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.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Rose Petal Wine - Tenth Bottle (B6), 18th-19th April 2017

This bottle marked Easter's last hurrah. Most of Easter Monday was spent in York seeing Mom, Rachael, Myles & Paul. We didn't do very much, but in an entirely satisfactory way. Mom beat both Claire and me at Scrabble which Rachael watched and Myles slept, but it was close. We opened the Rose Petal Wine on our return to Leeds and I spent a frustrating ten minutes willing our internet to work sufficiently so that I could watch Broadchurch's final episode live. This, of course, failed - so I stayed up late seeking solace in rose petal wine until the internet decided to work and I could watch the episode. Both the programme and the wine were entirely satisfactory. The taxi driver was not the villain.

I spent the afternoon entertaining my wife and nephew

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Prune & Parsnip Wine - Third Bottle (B6), 16th April 2017

We had two bottles to tidy up, but it was Easter Sunday and a glass and a half of wine each was definitely not going to be enough. So I opened, and we finished, this bottle of prune & parsnip. It was the right wine for a spicy egg biryani. The sweet depth of prune & parsnip complemented the caramalised onions and cut through the curry's heat.

With the bottle having been finished, I made a couple of bush teas and we settled down to Doctor Who. The new companion is excellent so far and I am so pleased it is back.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Blackberry Wine - Sixteenth Bottle (A3), 15th-16th April 2017

This was meant to be elderberry wine. Claire had made a fabulous goulash with large chunks of succulent beef and ventured under the stairs for a bottle. Now, in Claire's defence, the 'BB' I had written on the top of the cork could, if one was careless or in a hurry, be mistaken for an 'EB'. But my label (which I am looking at as I write) definitely definitely says 'Blackberry'. And we had a bottle of this earlier in the week. My policy of spacing flavours consumed has taken a battering. Still a good wine, though.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Kiwi Fruit Wine - Final Bottle (4), 14th-16th April 2017

Sooz claimed that she could taste Kiwi Fruit in this wine. Neither Claire nor I could. Having left the wine four years since making, it has developed the flavour of generic home-made wine that has stood around too long. I get the same taste from Julia's wines. It was still drinkable, but 'drinkable' does not translate as 'pleasant'.

We drank most the bottle on Good Friday, which was a lazy day interspersed with a trip out to Saltaire and plenty more booze. The wine was then untouched on Saturday, and finished after we had drunk the good stuff on Sunday. Easter Day was another relaxed day - it is a less frantic holiday than Christmas - in which Jayne came over, Claire finished crocheting a hare's head, and I decided not to make Kiwi Wine again.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Orange Wine - Second Bottle (B2), 13th-14th April 2017

Opened on Maundy Thursday (when a bottle of rhubarb wine between three was insufficient) and finished on Good Friday. On her first glass, Claire thought that this orange wine was particularly poor. Whilst I agree that 2015's vintage was better, I considered her opinion to be unduly harsh. She then remembered that she had spent the last two minutes swilling with unpleasant mouthwash. Following on from that, there were no complaints. Sooz did not pick up the orange flavour until instructed to think 'peel' rather than 'juice'.

Because Sooz is staying we spent Friday afternoon wandering around Saltaire and came to the conclusion that the mill is rather more interesting than the village. The shop selling kitchen equipment and furniture is ridiculous, though: £600 for two champagne glasses; £4,000 for an armchair. I was careful not to touch.

The sort of furniture sold at Saltaire for ridiculous prices

Friday, 21 April 2017

Rhubarb Wine - Ninth Bottle (B2), 13th April 2017

To mark the occasion of 2017's first Rhubarb Cream Pie, I opened a bottle of rhubarb wine. Our garden is producing rhubarb in healthy quantities, which bodes well for next month's brewing. But whilst rhubarb wine is good (it is the one I make which is closest to real wine), rhubarb pie is better. It is a taste of my childhood, and you can't improve on that.

In other exciting news, our stairs and landing now have a new carpet. Who says that my life is not a thrill a minute?

