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 30 June 2011

Christmas Tutti Fruti - Bottle A3, 27th-29th June 2011

This bottle opened with a bang, though I was woken by Claire hopping out of bed declaring she heard something fizzing. I asked her if she was awake enough to find a cork and put the bottle in the fridge. And then went back to sleep.

Chilled Tutti Fruti may be the way forward - despite it being essentially a red. The cold does not destroy its flavour and this bottle was not as thin as previous ones.

I drank my Tuesday and Wednesday night rations in a poor temper. On Tuesday I took my recently-acquired nineteenth-century French bassoon (how many adjectives?) to summer orchestra and struggled to play it. Then I was made immediately irritable by a cashierless check-out insisting several times over that there was an unexpected item in the bagging area. Wednesday night's bad mood was caused by staying up too late sieving fruit out of my nascent gooseberry wine.

Tuesday 28 June 2011

Elderflower - Bottle A2, 25th-27th June 2011

The adrenalin was up on Saturday night and we needed something to bring it down. Half a bottle of Crab Apple wine between us didn't quite pass muster, so I opened this bottle too and did not get to bed until after one - which is virtually unheard of.

We each had a glass on Sunday late afternoon in the garden, enjoying a rare genuinely hot day. The garden is looking fecund and I suspect the courgette plants are plotting to declare independent statehood shortly. As lunch had consisted of flat breads and lettuce, a glass of this and my 'tasting' glass of Bonfire wine had the desired effect, and we set off for our curry with Rachel and Duncan somewhat wibbly.

The last of this bottle was finished on Monday with that well known light summer meal to have on a warm day - sausages, mash and onion gravy. Cooking often makes me irritable, but Elderflower wine helped.

Monday 27 June 2011

Mostly Redcurrant - the making of ...

Sunday 26th June was a busy day for wine-making. All three buckets are in use - an event that only happens once a year. I was not sure that Redcurrant would figure in 2011, what with last year's batch being disappointing and Julia muttering darkly about buying an air rifle to see off the greedy pigeons. However, Claire and I spent some of Sunday morniing on Julia's allotment and came away with 2 lbs of redcurrants. These were mostly at the bottom of the bushes and so required contortionist poses to reach. When I was not picking fruit, I was watching a beehive at the top of the allotment. When Claire was not picking fruit she was wreaking havoc on bindweed and ground elder - therapy for an altercation she had on Saturday with a woman who insists on parking across our drive.
The top of Julia's allotment
At home I weighed the redcurrants and was all for putting them in the freezer because a single batch requires 3 lbs. Claire, though, produced another 12 oz that she had picked on Friday whilst I was picking gooseberries. We made up the fruit to the full 3 lbs with 4 oz red gooseberries from our garden.

I washed the fruit and started stripping the currants from their stalks. Very quickly I thought "Bugger it" and put everything into the bucket - stalks and all. I'm sure it won't make a difference - or if it does, I will know for next time. And it saved me at least an hour.

Redcurrants, red gooseberries and stalks
I crushed the fruit and poured over 6 pints of boiling water with 2 lbs 12 oz sugar dissolved in it. The yeast and a teaspoon each of nutrient and pectolase were added on Monday morning. I will probably put it all into its demijohn on Sunday.

Sunday 26 June 2011

Crab Apple - Bottle A6, 24th & 25th June 2011

I am finishing this bottle after a day spent mostly playing the bassoon. Today was Airedale Symphony Orchestra's summer concert, and it was possibly the longest concert I have done - over three hours. It was certainly the one with the largest audience. We were playing in Leeds Town Hall in all its overdone Victorian splendour. It was like playing in a wedding cake. There were over 800 in the audience, and they enjoyed the experience more than I. We played Carmina Burana - which has its tedious moments - followed by a whole Proms programme. My ears are still ringing and I have yet to cool down, despite sitting shirtless for half an hour. The wine can only help.

Friday 24 June 2011

Redcurrant - Bottle B2, 23rd-24th June 2011

Well, that's another bottle of Disappointing Redcurrant finished. The sharp, fresh taste of 2009's batch is woefully absent and replaced with a general mustiness. Oh well.

