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.

Thursday, 14 November 2019

Blackberry Wine - Second Bottle (A5), 3rd November 2019

It is unusual for my blackberry wine to taste like real red wine, but this bottle gave a good impression of it. There was a richness and depth that I don't associate with Bramble Wine. We drank it to a Chinese beef and red pepper dish - we ate and drank well on Sunday night.

The day was spent starting the tidying process for the Wine Party on Saturday. I would love to be one of those people who can effortlessly keep their house in order and clean. At the age of 49-and-a-third, I think it is time to admit defeat.

Friday, 8 November 2019

Halloween Wine - First Bottle (4), 2nd November 2019

I had meant to open this wine on All Hallows' Eve. It wasn't until two nights later that I remembered. But I was out playing quintets at Madeleine's on Thursday once the Trick or Treaters had trickled, so that was a wine-free night.

I had expected the chilli that I used in this wine to be undetectable. In fact, there was both a chilli taste and a subtle heat to the wine making it one of my more interesting brews. It is drier than most my reds and I would have preferred it just a tad sweeter. Lots of fruity taste, though, with not one dominating.

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

Thursday, 7 November 2019

Orange Wine - Eleventh Bottle (A3), 27th October 2019

Claire cooked a paella on Sunday night and thought orange wine would suit it best. It was a good thought: the sharp orange flavours complement rather than overpower the sea food in paella.

Earlier in the day I took advantage of the dry autumn weather and went for a walk around Meanwood Park: not as popular as Roundhay Park and without the showcase lake, but just as beautiful. Then in the evening we watched Chicago, which is an excellent film. Not in the same league as Cabaret, but then what is?

Autumn in Meanwood Park

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Apple & Strawberry Wine - Sixth Bottle (1), 26th October 2019

It is unlikely that I could get any more middle class. Last night I went to a Yotam Ottolenghi themed dinner party.

Liz cooked up a feast where every dish came for her Ottolenghi cook book: so we had dishes of butter beans blitzed with roasted red peppers and cumin, chicken cooked with green olives & figs and many more besides. All utterly delicious and I ate far too much - having seconds of most things including the pudding. This meant I slept badly.

I took my last bottle of Apple & Strawberry Wine as it is one of my best. Shockingly, it went unopened and we had to make do with rather expensive wine made from grapes, including a Greek white, a Chilean red and something sparkling from Swillington.

Thursday, 31 October 2019

Rose Petal Wine - Second Bottle (B5), 22nd-23rd October 2019

Tuesday night is The Great British Bake Off night, and we were down to the penultimate episode this week. As always, we were allowed treats during the ad-breaks, and one of those was a glass of Rose Petal Wine. Claire would argue that this was not much of a treat. The pear tart was better.

On Wednesday night I stayed up to finish both Skippy Dies and this bottle of wine. The book was fabulous - it captured 14 year-old male adolescence beautifully, was riotous and hilarious and, in places, very very dark. I must seek out Paul Murray's others.

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Rhubarb Wine - Fifth Bottle (A6), 19th-20th October 2019

We drank most of this bottle on our return from Wakefield on Saturday night. Claire had been playing 'Third Viola' in Heinrich Biber's Requiem and I had the important role of chauffeur and dozing audience member. The music was beautiful: choir, string orchestra and three trombones: but induced sleepiness. As the movements passed by I would wake for the start of each and then return to my slumber. Claire drove home.

The rhubarb wine had been waiting in the fridge and I drank most my share in bed getting on with my book - Skippy Dies.

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Xmas Tutti Fruti - Ninth Bottle (A4), 17th October 2019

Tonight we have had the Wesleyan man around to discuss our finances and this always induces anxiety. To deal with this, after he had gone, Claire and I have knocked back a bottle of Tutti Fruti at shocking speed - particularly bearing in mind that it is a Thursday. And I'm walking to work tomorrow. The wine, though, is excellent and one of the very best Tutti Frutis that I have made.

Monday, 28 October 2019

Elderberry Wine 2015 - Eleventh Bottle (A6), 13th October 2019

This was a splendid bottle of elderberry wine - everything elderberry should be: dark, smooth, rich, fruity. We drank it on a lazy Sunday where the weather encouraged us not to leave the house. Mostly I obeyed that, and stayed in to make apple & strawberry wine.

In the evening we ate a venison sausage casserole and then lay on the sofa and read. I'm reading Skippy Dies by Paul Murray, which I absolutely love. It is a coming of age novel set in present day Ireland, which is warm, funny, tense and loving - with a load of physics thrown in.

