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 31 December 2012

Clove & Ginger Wine - First Bottle (5), 26th December 2012

By itself, clove and ginger wine would make a terrible drink. Mix it with whisky in like for like ratios and it becomes rather too drinkable. Nearly forty eight hours later* and I am still feeling dizzy. To the extent that if it continues much longer I should probably consult a doctor.

Anyway, most of this bottle was drunk at Andrew's whilst we played Ticket to Ride - an excellent strategic board game involving trains and North America. It was a grand way to spend Boxing Day evening, getting quickly sozzled while being competitive. Sooz won convincingly and Andrew and I battled for last place. For the concilation prize I opened a bottle of elderberry wine. This was not a good idea.

*now five days later, and there has been only a slight improvement. Hmmm.

Sunday 30 December 2012

Christmas Tutti Fruti - Final Bottle (A5), 25th December 2012

This was our third and final bottle before the Christmas Feast. There were ten of us, which makes it a little more respectable.

Sam and Hannah came, and they are now engaged. I squealed when told - I am so pleased. When I met Sam in 1996, his most frequent conversation was about how he would never find a girlfriend, and then I found it easy to believe. I would never have predicted Hannah, who is both lovely and beautiful, and I am just delighted that they will marry. It was the best Christmas present - even better (and I know this will be hard to believe) than the pair of socks that Claire gave me. Admittedly they are 'Lucky Musical Socks', which I will need to put into training at rehearsals, so that they can be fully charged up by the time my current pair wear through.

It has been an excellent Christmas.

Saturday 29 December 2012

Christmas Tutti Fruti - First Bottle (B5), 25th December 2012

I am vaguely surprised that this bottle did not detonate on the Christmas morning journey up the A1 to Newcastle. It is remarkably fizzy. And being gently shaken for 120 minutes at seventy miles per hour is a recipe for explosion. Anyway, it survived until late afternoon, at which point Bob opened it with a 'pop' and served it to the assembled throng.

This batch is not as good as that made in 2010, but is still entirely drinkable. There is a 'light and refreshing' side to this wine, where no one fruit dominates. My critical faculties were becoming a little impaired at this point, so perhaps I was not the best judge. There was still another bottle to be drunk before we sat down to eat.

Friday 28 December 2012

Christmas Tutti Fruti - Eleventh Bottle (A4), 25th December 2012

At about twenty past four on Christmas Day, I decided the afternoon was in too sharp a focus. We had only been served one sherry - Croft Original, naturally - and on 25th December usual rules about yard arms and the Sun don't apply. So, I opened this bottle and served it to the assembled Taylors. Keeping a goodly portion for myself, of course. It was a pre-prandial bottle (as were the next two that followed) and this batch is probably the best Tutti Fruti I have made - much lighter than real red wine, but stuffed with fruit. Everyone enjoyed it.

Wednesday 26 December 2012

Redcurrant Wine - Fourth Bottle (2), 23rd December 2012

I like redcurrant wine. This batch is so much better than the last, and therefore the flavour is redeemed. It has a sharp, sweet taste - akin to acid drops, and of course it is a delightful colour. It goes well with vegetarian curries too: Claire has just bought a new cook book, and this has been a theme of our diet as of late.

Whilst drinking the bottle, David rang and it sounds like he, Amie, Zoe (who is now 14 - yikes!) and Owen will be coming to stay for New Years. This is wonderful news, as I don't think we have seen them for three and a bit years. Which is Too Long. It will be something of a crush, and we don't possess a trampoline, but I am looking forward to it immensely.

Monday 24 December 2012

Christmas Tutti Fruti 2012 - The Making Of

It is a dank Tuesday evening, 18th December, and I am yet to be gripped by seasonal cheer. This probably has something to do with the fact that we are about to set off for our Sainsbury's Christmas Shop, and I imagine this will be hellish. However, I have done no present buying yet (unless one counts ordering a couple of CDs on line) and my cards remain unwritten. Bah! as they say. And, indeed, Humbug. Making Christmas Tutti Fruti may improve things and I have timed it so that the liquid will go into its demijohns during the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols.