Thursday night's glass and a half was after a WYSO committee meeting which involved tasty biscuits and a badly behaved cat. We (Claire and I) drank our wine whilst discussing my nethergarment situation. I maintain that my most recent pants are new - bought some time in 2010. Claire insists they are three years old. But she is just wrong.

We finished the bottle tonight: one glass each before a mammoth gooseberry picking session, and a glass afterwards to help heal the scratches.

Monday 20 June 2011

Rhubarb - Bottle A4, 19th June 2011

We celebrated my 100th birthday with this bottle. More accurately, we combined Julia's 59th with my 41st, and it was a splendidly good evening. I could have cursed the wine by declaring 'This is the best batch of rhubarb I have made', but, in fact, that proved accurate. It is pink and fizzy and delicious.

Julia cooked a game casserole involving bought venison and roadkill pheasant, and Claire made 'Cloud Cake' which consisted of chocolate, Cointreau and no flour. Between the five of us we drank more bottles than is healthy for a Sunday night, including a fabulous bottle of Dandelion 1992. Nineteen years have been kind - it was a superior dessert wine.

We staggered home after eleven and marvelled that it was still light

Sunday 19 June 2011

Crab Apple - Bottle C5, 18th June 2011

We have just returned from Richard and Linda's full of food. It has been a wonderful day, mostly spent travelling around North Yorkshire with my parents looking at art. This weekend was part of the North Yorkshire Open Studios event where artists, as the name suggests, open their studios for members of the public to take a gander. There was a huge range of stuff: jewellery, stained glass, chicken-wire animals, ceramics, story boxes, etchings as well as regular paint on canvas. All of it had some merit, and most of it had lots. We came away with a print by Hester Cox of a hare amongst honesty and, randomly, a large tub of asparagus.
This is similar to the one we bought
The evening meal at Richard and Linda's was - as always - fabulous and Richard - as nearly always - said nice things about the wine.

Friday 17 June 2011

Gooseberry - Bottle A1, 17th June 2011

We very nearly had an exploder on our hands. I noticed on Wednesday that the cork in this bottle was making its bid for freedom, so into the fridge it went. And when Claire opened it tonight there was a loud pop followed by a quiet scream. So, Gooseberry champagne it has been.

There have been two things to celebrate. Firstly, I received confirmation by e-mail that I have tickets for the Olympics next year. I'm not absolutely certain what yet, but I think it is day-time athletics. The second celebration is that I have been brought, with great reluctance it has to be said, into the late twentieth century. Work has supplied me with my first ever mobile phone. I have spent much of the day taking accidental photos and getting the hang of texting. I might even use it to make phone calls one of these days.

Thursday 16 June 2011

Prune & Parsnip - Bottle 1, 15th-16th June 2011

On our way back from WYSO on Wednesday night, Claire started complaining of a tickly sore throat. Something medicinal was required, and Prune & Parsnip was just the job.

This bottle was better than either the previous two; sweeter, more rounded; so I wonder if letting it age has helped. It continues to taste like a superior sherry and it helped Claire's nascent illness. (Quick aside - I have just made my wife shriek in terror by bringing her an unexpected mug of bush tea.)

We finished the bottle to an extraordinarily colourful meal involving cous-cous with spiced kumquats, a beetroot and dill salad, aduki bean burgers, tomato and cumin seed sauce, and homegrown lettuce. Delicious and mostly prepared by me. I shall leave the washing up for Claire.

Wednesday 15 June 2011

Other Wine Jobs over the last 10 days or so ...

5th June 2011 - I racked my Dandelion wine. It had cleared entirely and was a pleasing yellow. I racked it far earlier than I normally would have done, but I have begun to suspect that the musty taste in my homebrew is caused by leaving it too long on its sediment. The taste was more promising than any but my first Dandelion. I added three-quarters of a pint of water and 4 oz sugar.

10th June 2011 - I bottled my Hedgerow wine, on the Feast of St Ithamar after 11 p.m. . The evening was spent in Harrogate playing quintets in anticipation of Saturday's concert in Killinghall, hence the late hour. The wine's taste is rather good. Lots of currant, quite dry and with a bit of body to it. I think it needs time to age.

