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 29 August 2011

Blackcurrant - Bottle 3, 28th August 2011

Christian is leaving for Saffron Waldren this week to become 'Artist in Residence' at a Quaker Boarding School, so Julia cooked a 'Goodbye and Good Luck' Feast for eight. This bottle of Blackcurrant was the first of far too many drunk, and it really is one of my best.

The food was grand and the company convivial. Towards the end of the night Julia and I disappeared into her cellar and came back up clutching bottles labelled 'Pear 93', 'Raspberry 92' and 'Gooseberry 76'. I have never drunk a bottle of wine comfortably into its mid-thirties. It had matured into a dry sherry and there was no hint of its original fruit. The Raspberry was non-descript, and I am pleased to report that the Pear was nasty.

Saturday 27 August 2011

Blackberry - Bottle A6, 27th August 2011

Tonight's bottle could not have been anything else but Blackberry. I have the bramble scratches and nettle stings to prove it.

Much of the day has been spent in York's Victorian Cemetery - a beautiful, peaceful and somewhat overgrown place - picking blackberries. And most the remainder has been spent turning them into next year's wine. If it matches this batch I will be delighted. Whilst I note I was disappointed with the last bottle, this one has been excellent: drier than previous years' blackberry wines but just as packed with fruit. Maybe Batch A of the 2010 vintage is better than Batch B. Or perhaps my expectations were more realistic.

We drank this bottle to a fabulous meal of haloumi fried with chilli and lemon juice, courgettes stuffed with rice soaked in pomegranate syrup and possibly the last of this year's salad from the garden. And then we watched the first of the new series of Doctor Who, which - unlike the last episode of the last series - was entirely satisfactory. Smiley Face.

Friday 26 August 2011

Elderberry - Bottle B2, 25th-26th August 2011

It is a Friday night and I am pleasantly wibbly. Whilst I write I am eating a mixed fruit cobbler (only a little burnt because we failed to hear the pinger during Torchwood) and slurping a mug of bush tea.

I opened this bottle after coming home from Ian's Dreadful Octet - except this time Mary and Patrick were missing, so we played sextets badly instead. But with six of us, rather than eight, there were fewer versions of the tuning note. I left half an hour earlier than usual on the excuse (which was true) that I had barely seen Claire this week. Therefore, our first glass was drunk, lying in bed reacquainting ourselves.

The remainder was drunk tonight on a lazy, pleasant Friday evening where nothing much has happened in a thoroughly satisfying way.

Wednesday 24 August 2011

Raspberry - Bottle 4, 21st August 2011

I brought a bottle of Raspberry Wine with me to Newcastle in the mistaken belief that this would be a new flavour with which to treat the in-laws. However, I see that I had exactly the same instinct two bottles ago. Oh well. Everyone seemed to enjoy it, although Sooz said she preferred the Hawthorn Blossom.

It has been an absolutely lovely day. Claire and I spent much of it at Andrew's new house - the conveyancing of which started in January and did not finish until July. The house fits Andrew perfectly - it is a terraced 1910s worker's cottage with quirky angles and plenty that needs fixing. Then I spent the evening at 3, The Alders eavesdropping on a string quartet whilst I read Charlotte Gray.

Monday 22 August 2011

Hawthorn Blossom - Bottle 5, 20th August 2011

We are up in Newcastle staying with Sooz. Today's entertainment has been a lesson in how to brew beer. This is, perhaps, not a great idea - bearing in mind the extent to which making wine has taken over my life (and the house).

Sooz took me to 'The Elderberry Home Brew Centre' in Whitley Bay, where we met Andrew. There, the owner - a garrulous Australian - talked me through the basics, but in a baffling, scientific way. Sooz was much clearer back at her flat, boiling stuff and putting it in a bucket. During this process I opened this bottle of Hawthorn Blossom, but decided it was not one of my greatest. Andrew, who took a glass home (he was driving) has just texted in his report:

"Wine improved lots for breathing, smooth but still faintly meady. Perfectly drinkable though [smiley face]."

Saturday 20 August 2011

Crab Apple - Bottle C4, 19th August 2011

Perhaps it was not the best idea to drink an entire bottle of Crab Apple wine tonight - particularly as we also finished half a bottle of Blackberry. Currently my head is somewhat swimming and the words on this page are not entirely stable.

It has been a lovely evening, though. Much of it was spent in the best way a Friday evening can be spent; preparing food and chatting through the week with my wife. The meal (when it eventually appeared - shortly before 9) was delicious, with much of it from the garden. And then we watched Torchwood.

The mug of bush tea has helped a little in sobering me up. But only a little.

Friday 19 August 2011

Blackberry - Bottle A4, 18th-19th August 2011

Goodbye Blackberry 2009 - you have been a marvellous vintage.

Claire is oficially on holiday (until Tuesday) which authorises a bottle of wine. She had two glasses on Thursday, compared to my one, which was drunk after Trios with Pat and Peter. I made up for it though tonight. I came home after completing my favourite client's purchase of a large building in Leeds for a cool seven figure sum (which called for celebration) and failing to get any closer on saving a football team from liquidation (which did not) and drank most of the rest of the bottle whilst Claire was playing her viola. Shockingly, we then finished a bottle of Crab Apple

Monday 15 August 2011

Rhubarb - Bottle B6, 14th August 2011

I am sipping a mug of bush tea felling emotionally drained. I have just finished watching 'The Lives of Others', which is a fabulous, gripping, intelligent film which discusses the redemptive nature of art and still has time for a gut-punching ending. On the surface it is understated, but there is complexity below.