Our newly carpeted stairs

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Fig Wine - Fourth Bottle (2), 12th April 2017

Sooz has come to stay over Easter so I have welcomed her with one of my best wines. Actually, we began with a gin & tonic. This may not have been the best idea - I do have work tomorrow. Anyway, we all agreed that the wine is a good one - very figgy with a nutty aroma - and the bottle is now empty.

My father has just rung - he is off to America for five weeks and rang to say 'goodbye'. I get the impression that each time he goes, he is never absolutely certain he will survive until he is due back. Generally he won't ring otherwise.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Blackberry Wine - Fifteenth Bottle (A5), 10th-11th April 2017

It is rare that I open a bottle on a Monday, and even rarer that I do before six. But Claire is on holiday and it was her alter-ego - Cornelia Gruntfuttock - 's birthday. That was excuse enough. I had a WYSO committee meeting, which was a pleasant way to pass the time - talking about music and concerts and conductors.

On Tuesday we each had a glass before Claire left to play string quintets and I settled in to watch the penultimate episode of Broadchurch, which has been fantastic this series - and I still think that the taxi driver is the main villain.

Broadchurch Taxi Driver

Monday, 17 April 2017

Crab Apple Wine - Fourteenth Bottle (A6), 9th-10th April 2017

I had to delve into the crypt to retrieve this bottle, but that at least meant it was cool (and covered in spider webs). Sunday was the warmest April day I can remember - in some parts of the country (though not Leeds) it reached 25o. Much of the day, consequently, was spent in the garden - which is looking fabulous at the moment. We had Rachel, Duncan & Ruth round for brunch and sat under the apple tree with coffee and pastries.

I opened the wine this evening while making this year's ginger wine. It is a good vintage of crab apple, and now our brand new crab apple tree is putting out proto-blossom, I have high hopes that it will not be my last.

Our crab apple tree

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Ginger Wine 2017 - The Making Of...

April is a cruel month. It is on the verge of foraging season but that really only produces nettles and dandelions. I made dandelion wine last year and nettle wine about ten years ago. It is too soon to make either again. Therefore, for a decent wine, I need to buy my ingredients. This year I was in a quandary about what to make. Should I give Kiwi Fruit another go, or experiment with Tomato or Carrot? On 6th April I opened a bottle of Ginger Wine. It was so good that my mind was made up. Ginger it was to be, and I have followed my 2016 recipe precisely. If this wine is the same, I will promote ginger to a regular flavour rather than it making the occasional guest appearance.

I bought my ingredients on Saturday morning, 8th April, from Ruby's but started making the wine on Sunday, on account of playing in a concert in Pontefract on Saturday. The weather was so good the whole weekend that doing anything other than sitting quietly in the garden seemed like a chore.

Anyway, on Sunday afternoon I measured out 5½ oz of ginger and took the outer rough skin off it, though was not overly fussy in doing so. I sliced the ginger into the thinnest slices I could, reasoning that the larger the surface area, the more gingery the taste. Next I took the outer peel off four lemons, doing my best to avoid the pith (though 'my best' would only be classified as 'adequate' by Ofsted). Both the ginger and peel went into the bucket. I minced a pound of sultanas and put these in too. I squeezed all four lemons, added the juice and then boiled 3½ pints of water and put this in.

Whilst I suspect it makes no difference, I waited 24 hours before adding 2 lbs 8 oz sugar and another 3½ pints of boiling water.

On Tuesday morning, 11th April, I added the yeast and a teaspoon each of nutrient and pectolase. Through the week I stirred the wine once or twice a day and today, Saturday 15th April, I put the wine into its demijohn. This took longer than I had anticipated, and I blame the minced sultanas. The wine smells lovely, though, and there is a gingery tinge to its colour.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Blackcurrant & Raspberry Wine - Sixth Bottle (B1), 7th April 2017

This wine is better than I had remembered. It has matured nicely and has developed a sherry taste, while still being distinctly fruity. We took it to Ros's for an evening of wine, nibbles and conversation. It was meant to be Book Group, but so many people could not make it that we have postponed. This allowed us to catch up with Ros properly - it has been too long.

