders and snails, since we bought the house. The woman who collected them gave us a courgette plant in thanks and Claire planted it in our front garden. It did not seem to be particularly fruitful and we mostly ignored it. This is a dangerous strategy when it comes to courgettes. The smallest fruit will, when you turn your back, grow into the most enormous marrow. And so it came to pass.

Our innocent looking courgette plant
Claire went out on Wednesday to harvest what we knew was a large courgette and staggered into the house with a seven pound, twenty inch monster. This was too big to cook and I was given permission to turn it into wine. In honour of my half-American heritage I feel justified in naming this brew 'Zucchini Wine'. Because of my Wine-Alphabet odyssey it is a wine that I had always planned to make, being the natural choice for Z, but I wanted it as my last letter. I have yet to tick off J, so that hasn't quite worked.


Anyway, I consulted my recipe books and have adapted C J J Berry's recipe for Marrow Wine. On Friday 1st September, I grated the zucchini (must not call it 'marrow') using the food processor, only discarding the very ends. I put this in my bucket, along with the juice of two oranges and 2-and-a-bit ounces of grated ginger. I added 2 lb 12 oz sugar and poured over 6½ pints of boiling water. At this stage what I have made is a sweet zucchini soup.

The grated zucchini
On Saturday morning I put in two teaspoons of citric acid (the recipe book asked for four), a teaspoon of tannin (not mentioned in the recipe), a teaspoon each of nutrient and pectolase plus the yeast and gave it all a good stir.

Tuesday (5th September) was my only night in this week, so that is when I sieved the liquid into its demijohn. Once I had removed the bulk of the vegetable matter with a colander, this was a quick job. It is probably not worth noting that I should have used a pint less water (it is highly likely that I won't be making this again). The taste at this stage is unpromising and its colour is dishwater grey-green. I will deem anything better than 'nasty' for this wine as a monumental success.


Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Elderflower, Rhubarb & Mint Wine - Third Bottle (4), 2nd-3rd September 2017

I needed no wine on Saturday evening. Lunchtime was spent with Rodney in the Olive Branch. Between the two of us we polished off two bottles of an Italian red. I do like going for lunch with Rodney.

Claire asked what flavour she could have with our meal of quiche and spicy beet tops and I told her to take her pick. Naturally she chose the best.

We finished the bottle between us tonight. It is a fabulous wine; there is a complex yet refreshing taste where no single flavour is prominent. I can tell that the remaining three bottles will not be collecting much dust.


Sunday, 3 September 2017

Apple Wine - First Bottle (5), 31st August - 1st September 2017

I had anticipated something underwhelming when I opened this bottle. Apple wine is one I have found difficult to get right. My most successful attempt was that batch that used 24 lbs of apples, and that was only really good when young. Therefore I was very happy with this wine. It was a light, pleasant drink that had a real taste of apples and (now we have an apple tree) one that is destined to become a regular.

The opening coincided with the new series of The Great British Bake Off. This has newly moved to Channel Four and I was worried that it would suffer as a result. As with the apple wine, I was pleasantly surprised; two things in one evening better than expected.


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

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Rose Petal Wine - Third Bottle (C2), 28th August 2017

I left this bottle with Catherine in Leamington Spa. She cannot make the Wine Party this year, mostly on account of having acquired two Jack Russells - Betty & Arthur - so I wanted to give her something nice for having put us up on short notice. I have had a Facebook message this evening to say that it tastes like sherry, is not particularly yellow and does not taste of roses. I am surprised at the last of these comments.

It was lovely staying with Catherine - she is besotted by her dogs, and having met them, that is not surprising. We did have to take precautions from their French kisses though!


Thursday, 31 August 2017

Christmas Tutti Fruti - Seventh Bottle (B1), 28th August 2017

It has been a glorious bank holiday weekend, and that is not something that can be said very often. The skies have been unremittingly blue and the sun has beaten down. We have spent it in the Midlands; initially spending time with Rachael, Paul & Myles (which was an utter delight) and then seeing Helen (briefly) followed by staying over with Catherine and entertaining her two Jack Russells. It has felt like a mini-holiday, and, to extend that feel, we have shared a bottle of Christmas Tutti Fruti on a Monday night. The wine is alright - it benefits from being chilled - but is nothing memorable.

Catherine and Arthur (a Jack Russell)

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Ginger Wine - Fourth Bottle (2), 24th August 2017

On the whole, Thursdays are not a full bottle night. Generally they are not a 'best bottle' night either. However, Claire had some dreadful news at work (her shiny new 3 year contract has - due to an HR cock-up - turned into a 2 year contract) and this was the best way I could help. When it came to pouring the final glass I made sure Claire got the larger one, and this earned me brownie points.

Ginger wine, or at least this vintage, is terrific. It has a bite, but one that is playful. I tried adding a modicum of whisky and in fact that was not an improvement.


Monday, 28 August 2017

Blackcurrant Wine - Seventeenth Bottle (B2), 20th August 2017

It has been one of those domestic days. I have cooked one lentil curry, baked two loaves of bread, washed up at least four times and started my nectarine wine. Consequently I am now ready for bed and just that little bit drunk. I blame the blackcurrant wine combined with the not-having-eaten-very-much.

This is not the bread I made.

Friday, 25 August 2017

Nectarine Wine - The Making Of...

My wine making thumbs have been twitching. Having made Blackcurrant in July this year, it looked like August was to be an empty month. This, of course, would be sacrilege, and Something Had To Be Done. On Saturday morning, 18th August, I dropped Claire back at the house with our week's shopping and drove to Harehills, promising that I wouldn't come back with anything too exotic. My thoughts were either Tomato or Nectarine - I have not done either - depending on which were cheap.