The only connection to rhubarb wine is that we happened to be drinking it at the time. Unlike the film, it is light and bubbly and slips down nicely without any thought. It really is the best Rhubarb wine I have ever made, but perhaps something darker with a more complicated palate would have been better suited to tonight.

Saturday 13 August 2011

Elderflower Wine - Bottle B1, 11th-13th August 2011

I tried to convince Claire that we should drink beer on Thursday - I still have my birthday bottle of Lavender Beer - but she was having none of it. Most of the bottle, though, was drunk on Saturday following an afternoon with Paul and his parents.

I had not seen Paul for two years - the longest I have gone without seeing him since I sat next to him in a Maths lesson when I was twelve. It is reassuring and comforting that I can immediately click back into the solid friendship that has been there for twenty nine years, yet it seems impossible that it could be that long. Whilst not quite yesterday, surely it was only a few weeks ago that we were teenagers interrailing around Europe?

It was a lovely afternoon, only marred by an irritating trip to Sainsbury's on our way home. Why do I get stuck behind people who quibble about cereal? This was made better by a tube of salt & vinegar Pringles and the remainder of the elderflower wine.

Thursday 11 August 2011

Orange - Bottle B4, 8th-10th August 2011

I am no longer a policeman. I never was, of course, but I am no longer employed by West Yorkshire Police. This has nothing to do with the riots sweeping much of the country over the last few days (Leeds being an exception). More with concentrating on the Brooke North job, and the police finding a replacement for me. It has been an excellent job - varied and slightly off-the-wall. Much of the time I was making things up as I went along, but it all seemed to work - and the police constables for whom I did the work were surprisingly grateful.

The bottle of orange wine was started during my last day there and drunk slowly throughout the week, with my last glass in a hot bath listening to eighteenth-century scandal on Radio 4.

Wednesday 10 August 2011

Christmas Tutti Fruti - Bottle B3, 7th August 2011

Sunday night was the last night of our week off and, naturally, this required a bottle of wine. Claire fancied a red and opted for this from the available flavours. After the meat-feast that was Rydal cooking, we drank this to a courgette and herb quiche, with runner beans and fried potatoes. All ingredients but the potatoes were from our garden. Actually, that is a lie. The courgettes, beans and herbs were. The eggs, cheese, garlic, butter, flour and milk were not. Still, it was a fabulous quiche. The wine, though, was a little thin - which is a feature of this batch of Tutti Fruti. I don't know why - it was made from shed-loads of fruit.

Tuesday 9 August 2011

Gooseberry - Bottle A4, 6th August 2011

I had not been planning on drinking tonight. It was our first day back from Rydal, and Rydal is always seven days of excess. Except Claire had enjoyed a relatively sober week - sticking to two pints of dark ale every night, and she felt a bottle of wine was in order. So we drank it to a Thai curry, using some of our green bean glut (which may not be an authentic Thai ingredient) and then to an episode of Torchwood, which is getting better if more gruesome. The wine was delicious, though - the best bottle from this batch of Gooseberry so far.

Monday 8 August 2011

Blackberry - Bottle B5, 5th August 2011

Friday was the last proper day of holiday at Rydal Hall. And what a grand holiday it has been. We have played eight symphonies, eight overtures (including 'The William Tell' no less than three times) and
innumerable pieces of lighter music. I have been on three long walks and played one and a half games of croquet. And I have eaten more food than seems decent.

I saved the Blackberry Wine for the last night and it was ever so slightly disappointing. It was Good rather than Exceptional. Maybe it needs more maturation time. But the last night was a riot of quizzes and party games. Watching twelve people play 'Monkey Trombone' (which is similar to 'Paper Scissors Stone' but on a grander, sillier scale) was the most fun I have had for a long time. Until I saw a vicar do his Dolly Parton impression.

Sunday 7 August 2011

Crab Apple - Bottle B5, 3rd August 2011

Wednesday was an energetic day at Rydal Hall, and this was my partial reward. I spent the day walking the Fairfield Horseshoe, which was more than ten miles from beginning to end and involved a huge amount of Up. The weather was glorious and the views from the top terrific. Then the evening was spent playing Tchaikovsky's Second Symphony.

A bottle of crab apple wine went down nicely - and again I force fed it to others, requiring them to say how much they liked it. Actually, most of them did - particularly Sally - but it was less popular than the elderberry.

Saturday 6 August 2011

Elderberry - Bottle B3, 1st August 2011

This was the first of three bottles of 'Ben's Wine' that I took to our annual week with the Genin Orchestra at Rydal Hall. It was also the most popular. I fed it to as many people as possible, in an insufferable, show-offy way. Everyone appeared to like it - though that may have simply been politeness. However, I am certain that the Reverend Robert Clack enjoyed it. He insisted on a second glass and enthused about its chocolate and plum undertones in a very vicarly manner.