Sunday, 27 October 2019

Apple Wine - First Bottle (6), 12th-15th October 2019

This apple wine isn't half bad. The apple flavour may not be as pronounced as previous vintages and there is a heavier consistency, but it is definitely drinkable. I would rate it as a 'Mid Week Plus'. I chose Apple on Saturday night, partly to go with the Turkey Meatballs in Plum Sauce (delicious) and partly because I spent Saturday making Apple Wine. By the end of the night there was still nearly a glass each, so we saved it for Tuesday to count as one of our Bake Off treats.

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

Sunday, 20 October 2019

Apple and Apple & Strawberry Wine 2019 - The Making Of...

Last year our apple tree was prolific, much to the joy of local blackbirds and squirrels. This year it is far less so and as of mid-October the apples have only just begun to drop. Those that have fallen are mostly half-gnawed - I suspect by the garden rodents - so I can only use those for apple wine with some judicious chopping.

Our crab apple tree has done better than last year - but has still only produced 1 lb 4 oz of apples. Each of these two wines require 4 lbs of apples, so I have had to look beyond the confines of our garden for additional fruit.

Pavement apples
On Saturday 12th October, after accompanying Claire back from a Park Run (I did not participate myself) I spotted windfall apples on the opposite pavement so, much to Claire's embarrassment, I crossed the road and started collecting them. She left me to it. These apples were small and bruised, but still worthy ingredients. I also noticed that a house round the corner had put some apples in a box outside their hedge for people to collect, so I made full use of these too and ended up with 8 lbs of apples (weighed after chopping out the bruises and the rot and the squirrel tooth marks) that I needed.

I made the Apple Wine of Saturday and the Apple & Strawberry Wine on Sunday. For both I washed the apples, cut away all rot, removed any invertebrates that I spotted (only one had a grub but several had woodlice) and sliced them using the food processor.

For the apple wine, I added about 1 lb of sultanas, minced in the food processor, and for the apple & strawberry wine I had already crushed 1 lb of strawberries in my bucket using a potato masher. To each bucket I added 3 lbs of sugar and 7 pints of boiling water (which was about half a pint too much, particularly for the apple & strawberry).

Once each had cooled (Sunday morning for the apple and Sunday night for the other) I added teaspoons of nutrient, pectolase and yeast to both buckets.

By Friday these were ready to put into their demijohns. I had returned home from Drinks with Work so had little inclination but knew this must be done, and so that's what I did to no great disaster. This year there is little colour difference between the two and I suspect substandard strawberries account for the lack of pinkness.

Thursday, 17 October 2019

Orange Wine - Tenth Bottle (A5), 10th October 2019

Thursday night should not really have been a whole bottle of wine night. It has been a long and difficult week at work though - that first week back after a holiday is always horrendous. There is so much to do and I have needed to work particularly fast to stay afloat. Hence drinking a bottle of orange wine was remarkably easy - and I only suffered a little for it on Friday morning.

After the wine had been finished, Mom rang in a flap asking for legal advice on a solar panel contractual matter. I muddled through as best I could.

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Blackcurrant Wine - Third Bottle (A3), 6th October 2019

It is nice to be home. We returned from a week's holiday in Croatia on Saturday evening, so Sunday was our first day back in Leeds and familiar territory. It was a good holiday and whilst England was wet and windy, we had plenty of sunshine throughout the week. Best moment? Possibly eating grilled sardines in a concrete bunker and drinking copious amounts of red wine.

Back at home my first bottle was blackcurrant - always a popular choice - to go with turkey meatballs followed by Tootsie on DVD: one of my favourite films.

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Elderberry Wine - Ninth Bottle (A4), 22nd September 2019

What a fabulous bottle of elderberry wine, if I do say so myself. It is entirely smooth and all taste of metal has gone. A dark, rich wine that is the perfect accompaniment to nut-loaf and roast potatoes (for that is what we ate). We are to have a broadly vegetarian week because next week we go to Croatia, where I understand the diet is based on meat and fish. I feel ill-prepared for this holiday and have done little planning for it. Just thinking about it makes me nervous.

On Holiday in Croatia 

Saturday, 28 September 2019

Ginger Wine - First Bottle (5), 21st September 2019

I have a rule that, unless the flavour is Apple, I do not drink my first bottle from a batch of wine until it is a year old. I have broken this rule for Ginger by three and a half months. It is all because I am a Yorkshire miser. When bottling this wine on Friday, I snapped the string during the corking process. Leaving string in a bottle's neck will ruin the wine. Corks cost about 8 pence each. Therefore, by drinking this wine the next day I saved myself nearly one-tenth of one pound. Result!

The wine itself is everything ginger wine should be: dry, light, gingery.