We drank a toast to Julia, finished the bottle quickly, opened another (real wine this time) and finished that too. The walk home did not feel as long as the walk there. Funny that.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Ginger Wine - Second Bottle (5), 6th-8th April 2017

I make a damn fine ginger wine. This wine was so good that I have decided to make ginger wine again this year - it may even become a regular. The ginger taste is pronounced; it is a drink with a zing. But there are subtleties too, and those are provided by the lemon.

We drank most of this bottle on Thursday because Claire is on holiday this coming week and didn't need to worry about getting up the next morning. Our last glass was saved for Saturday night on our return from a concert in Pontefract: Mozart's Requiem and the middle third of The Messiah. Oh, We Like Sheep.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Ya Ya Pear Wine - First Bottle (2), 5th-6th April 2017

Well, this is quite an odd wine. It isn't disgusting or bland - and those were my two "Most Likely Adjectives". However, 'Nice' doesn't really feature either. There is a chemical taste to it, reminiscent of pear-drops. Claire describes the wine as 'astringent'. It is drinkable - albeit a mid-week bottle - and I'm satisfied with that. Good colour as well - the barest hint of pink.

This evening I finished the bottle while ditching TalkTalk from our lives. Our internet service has been getting increasingly awful. Last night it took me an hour to watch 9 minutes of Broadchurch, and something needed to be done. Claire suggested that I ask to be released without the early exit fee. I did, and it worked!

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

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Blackcurrant Wine - Twelfth Bottle (D4), 1st April 2017

I gave this bottle to first-cousin-once-removed Adam to open. We were in Hertfordshire, having been to Uncle Brian and Auntie Jan's 50th Wedding Anniversary. Instead of pulling the cork out, he pushed it further into the bottle's neck. I got a teaspoon and completed the job. The first glass had many bits of cork, so I had that, and the flavour was unaffected. It remained excellent. Becky refused a glass, and is therefore my least favourite cousin. It was a fabulous evening, full of extended family gossip.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Prune & Parsnip Wine - Tenth Bottle (A3), 30th March - 3rd April 2017

I have struggled to remember when this bottle was opened, but it must have been Thursday. On Tuesday I went out for a curry with Darren & Nigel, and on Wednesday we were out giving constructive criticism to a piano, clarinet and horn trio (though I mostly turned pages). So, Thursday it was - and I made a delicious tortilla, which this wine accompanied. It being a Thursday we held off on finishing the bottle - until Monday, though there was barely a glass each. I had mine listening to a quirky documentary on Radio 4 about a man who corrects apostrophes on shop signs in the dead of night. Excellent stuff (as was the wine).

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Xmas Tutti Fruti Wine - Third Bottle (B4), 26th March 2017

Despite the unseasonably warm weather (I spent the morning in a T-shirt), I drank this wine in front of the stove. Hot spring days have surprisingly cold spring nights. During the morning I did manly gardening - removing boulders and tearing tree roots out of the front garden with my bare hands. The afternoon was spent playing Bruckner indoors, looking forlornly at the sunshine outside. Still, the wine was fine - more of a rosé than a red, and once I made that adjustment it ceased being disappointing.

The other thing I did while drinking this wine was to book a week's holiday in Corfu. Gulp!

Monday, 3 April 2017

Rose Petal Wine - Ninth Bottle (A5), 25th-26th March 2017

Mostly this bottle was a "second bottle after the concert" bottle, but there was still enough for two small glasses on Sunday. One bottle is not enough between four, particularly when the adrenalin is up. It was only Claire's adrenalin, mind. I was in the audience with Rachel & Duncan. Consequently, Claire had the lion's share - and deservedly so.

Both Saturday and Sunday had fabulous weather - better than many summer days, so rose petal wine somehow felt like the correct flavour.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Blackberry Wine - Fifth Bottle (A6), 25th March 2017

A bottle of wine is always welcome after a concert, particularly when the wine is as good as this.

The concert was WYSO's 'England All at Sea'; the main pieces were Elgar's Sea Pictures (with a stunning contralto) and Frank Bridge's The Sea. Our poster showed a sinking ship - and any Brexit imagery must surely be a coincidence.