Nectarines were being sold twelve for a pound and that fitted the bill nicely. The argument 'against' is that my attempts at peach wine have been Bloody Awful, and nectarines are closely related. The argument 'for' is alphabetical. My only other N wine has been Nettle, which Claire described as tasting like chopped liver and fag ash, and this has to be better. Right?


The Stones
Anyway, I started the wine on Sunday, making it up as I went along. I weighed out 5 lbs of nectarines - which came to 30 in number, washed them and chopped them into small pieces, discarding the stones. (The stones themselves weighed 11 oz). I put the fruit into my bucket and gave it a thorough mashing. Having read that peaches give very little body to a wine, and I presume the same is true of nectarines, I added 8 oz of minced sultanas. At this stage the mixture looked like particularly colourful vomit, but smelt divine.

I added 2 lbs 12 oz sugar and poured over six and a half (UK) pints of boiling water. About eight hours later, when the mix had cooled, I added the yeast and a teaspoon each of pectolase, tannin and nutrient.

Particularly colourful vomit
On Thursday night, 24th August, I sifted out the solids and put the liquid into its demijohn. I could have used at least half a pint less water in the recipe. The wine is an attractive peachy-orange, but I hear from Facebook posts that it will take an age to clear.


Thursday, 24 August 2017

Prune & Parsnip Wine - Seventh Bottle (A5), 19th August 2017

Of the wines I suggested to accompany Chicken & Mushroom Pie, Claire chose Prune & Parsnip. It was a good choice - 'Prune & Parsnip' sounds like a wine that comes from the early twentieth century and ' Chicken & Mushroom Pie' also has that feel to it. Perhaps butternut squash baked with lemons, tomatoes and chillies does not, but no matter. Both food and wine were excellent, and shared with Bob & Judith, who have come to visit for the weekend.

Bob has spent much of his time here fixing things (a violin bow, our bar stools, the Grandfather clock) and explaining the Longitudinal Problem, why it mattered and how John Harrison solved it. He is a useful and interesting father-in-law.



Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Crab Apple & Strawberry Wine - Fourth Bottle (2), 19th August 2017

Nostell Priory is not what I had imagined. Where I was expecting fourteenth century ruins next to a basic visitor centre, there stood a huge eighteenth century stately home stuffed with art and antiques, a kitchen garden and an adventure playground. We took Bob & Judith and met up with Jayne and Poppy as 'something to do', and it was excellent. I cannot recommend it enough. I could have spent hours there. However, we needed to be back. After all, there was wine to be drunk, of which this was the first bottle.


Claire thinks that Crab Apple & Strawberry is more than the sum of its parts, though I prefer the individual flavours. Certainly this does not go with sweet things. I had a slice of Judith's fruitcake when drinking a glass and the wine became too sharp, too dry.


NB The Video is of me on a zip wire at Nostell Priory. The 'ooh' makes me laugh and laugh.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Elderberry Wine - Sixth Bottle (A4), 18th August 2017

When Bob and Judith visit, Claire cooks up a storm and we get through a lot of wine. Friday night was no exception: lamb stew with aubergine sauce, and peppers stuffed with bulgar wheat, accompanied by two and a half bottles of wine, of which this was the last. All aspects were lovely - though all we had the energy to do afterwards was sit in the front room and eat chocolate. By ten o'clock everyone was in bed, having had a thoroughly satisfying evening.


Sunday, 20 August 2017

Elderflower, Rhubarb & Mint Wine - Second Bottle (3), 18th August 2017

Bob & Judith have come for the weekend, and I opened this as an aperitif (if you don't count the half bottle of wine that we 'tidied up' beforehand). I made them guess the ingredients and they failed miserably, with Judith running through all citrus flavours. When told, Judith and I agreed that rhubarb was prominent, though Claire said the dominant flavour was elderflower. Whichever, this was an excellent and refreshing wine. Bob said he thought it was about 13%, whereas everyone else gave it an eight out of ten.


Saturday, 19 August 2017

Blackcurrant & Raspberry Wine - Seventh Bottle (B3), 17th-18th August 2017

I took this bottle to Rydal with me, but there it remained undrunk (unlike me). Instead, Claire opened it while I was out playing trios with Pat & Peter. I had a good-night glass on my return, leaving half the bottle for Friday night, where it was shared with Bob & Judith as our first drink of the evening. This was known as 'tidying up' and therefore a helpful thing to do. The wine is still very good: the fruit taste is abundant and whilst lighter than a true red wine it manages to avoid thinness.


Monday, 14 August 2017

Blackberry Wine - Eighth Bottle (A3), 13th August 2017

Summer has returned, but maybe for one day only. We had a wonderful June and early July, but since then the weather has reverted to the more familiar grey skies and drizzle. However, Sunday was lovely. I spent much of it staring into our pond, watching the four surprising fish ('surprising' because we didn't put them there) trying to fit under a lily pad and occasionally hunt for tadpoles.

We drank most of the bottle in the garden, catching the last of the day's warmth, before heading inside for a meal of lamb-stuffed marrow. Both wine and food were glorious. You can't beat lazy Sundays.


Friday, 11 August 2017

Lemon & Lime Wine - Final Bottle (6), 8th-9th August 2017

I had remembered this wine as somewhat worse that this bottle proved. Yes, it was too sweet - and in the unlikely event that I make it again, I will reduce the sugar. But it was drinkable, and not the Punishment Wine that a bottle opened on a Tuesday might suggest. It was unmistakably lemon-flavoured and more like lemonade than wine.

Both nights I drank my glass while watching I Know Who You Are, which is a superb Spanish thriller that surprises at every turn.