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

Friday, 27 September 2019

Nectarine Wine - Fourth Bottle (5), 18th-20th September 2019

Pringles and Nectarine Wine make terrible companions. On Wednesday after WYSO I had both together and wondered why the Nectarine Wine tasted quite so bitter. Claire was more positive, saying that for a mid-week bottle, this one was rather good. Then on Friday I drank the wine without the Pringles and the bottle was transformed. It was refreshing and light and tasted of nectarines. Lesson learned: cheap, salty snacks are not a wine's best friend.

Thursday, 26 September 2019

Blackcurrant Wine - Second Bottle (B5), 15th-17th September 2019

Having started Sunday evening with a Cosmopolitan, half a bottle of blackcurrant wine between the two of us was the correct decision. This allowed us to drink the remaining half as one of our Bake Off treats on Tuesday. The other two treats were a bag of Cheesy Wotsits and a chocolate ├ęclair.

The wine continues to be excellent. Blackcurrant in not often smooth, but this vintage is. No jagged edges to make the drinker go "ooh".

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Xmas Tutti Fruti - Eighth Bottle (A2), 14th September 2019

On Saturday morning I drew up a list of things that I needed to do. At time of writing, Sunday night, none of them are ticked. Saturday was not the most efficient of days. Certainly it did not involve mowing the lawn, getting holiday money (we are off to Croatia in a fortnight) or buying corks. As a reward for this inactivity I had the lion's share of a bottle of Xmas Tutti Fruti, which is fizzy (not always desirable in a red wine) and rather good. But the end of the bottle I was just that bit too drunk to concentrate on Midsomer Murders so went to bed instead.

Monday, 23 September 2019

Apple & Strawberry Wine - Fifth Bottle (5), 13th September 2019

I was cross when I opened this bottle. Mostly it was because I was hungry. Claire stayed late at work, arranging for me to collect her at 8:30 p.m.. I ordered a pizza to be ready for 8:50, but Claire wasn't in the car until 8:37. Writing that down, there is no justification for me being cross. Particularly as I hadn't seen Claire since Sunday.

When we got home I basically inhaled both pizza and wine, not really noticing either. My mood improved and we watched 'Bread Week' on The Great British Bake Off

Sunday, 22 September 2019

Elderberry Wine 2019 - The Making Of...

Fruit has generally been early this year. Actually, strawberries were not and our pears have yet to ripen. Perhaps what I mean is that blackberries were early this year. Therefore I was concerned that foraging for elderberries on 15th September would be too late.

I drove to my usual spot off the A58 on Sunday morning and walked to the farmer's field along Kennel Lane, noting that the few elder trees within the hedgerows had scant fruit. It was a longer walk than I had remembered - it always is. When I got to the field I made sure that the farmer was not around and began collecting elderberries. Whilst the trees were not laden with heavy bunches of dark fruit, they had sufficient for my purposes.

I noticed that many of the berries were smaller than usual and I may have done better leaving this a week. However, I three-quarters filled two plastic bags with elderberries and stalks and judged that this was probably enough.

As ever, stripping the berries was tedious, enlivened by old episodes of The Reunion and Desert Island Discs. It took about two hours and I ended up having picked 5 lbs 12 oz. For a double batch I should really have had 6 lbs, but I judged this Good Enough. What is 4 ounces between friends?

I crushed the berries with a potato masher in my bucket, added 5 lbs 10 oz sugar (I think) and 12 ½ pints of boiling water, stirring all round until the sugar dissolved. A teaspoon each of yeast and pectolase, and two teaspoons of nutrient went in the following morning, 16th September, and by the evening fermentation had begun.

When I remembered to, I gave the bucket a stir over the next few days and then on Friday night I transferred the liquid into its two demijohns. I have started keeping discarded fruit in a plastic bowl when I do this so that right at the end I can press it hard and collect the remaining liquid for topping up purposes. This time I weighed the discarded pulp - it was 2 lbs 8 oz. So, the liquid in each berry makes up just more than half its mass. But it is the liquid which is the important bit and I now have two demijohns full of it.

Friday, 20 September 2019

Rose Petal Wine 2015 - Final Bottle (C2), 7th-12th September 2019

The night that I opened this, Kato brought a dead wren into the house. The night I finished it, he presented me with a dead rat. This is the largest (and bloodiest) kill he has had and, of course, Claire was away. Our division of labour is that I deal with spiders and she removes anything that that cats catch. I had to be very brave on this occasion! Anyway, probably a good job that I had drunk a large glass of relatively poor rose petal wine.