11th June 2011 - I bottled my Sloe wine. It is still clear, and an attractive light red. The two sips I got (rather than my usual full glass because of the drive to Killinghall that followed) were dry and thin. So, disappointing without being nasty.

Monday 13 June 2011

Hawthorn Blossom - Bottle 4, 11th-13th June 2011

I am currently drinking the final glass of this whilst Claire locates and wraps my birthday presents in anticipation of tomorrow. She has told me not to get overly excited. Apparently the wrapping process will not take long.

I had most my share of this bottle after a concert in Killinghall Parish Church to celebrate its Flower Festival. Being polite, I would describe the music as 'eclectic'. The wind quintet was at the High Brow end of the spectrum, and we played Gilbert & Sullivan. At the more 'rough and ready' extreme was a woman singing amplified gospel songs in a voice that would have made a fine bass in a choir which was not too fussy about tuning. In between were show tunes, Flanders & Swann and a comic sketch with two ladies doing their best Julie Walters impressions. Knocking back nearly half a bottle of Hawthorn Blossom afterwards was a suitable reward.

Sunday 12 June 2011

Blackberry - Bottle D4, 12th June 2011

I think this is the best Blackberry I have ever made. Packed with fruit, the right level of sweetness, and the perfect accompaniment to quail. Yes, we had quail tonight - marinated in honey, oil, garlic and salt, and I cooked it. This, along with beet tops, new potatoes and roast asparagus made a Sunday night feast. We followed it up by watching Sabrina on DVD which was joyous. Audrey Hepburn has amazing star quality - fragile, ethereal looks but a glowing charisma. It was a lovely end to a housebound day where it feels like the rain never stopped and I struggled to write even twelve hundred words about Crab Apple wine for October's Home Farmer.

Saturday 11 June 2011

Making Spiced Beetroot Wine ...

Despite starting this on 5th June, this is my November wine. I have decided to dedicate November's article in Home Farmer Magazine to Spiced Beetroot, but as its colour is the most dramatic thing about it I needed to begin this in June so that suitable photos can appear (and I will post some on this blog once they are taken and uploaded!). This will be my first 'cheat' of an article.

The place where I bought the beetroot, Noshis in Harehills, has an interesting approach to pricing. If in doubt, they charge a pound. So on Saturday I bought three oranges that were priced six for a pound, and was charged one quid. I also bought the beetroot, which was unpriced, and again paid a pound. I like this method: "Some fruit? That will be a pound please. Some veg? Call it a pound." Our fruit and veg bills have dropped since Paul's greengrocers closed. I definitely miss him, but also like the ethnic atmosphere of Noshis.

I began the wine on late Sunday afternoon, 6th June, after making my elderflower and racking my dandelion. Keeping the beetroot till last seemed sensible - I did not want its purpleness leaching into my other brews. I chopped 3 lbs of beetroot into chunks after washing, but not peeling, it and I let it come up to the boil in 6 pints of tap water. Whilst it boiled for half an hour I put 3 lbs sugar, 2 pints cold tap water, juice of one lemon, 5 cloves (down one from last time I made this), not quite 2 oz root ginger sliced thinly, half a teaspoon of all-spice and a small amount of grated nutmeg into my bucket. I hope the spice does not impede fermentation. I then poured the boiling liquid over all this and threw out the beetroot, which strikes me as a waste, and stirred until the sugar was dissolved.

I added the yeast and 1 teaspoon of nutrient on Monday late afternoon. The man in the wine shop suggested that a Madeira yeast would be best, but didn't have any, so I used a 'High Alcohol' yeast instead (the label of which is pleasingly purple). I put this into its demijohn on 10th June, after playing quintets in Harrogate. It was a rapid job, and I could have used half a pint less water in my ingredients. The demijohn is now in the bath, wrapped in silver foil, and bubbling away happily to itself.

Friday 10 June 2011

Orange - Bottle A5, 8th-10th June 2011

Yet again, Orange serves its duty as a decent mid-week bottle of wine. Wednesday and Thursday were 'nightcap' glasses after (respectively) West Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra and Madeleine's quintet. The former was frustrating: Beethoven's 7th is a long, high blow and my lip hardly survives the first movement. The latter was more satisfying than our first meeting. We worked on Ibert's 'Little White Donkey' (as well as 'Teddy Bear's Picnic') and blended better as a group.