The fruit in the freezer this year has been mostly of the 'white wine' variety, with a large percentage being gooseberries. This will make the end result rather different from previous years. I have put in 8 lb, 7 oz fruit, and in alphabetical order this is: apples (11 oz), blackberries (11 oz), blueberries (½ oz), crab apples (5 oz), elderberries (14 oz), gooseberries - green (1 lb, 2¾ oz), gooseberries - red (2 lb, 6½ oz), quince (5 oz), rhubarb (11½ oz), rosehips (¾ oz), sloes (12½ oz), strawberries (6 oz) and tomatoes - green (½ oz). Oh, and a satsuma.
I removed all this (except the satsuma) from the freezer on Monday night and put it in the bucket to defrost. It has been mashed tonight and I have poured in 5lb 12 oz sugar and 12 pints of boiling water. I put in the yeast and a teaspoon each of nutrient and pectolase on Wednesday, 19th December, and by Friday I was worried that the yeast was a dud batch. The usual frothiness was noticeably absent. However, by Saturday it was clear the wine was fermenting.

I did manage to time the stage where I sieve out the fruit and put the liquid into the demijohn with the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols - Once in Royal David's City was playing as I dipped the jug into the bucket for the first time. The wine is a satisfying light burgundy colour and I could probably have used a pint less liquid.

Sunday 23 December 2012

Spiced Beetroot Wine - Second Bottle (1), 20th-22nd December 2012

On my way out to Madeleine's for wine quintets, Claire asked which bottle of wine it would be acceptable to open. I told her "any" and genuinely believed it. I had not expected her to open Spiced Beetroot. Oh well.

By the time I got back, about half the bottle had gone and Claire was in a jolly mood. The two may not be unconnected. I had a small glass but save the rest for later, and 'later' proved to be Saturday night.

Saturday was an exceptionally wet day - I wore waterproof trousers to pop round the corner to buy a Guardian whilst Claire looked up suppliers of gopher wood on the internet. We finished the bottle after a Christmas Open House at the Bridgewaters and to a selection of vegetable curries, followed by a ridiculous and entirely satisfying Midsomer Murders. It is so camp.

Saturday 22 December 2012

Elderflower Wine - Seventh Bottle (B6), 21st December 2012

This was a rare beast of a bottle. I gave it away, and it is sitting on Angie and Phil's kitchen counter, unopened. My mother believes I am miserly with my wine, and as this is the first bottle I have given to someone for about two years, she probably has a point.

Anyway, the occasion was the annual Christmas Carolling trek round Angie's neighbourhood, followed by mince pies and mulled wine. It is the only time of year when I sing (save for weddings and funerals) and I find that I enjoy it. I would love to be able to sing in harmony, however, but can only do the tune.

This event always marks the proper start of Christmas for me, helped this year by it coinciding with the last day at work in 2012. So, worth sacrificing a bottle of elderflower wine.

Tuesday 18 December 2012

Orange Wine - Tenth Bottle (A4), 16th December 2012

I hadn't intended to drink any wine tonight, but find myself having drunk half a bottle by mistake. It is an easy one to make. Claire handed me a glass whilst I was a third the way through 'The Killing's final episode, and it would have been rude to refuse. Also, I was so engrossed in the plot, and worried that Sarah Lund would be killed off, that I hardly noticed a glass go down. And then it's natural to have a glass and a half with one's evening meal (beans on toast - though all home made). By that time, there is so little left in the bottle that you might as well polish it off - particularly if you need an incentive to do all the washing up. That's my excuse anyway.

Sunday 16 December 2012

Crab Apple Wine - Thirteenth Bottle (C4), 15th December 2012

Before the Christmas madness hits properly, we are spending the weekend in York. We are taking our last opportunity to visit Heworth Green before Rachael moves in to have her baby. Pop is currently in Missouri (though back next week) so it has been a quiet evening with Mom. This has involved eating partridge (without the pear tree) and teal duck, and watching a cheesy, cheap and entirely satisfactory 'Top 50 Christmas TV Moments' until far too late at night. The crab apple wine was the first of two bottles opened, and met with my mother's approval.