For once I was in the audience (on account of my tooth recovery) and it was a pleasure to be there. WYSO is a better orchestra than I had thought - the strings are a strong section, and I don't hear that when playing. After the concert we invited Rachel & Duncan over and dispatched the wine with alarming speed. Another bottle was duly opened...

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Rhubarb, Elderflower & Mint Wine - Final Bottle (4), 24th March 2017

Friday night was 'Neighbourhood Pizza Night'. Liz and David at number 33 had the idea and made the pizza, Angie & Phil brought bread, Claire supplied the tiramisu and I took along a bottle of wine. Rhubarb, elderflower & mint was chosen as one of my best and we drank it as an aperitif. Everyone liked it; Angie still remembers my Potato wine and anything compared to that is nectar. The mint was noticeable in this bottle, which is always beneficial. We had a lovely night, full of conversation and laughter, and at the end of it the walk home took rather less than two minutes.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Crab Apple Wine - Thirteenth Bottle (B5), 18th-19th March 2017

I put this bottle in the fridge in anticipation of our return from Faure's Requiem, courtesy of Batley Music Club. We had expected dire things, but in fact it only required one glass of crab apple wine each in order to recover.

Most of the bottle was drunk to a roast chicken dinner - our first roast for quite some time. We had spent the day visiting more garden centres than planned, finishing the herb bed and catching up on odds and ends. I finished Never Let Me Go by Ishiguro - which was a morbid, uncomfortable read yet gripping. The wine was equally gripping but pleasingly neither morbid nor uncomfortable.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Rhubarb Wine 2014 - Final Bottle (B1), 17th March 2017

Having bottled a triple batch of rose petal (which produces a goodly quantity of spare wine for immediate consumption), opening and finishing a bottle of rhubarb wine was perhaps not wise. Claire said that anything delicious would be wasted and therefore this bottle was an adequate choice. Rhubarb wine does not age brilliantly. There was a hint of cheese to its taste, but this was subtle enough to be nearly ignored. We drank it in front of the stove bemoaning the state of the world in general and Claire's job prospects in particular.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Orange Wine - First Bottle (B6), 15th-16th March 2017

I think this orange wine is a touch too bitter and could have done with more sugar. It has the taste of unsweetened marmalade - all peel and no juice. Claire disagrees, which is good as there are another eleven bottles. She thinks it would go well with food - curry particularly.

This was the first alcohol I had drunk for nearly a week (if one discounts a bottle of clove & ginger) and was to celebrate having finished my antibiotics. I made a cake to go with it whilst Claire was at WYSO - and continuing the theme, it was Delia's Marmalade Cake. Maybe I should turn my hand to baking: the cake was rather more successful than the wine.

If you want to see how I made this wine, you can either look at the post before, or click here for the actual version I made in 2016

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Orange Wine 2017 - The Making Of...

Today is the first day since 3rd March that I have not had stabbing pain in my jaw and that I have not been on a four-hourly diet of pain killers. It is 12th March - nine days after my coronectomy - and until half an hour ago I was starting to believe that everything would be alright. However, I made the mistake of trying to play the bassoon just now. I got no further than putting the reed in my mouth and realising that this was not a good idea. Now, of course, I am worrying that I will never play the bassoon again. Still, I have wine-making as my other hobby, and I don't need a working mouth for that.

Today, after a brief spell in the garden helping Claire to create a herb bed, I started making my orange wine. As ever, this is a double batch for which I needed 24 oranges. Earlier in the week I had picked up three 'family size' bags from Sainsburys. On the whole I prefer to avoid supermarkets for my fruit and veg, but in this instance my inner miser (which is rather less 'inner' than that phrase suggests) won out and I went for what was cheap.

Taking the outermost peel off oranges
I took the outer most layer of peel off 12 of the oranges, and for once was nearly successful in avoiding the pith. This took about an hour and I avoided boredom by listening to a crime drama with Meera Syal on Radio 4 Catch-Up. I have covered this peel with 2 pints of boiling water and I will pour the water (minus the peel) into my bucket when I return from work tomorrow.