The Actual Dead Rat

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Jasmine Tea Wine - Third Bottle (5), 5th-12th September 2019

I can't remember why I chose Jasmine Tea Wine as a Thursday night bottle or, indeed, what we did on the night I opened it. I do know, however, that it is an acquired taste which I have yet to acquire. There is something too heavy about it - it cloys on the palate. Mary had a small glass when she came over on Saturday and preferred it to the rose petal wine. Thereafter it sat in the fridge and I drank it during the week that Claire was at a conference learning about flow cytometry. The wine served its purpose, but I can't be any kinder than that.

Flow Cytometry

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Blackberry Wine - First Bottle (A4), 1st September 2019

When I bottled this vintage I was disappointed. It was not the lush blackberry flavour that I had wanted. In the three months since bottling it has improved. Maybe not an all time classic vintage, but this blackberry wine certainly holds its own: it is fruity and exceedingly drinkable. Sunday seemed like the right day to drink it: I had been out picking blackberries in the nearby park for Tutti-Fruti and the day felt like the first day of autumn.

We have a plum glut and Claire had spent the day dealing with part of that. A plum and blackberry crumble was the natural pudding.

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

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Orange Wine - Ninth Bottle (A1), 31st August - 2nd September 2019

I went on my first political demonstration for 45 years on Saturday. The last one was for York Shelter when I was 4 years old. This time it was a protest against the government trying to shut down any opposition to its plans to force through a No-Deal Brexit. Mostly, though, it seemed to be a recruitment drive for the Labour Party, and there was only one good speech (Fabian Hamilton - my MP).

I opened a bottle of Orange Wine in the evening, which we drank with jerk chicken. Unusually for a Saturday we left some. Can't remember why. But that was remedied on Monday.

The Political Demonstration

Monday, 16 September 2019

Elderberry Wine - Third Bottle (A2), 30th August 2019

This elderberry is turning into an excellent vintage. Leaving it two years to mature has done wonders. There is a sweetness and heaviness which work well together.

We drank it on Friday night after I had walked home from Work. It was a pleasant, if non-descript, evening. Claire cleared the freezer of all the bits of ancient bread that had collected and she turned them into a fabulous savoury bread & butter pudding. We finished the night on the sofa curled up, watching Mad Men.

Saturday, 14 September 2019

Ginger Wine - Third Bottle (2), 26th-27th August 2019

Bank Holiday Monday was a glorious day - it was fabulous weather and I spent much of it in the garden. Only some of that was spent drinking beer. Mostly I was reading a terrific book - The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton. It has been a long time since I have been quite so gripped by a novel. I must be careful not to gobble it up.

Ginger wine was chosen to go with a braised tofu curry and both were fabulous. Then, on Tuesday - rejoice - Bake Off came back, so one of our treats was to finish the Ginger Wine.

Saturday, 7 September 2019

Blackberry Wine 2019 - The Making Of...

Last year I learnt that sometimes Blackberry Wine is not exclusively to be made in September. I do not plan to make that mistake twice.

Fruit has generally been early to ripen this year, so Claire and I first visited York Victorian Cemetery to inspect blackberries on Sunday 11 August. Whilst it was clear that blackberry season had only just begun, the berries that were ready were the largest, most luscious blackberries that I have encountered. After only about half an hour's foraging we had more than 3 lbs between us.

The following Sunday we were in York again, making sure that Pop was alright in Mom's absence now Keith and Jaki had returned up north. He was fine and all three of us went to the cemetery to gather blackberries. This time we got nearly 7 lbs. For a triple batch I need 12 lbs of blackberries, so we went a third time on 25th August, making it a hat-trick of weekends in York - this time the excuse was to see Mom, freshly back from her 60th High School Reunion in Nebraska. It was a hot day and Pop and I went to the cemetery ourselves to finish the job. This was idyllic - the sun beat down and the place was full of birdsong. I had a lovely hour with my father, chatting about this and that, discussing blackberries and getting nettle-stung.

My father, picking blackberries
(I love this photo of him)
The graves I must mention are (as always) Thomas Douthwaite - though his patch is so overgrown you can no longer see his grave -; Margaret Ann, Corporal W and John Doughty Pratt; Dorothy and John William Dobson; George Carlill (a slater); and Walter & Annabel Chambers. Claire picked from Dorothy Akers, who was only 9 when she died, and possibly Fanny Taylor, the beloved wife of Alfred Watson (solicitor of this town).

On Monday morning, 26th August, I mashed the blackberries and added 8 lbs sugar and 16 pints of boiling water. This cooled over the (hot and humid) day and I added a teaspoon each of yeast and pectolase, and two teaspoons of nutrient that evening. By Saturday night, 31st August, the liquid was ready for the demijohns. This went without a hitch and I now have three demijohns full of potentially delicious blackberry wine.