Tonight I came home from yet more quintets - this time in Harrogate - to find the bottle empty. Claire felt she needed two glasses to toast the Feast of St Ithamar. And quite right too.

Wednesday 8 June 2011

Elderberry - Bottle C1, 5th-7th June 2011

Claire opened this while I was out in Guiseley playing nonets badly. Ordinarily my Sunday nights are precious, spent at home, and any bottle opened will be emptied by the evening's close. This Sunday, however, saw off less than half the bottle.

We finished it on Tuesday during my only evening in this week - life has suddenly become hectic. I spent this rest time mostly reading through legal documents for Emmaus and researching a birthday present to be given to my parents who are in the process of turning 70. (For the purposes of this blog I can reveal no more as my mother has been known to read it from time to time. Hello Mom!)

At the end of the night Claire produced some pink buns, coloured (apparently) by crushed beetles. Yum. We worked out that it would be very easy to poison me - present me with a tray of freshly baked cupcakes and I will invariably take the largest. I trust that my wife will not make use of this information.

Tuesday 7 June 2011

Making Elderflower Wine ...

I began making elderflower wine on 5th June, and that is a good two weeks earlier than previous years. Our hottest ever April and the driest spring for a century will have something to do with the elders' early flowering. Also, I could have left making this wine for a week, but I suspect not much longer.

I headed out to the Harewood Estate at shortly past ten - without Claire this year. She wanted to use her time pottering in the garden. As I was alone, I did not immediately trespass into a farmer's field. Instead I walked along a public bridleway, picking what flowers I could. This was all done to a sound track of birdsong and the distant roar of expensive sports cars at some Sunday rally. Every so often I heard the muffled voice of a tannoy announcer reading out timings.

The elderflowers along the bridleway were sparse. I picked about half that needed for a double batch - but there, tempting me in a field to which there was no right of way, were flowering eldertrees in abundance. Of course I hopped over the fence and filled my plastic bag. And, as last year, no irate farmer chased me away.

Back at home it took me about three hours to strip two pints of flowers and again I was grateful for both Radios 3 and 4. I followed the instructions in my Home Farmer article, so covered the flowers with 5 lbs sugar, 13 pints tap-water and 2 litres of grape juice. I added 2 crushed B1 and Campden tablets, about 1 1/2 teaspoons of tannin (thus emptying the container) and a teaspoon of pectolase. I added the yeast and one teaspoon of nutrient 24 hours later. The flowers will be sieved out and the liquid will go into the demijohns on Saturday - Friday would be ideal, but I am out playing quintets in Harrogate that night.

Sunday 5 June 2011

Gooseberry - Bottle A3, 3rd-5th June 2011

One glass of Elderflower wine was definitely Not Enough for a Friday night - even though that one glass was remarkably full. So I opened this and we drank it (or most of it) to salad-from-the-garden and fried chicken. Our salads have recently involved chive flowers - and these are a revelation. All pepper and onion. Colourful too.

Sunday night's glass was after a day of virtually non-stop winemaking (Elderflower and Spiced Beetroot) broken only by a confusing and massively disappointing episode of Doctor Who. I had my glass before playing nonets by Josef Rheinberger and George Onslow in Guiseley. Considerably more fortification would have been welcome.

Oh, I need to mention that this bottle of Gooseberry was good - better than either the previous two bottles. Perhaps Demijohn A has the edge over Demijohn B.

Friday 3 June 2011

Elderflower - Bottle B6, 2nd-3rd June 2011

In anticipation of foraging for elderflowers tomorrow, I opened this bottle last night. Claire is on holiday this week and gave a pint of blood for the first time yesterday. Actually, she reckons she gave rather less and was timed out. But as the nurses gave no dire warning about drinking alcohol, I thought it would be safe to open this. I cooked a fish pie to go with it, and very nice it was too.

We have finished the wine this early evening, mostly inspecting our garden. It is currently glorious weather - real 'height of summer' heat - and it is lovely inspecting roses, a glass of elderflower wine in hand, feeling just that little bit unsteady.

PS Hello both Israel and Germany - delighted you are reading my blog!