Orange peel to be covered with 2 pints of water

I squeezed all 24 oranges, measured the juice (3¾ pints) and poured this into the bucket. To this, I added 9 pints of cold water and 5½ lbs of sugar. Because the water is cold I have not had to wait to put in the yeast and rounded teaspoon of nutrient. This year I am experimenting by not putting in a teaspoon of pectolase. My hypothesis is that the wine will clear without it.

Wine in the bucket

On Friday night (17th March) the wine went into its demijohns. This took little time as there was virtually nothing to sieve out - only a bit of pulp - but I was careful to leave a half-pint gap between the liquid and the top of the demijohn. I don't want a repeat of last month's prune & parsnip shambles with wine froth all over our bathroom. As ever, orange wine at this stage is the happiest of yellows.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Clove & Ginger Wine - Third Bottle (3), 12th-13th March 2017

I chose Clove & Ginger as Sunday night's bottle for two reasons. Firstly, it has virtually no alcohol. This is important because I am on antibiotics. Secondly, cloves are famous for healing tooth-ache. This is important because I am recovering from a coronectomy and my mouth is still not right. I made the mistake of trying to do ten minutes' bassoon practice. Just blowing down the reed (and making no sound) caused me to worry that I may never play the bassoon again. So, what about the wine? Its taste was certainly distinctive. Claire said that it would numb the mouth and stimulate the bowels. Well, the mouth was duly numbed, but I am uncovinced otherwise. The wine was far from unpleasant, but not one to drink by the gallon.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Blackcurrant Wine - Eleventh Bottle (B6), 9th-10th March 2017

Whilst I was standing in First Class on my way back from London, I received a text from Claire. "Have opened a bottle of blackcurrant wine." This did not make me feel any better. My jaw was still hurting from last week's operation, it now having got infected. Being on antibiotics meant that I couldn't even look forward to a glass on my return. And the train I should have been on was cancelled due to overhead power-line collapse south of Doncaster - hence spending my journey stood up.

Claire and Rachel had very nearly finished the bottle by the time I finally got home - leaving just a mouthful, which I thought would be okay for my Friday night alcohol (notwithstanding the antibiotics) and which I anticipated with delight. On Friday I asked whether that mouthful remained. It did not.

A thoroughly unsatisfactory bottle.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Prune & Parsnip Wine - Second Bottle (B2), 5th March 2017

Whilst this bottle was drunk in happier circumstances than the last, 'joyful' is not really a word I would use. This was the first alcohol I had consumed for 5 days, on account of having a coronectomy on Friday under General Anaesthetic. Of my original four wisdom teeth, I now only have the roots of my bottom left remaining. I thought the sweet, semi-medicinal flavour of prune & parsnip would be beneficial. Whislt the wine itself was everything that prune & parsnip should be, my physical well-being declined over the evening and I got packed off to bed, having only had half of my food and with wine left in my glass. With any luck, this will be the last time my teeth give me any bother.

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

Monday, 6 March 2017

Crab Apple Wine - Twelfth Bottle (D4), 28th February 2017

This year I shall be giving nothing up for Lent. It has been a policy of mine for the last 46 years. But that did not mean that pancakes were to be denied on Shrove Tuesday. We were invited to Mary's to flip pancakes, stuff them with all sorts of exciting things and take part in a pancake-related quiz. Mostly this was questions about her home village of Olney - where a pancake race takes place every year amongst the female parishioners. It was a lovely evening, and my crab apple wine was (genuinely) enjoyed by the assembled throng - all four of us. I didn't start the drive back from Ilkley until a quarter to eleven, and for a Tuesday night, that is life in the fast lane.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Elderberry Wine - Tenth Bottle (B2), 26th February 2017

Claire asked for elderberry wine specifically and who am I to deny her? We were having moussaka - our first meat for about a fortnight - and a heavy, complex red was the right sort of wine. The recipe was from Delia Smith's The Complete Cookery Course which I was given as a birthday present more than half my lifetime ago. It is still my most useful cookery book.

The most notable activity today was finishing off our 'shaded garden'. This is the area most overshadowed by the sycamore and I have spent the last few weeks (supervised by Claire, naturally) creating an area a foot deep to be covered by pond liner (to retain mositure - though I have made several holes to allow some drainage), and then for the earth to be shovelled back in. Today we planted many ferns, wild garlic bulbs, an anemone, lily of the valley, stinking iris, a toad lily and more besides - all of which cope well with shade. Now all we need to do is wait. Gardening is not an activity for immediate gratification.