Monday, 2 September 2019

Rhubarb Wine - Fourth Bottle (C3), 23rd-25th August 2019

Claire is on new medication which may or may not assist her nasal problems. One of the side effects is that it causes slight dizziness. With this in mind, a glass of rhubarb wine on Friday night was an experiment for her. About half an hour later she went to bed and slept deeply. We repeated the experiment on Sunday night, this time drinking rhubarb wine in the garden after the light had gone, listening to the throb of the West Indian Carnival travelling north from Chapeltown. This time the rhubarb wine did not act quite so much as a sleeping draught, thought Claire did not rise from bed until near 10 on Monday morning. So maybe it did.

Saturday, 31 August 2019

Rhubarb, Mint & Elderflower Wine - Second Bottle (2), 24th August 2019

I took this bottle over to Angie & Phil's for a Bentcliffe Dinner Party. Summer has returned and it was warm enough to spend the entire evening in the garden. Angie cooked a Mexican meal, Liz brought a bottle of her elderflower champagne (superb) and a wonderful time was had by all. I barely noticed this bottle of wine - the conversation was flowing at such a rate that it was empty before I could ask what everyone thought.

We finished the evening looking up at the stars and half-naming constellations. A magical night.

The table set, and Liz's elderflower champagne

Friday, 30 August 2019

Blackberry Wine - Eleventh Bottle (C2), 15th-16th August 2019

Claire is not particularly well at the moment. Her sinuses are giving her real problems. Being the loving husband that I am, I opened a bottle of blackberry wine to make things better. This is a fabulous vintage, and who wouldn't feel well again after a restorative glass? I also cooked on both nights - risotto on the first and egg & (posh) chips on the second, which may be have been of more practical benefit.

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

Rose Petal Wine - First Bottle (B4), 11th-12th August 2019

This is not a good vintage of rose petal wine. It has a bitterness to it that is difficult to ignore. Whilst Drinkable, it is many stops away from Delicious and has only a nodding acquaintance with Nice. 2019 marks a year off making rose petal wine and on the strength of this bottle, that is the correct decision.

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

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Blackcurrant Wine 2019 - The Making Of...

Our garden has been abundant with soft fruit this year. We have had strawberries, redcurrants, raspberries, gooseberries and (most relevant to this post) blackcurrants. There are blueberries ripening and a tree laden with plums. Even our damson tree has fruited this year.

Our damsons - which isn't strictly relevant to this post
The blackcurrants have required careful picking - starting in mid-July and going all the way to early August. In the middle of this, of course, was Rydal week and that meant some fruit was spoiled. But I can't help the season. Picking blackcurrants is always fiddly: the individual berries each reach peak-ripeness at different stages, plumping up to be round and soft and juicy. You cannot grasp handfuls but instead must pluck single currants. It was rare that I would get more than half a pound in any single picking session. The most unpleasant occasion of gathering fruit was immediately before we left for Rydal, when the rain was incessant and I was quickly drenched.

From the near-month of picking, I got just over 5½ lbs of blackcurrants. Whilst a single batch recipe calls for 3 lbs, I decided that this was enough for a double batch. On Saturday morning, 10th August, I took the fruit from the freezer and let it defrost in a large bowl. In the evening I poured these into my small bucket and mashed them while boiling 12½ pints of water with 5½ lbs sugar dissolved. Actually, I lost count with the water because I was being distracted by John Finnemore on Radio 4 and couldn't remember if I had put 2 pints extra into the pan. (I hadn't, as it turns out.)

When I poured the boiling water into my bucket, it became apparent that my small bucket is only good for single batches. I transferred everything into the large bucket, cursing the extra washing that I had created.

I put a teaspoon of yeast, nutrient and pectolase in on Sunday morning, then transferred the wine into its two demijohns on Thursday 15th August. It is a deep, dark red-purple colour and bubbling away merrily.

Monday, 26 August 2019

Gooseberry Wine - Fifth Bottle (6), 4th August 2019

Claire spent all of Sunday at work, this being our first full day home after another riotous week at Rydal. I got the better deal and spent most the day with Bridget and her family at Brodsworth Hall near Doncaster. It was just lovely to see them again and Bridget's children are a delight.

One of the day's tasks was to select a nice bottle of wine that would go with curry and put it in the fridge. My wife is very demanding and works me too hard. Anyway, gooseberry wine was my choice - it is splendid and has matured nicely.

Brodsworth Hall seen through a Cypress