Our shaded garden

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Rhubarb, Elderflower & Mint Wine - Fifth Bottle (B2), 25th February 2017

I think this is one of the best white wines that I have ever made. It is light, refreshing, summery and has a subtle mint jab. Just delicious. I put it in the fridge because I thought Claire deserved a treat after bad news about her job on Friday. In other attempts to win the "Best Husband 2017" award, I spent the day shopping, tidying, washing clothes, sorting through compost bins (not as disgusting a job as I had anticipated) and cooking a meal of Greek-style fish stew, pan-fried new potatoes and spinach. (Claire was at a viola masterclass in Ilkley for much of this.) The fish stew was lovely, and simple - always a good combination.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Rose Petal Wine - Eighth Bottle (A1), 24th-25th February 2017

Claire is having job troubles again. She has been told that there is unlikely to be funding for her role beyond 2017. The problem is that her job doesn't tick the funding boxes: she isn't doing her own research and very often she gives the advice "your experiment won't work for the following reasons..." to those who are. Whilst this saves time and money, it is not measurable. Consequently, Friday was spent moping - particularly after an abortive visit to Madeleine's to provide musical advice on a trio, where we came home again because the pianist had forgotten to turn up. I'd like to say that a bottle of rose petal wine banished all ill-temper, but that would be a lie. It is a good bottle nonetheless, and exceedingly drinkable.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Blackcurrant Wine - Tenth Bottle (A2), 19th February 2017

This weekend has involved remarkably little alcohol. Particularly if you discount tonight. On both Friday and Saturday we were at the opera - The Snow Maiden and Hansel & Gretel respectively. The Rimsky Korsakov was fine but the Humperdinck was excellent. This left Sunday to have a bottle of wine plus a couple of gin & tonics, and this blackcurrant wine was delicious. I'm now on the bush tea to sober up a little, before I go to bed.

I have spent the day having an exploratory walk around north Leeds, where Council Estate slots into seven-figure dwellings nearly seemlessly, and finishing Eight Months on Ghazza Street, which was chilling, ambiguous and thoroughly recommended.

Hansel & Gretel, the Opera North way

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Xmas Tutti Fruti - Second Bottle (A4),15th-16th February 2017

If I say that this bottle was disappointing, it is only because I know how good Christmas Tutti Fruti can be. My sole complaint is that there is a thinness to it which was missing from 2014's vintage. Taste-wise it is fine, if not very interesting.

I opened the bottle on a Wednesday - which was a rare night in, on account of it being half-term and no WYSO rehearsal, and we finished it on Thursday. Little of interest happened on either day - which makes for a dull read (apologies). I saw an excellent docudrama - The Moorside - based on the Shannon Matthews kidnapping. The acting was exemplary, but the programme has been criticised for being too soon after the event (9 years) - the girl involved is only now 18.

The three main characters in 'The Moorside' - all fabulous actors

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Crab Apple Wine - Eleventh Bottle (A3), 12th February 2017

I was a little disappointed with this bottle of wine. Maybe it was my mood (mostly mournful) but there was something about it that I found bitter. Claire disagreed, and we had no problems dispatching the bottle. It had been a miserable day, weather-wise (and in general) and apart from an irritating trip to Sainsburys we were cooped up all day. I got on with our Book Group Book - Eight Months on Ghazzah Street by Hilary Mantel, which so far is excellent and uncomfortable, but otherwise it was a low-key end to what has been a terrible weekend.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Blackberry Wine - Fourth Bottle (B2), 11th-14th February 2017

This vintage of blackberry is superb. Have I said that already? There is an instant burst of blackberry which tastes as good three days after opening as it does when fresh. I opened it before Rachel, Duncan, Claire and I went to Hansas for an evening of hot vegetarian curry and talking about Stan.

Rachel & Duncan's visit coincided with the first day of our new sofa - which previously belonged to Rachel's grandmother. We have had it upholstered with an Art Deco inspired material. Until now, I had only thought of sofas as functional rather than things of beauty. This one is absolutely stunning.

Our 'new' sofa

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Prune & Parsnip Wine - First Bottle (A2), 10 February 2017

Stanley died tonight. He was hit by a car and we think was killed instantly. He was part of our lives for nearly seventeen years and of our two cats was the better one (by some margin). I thought I was okay about it - he was old, still healthy, died quickly, had a good life - but when I rang my mother I just broke down. Stan was a lovely cat and I won't know a better one. There will be a void, Stanley-shaped, for quite some time.

We tried to numb the grief with a bottle of Prune & Parnsip - which I am not in the best position to judge right now - and by watching The Full Monty - and that helped. But right now, I would like to be annoyed by a cat whining about his food being inadequate.

Stanley - butter wouldn't melt!

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Rhubarb Wine - Eighth Bottle (B3), 8th-9th February 2017

This wine was opened to celebrate the fact that I am not going to jail.

In January I had a phone call from the Inland Revenue: they wanted to come and inspect some professional records I was meant to keep. My heart dropped and I felt sick. What records I had were scant and on checking the maximum penalty, I focussed on the word "imprisonment". The next 3 weeks were spent getting my papers in order and worrying. The inspection was on Wednesday and, of course, went without much of a hitch. So I remain a free man, able to enjoy a glass or two of rhubarb wine - a dependable mid-week bottle.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Elderberry Wine - Third Bottle (A1), 5th-7th February 2017

My Sunday was one of those days where I am glad to be alive. Well, I am always glad to be alive, if one considers the alternative, but on Sunday I was particularly so. This was only partly down to my elderberry wine (which is fabulous) accompanying roast gammon. Mostly it was spending the day not rushing about, but having time to dig in the garden while the sun shone and robins watched my every move waiting for worms.

I made bread, started my Prune & Parsnip wine and went to Leeds Grand Mosque for an open day to watch Muslim men pray - so an entirely ordinary Sunday! We went to the Mosque in response to awful things happening in the Middle East and the USA, but watching the prayers felt intrusive (albeit interesting). I was invading other people's personal faith.

Leeds Grand Mosque

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Prune & Parsnip Wine 2017 - The Making Of...

Not Aesthetically Pleasing Parsnips

I popped into Sainsburys on Thursday to pick up one or two things we needed and saw that 'Basics Parsnips' were being sold at 70p for a 750g bag. In this instance 'Basics' means 'Not Aesthetically Pleasing', and for wine that matters not a jot. I put three bags into my trolley and proceeded to the checkout.

My wine-making, though, was done on Sunday 5 February. The morning's activities mostly involved digging in the garden. It was sunny and - once I had been digging for half an hour - T-shirt weather (until I stopped). Two robins watched my work with interest and one was brave enought to flit to a point I had just dug, grab a worm and flit off again. They are more corageous than the pigeons and blackbirds, who stayed in their trees until I went inside.

Prunes & Parsnips

Once I decided that I had done enough in the garden for the day I weighed 4 lbs of parsnips and chopped these into small pieces, ready for boiling. These sat around for a couple of hours while we attended Leeds Grand Mosque (which is more 'Concrete' than 'Grand') for an open day. Mostly we were there for solidarity purposes, to express support against the vilification of Islam in social media and by certain influential sectors and people, but I got a cup of tea and a Danish pastry too.

Parsnips chopped into small pieces
Back at home, I halved each of the prunes and put them in the bucket. The parsnip pieces were boiled in 16 pints of water for half an hour (though I did this in two lots). I poured the water into the bucket and threw out the parsnips. 5 lbs 10 oz sugar went in and the next morning I added the yeast and a teaspoon each of pectolase and nutrient. It took a coupld of days before there was much evidence of fermentation, and I put that down to it being February and cold.

Evidence of Fermentation

I was going to put this into its demijohns on Friday night, but Stan was knocked over and killed that evening, so wine-making was rather less important. I know he was only a cat. But he was our cat and I loved him. Instead, the wine went into the demijohns on Saturday morning, 11th February, and judging by the foam, I am worried that I have filled them too full. They look like two large jars of an English Real Ale.