Thursday 13 December 2012

Blackberry Wine - Seventh Bottle (B5), 9th December 2012

Lazy Sundays are the best. Other than vegetable shopping, a trip to the recycling centre and a couple of washing up sessions, I have done very little. And sometimes that is exactly how it should be. Life has been busy of late and will continue to be so in the run up to Christmas, so a day on the sofa has been welcome. There is some residual guilt for failing to do any Christmas shopping or cards, but there is more than two weeks to go. Bags of time.

This bottle of blackberry wine polished off the day's inactivity, and might fine it was too. We drank it to a nut roast, baked garlic, onion gravy and mushy peas, and I have followed it up with a small glass of cranberry vodka and a Skype conversation with Todd & Anne. It looks like we will be going to Oregon next year. Hoorah.

Sunday 9 December 2012

Crabapple & Blackcurrant Wine - Second Bottle (2), 8th December 2012

When a concert has gone well there is no better feeling. Spirits and adrenalin are up, and the world is momentarily a happier place. This was the experience last night after our WYSO concert, where we played Beethoven's 8th, Mozart's 40th and a Haydn cello concerto. Three weeks ago I was predicting dire things, but it all came together beautifully (despite my lip dying in the last movement of the Beethoven).

This bottle was a celebration and shared with Rachel, Duncan, Fiona and my mother. It is a light, fizzy red which goes surprisingly badly with lemon drizzle cake but is otherwise a tasty brew. I only had two small glasses on account of the morning's hangover after a work night out.

Saturday 8 December 2012

Dandelion Wine - Fourth Bottle (1), 6th-7th December 2012

I opened this bottle on a Thursday night and proceeded to drink half of it with unseemly haste. Some of that was spent watching The Killing (which continues to be excellent - better than series two (which was still Very Good), not as good as series one) and the rest was over a meal of sea bass and lentil salsa. Claire finished the bottle on Friday night whilst I was out with my colleagues eating pizza and drinking far, far too much. I am typing this at noon on the day after, and only just now feel human. Which is lucky, as I have a concert tonight.

This dandelion wine was surprisingly good. So much so that I think I will make it again. Maybe leaving it to mature is the answer.

Monday 3 December 2012

Elderflower Wine - Sixth Bottle (A2), 1st December 2012

We are in Bristol visiting Bridget, Paul, Gemma and Adam. It has been a year since I last saw Bridget. Since then Adam has been born, and is both teething and crawling. The latter activity is a strange snaking action which may work better in a swimming pool. Gemma is a delightful two-and-a-half year old with bright red hair (unsurprising given her genetic heritage) who runs enthusiastically and has a healthy interest in play-dough.

Once the children had been put to bed, Bridget started cooking curry and I opened this bottle of elderflower. Happily the wine survived the train journey (which lasted an hour longer than expected). I chose something non-fizzy for that purpose. It went well with the food and both Paul and Bridget said nice things about it. This may be because they enjoyed it, or it may be because they were well brought up.

Friday 30 November 2012

Rhubarb Wine - Seventh Bottle (B3), 25th November 2012

Rhubarb wine was chosen in preference to Elderflower for tonight's curry extravaganza. Claire wanted a sharp, dry white - and that describes rhubarb wine perfectly. The curries were fabulous; the main one being haddock, yoghurt and tumeric, but the subsidiaries were just as good. We had mushroom & spinach, aubergine, onion & tomato, and a spicy dall. Just wonderful.

Earlier in the day we went to Jude's to order a couple of bespoke lampshades. Claire wants something in the study that she can't pierce with her viola bow, and we need to replace the one in the bedroom which captures the light and won't let go. It is probably also full of spiders.

Tuesday 27 November 2012

Orange Wine - Ninth Bottle (B5), 23rd November 2012

Rejoice. 'The Killing' is back. My last glass of orange wine was spent reading Danish subtitles and trying to work out the beginnings of a convoluted plot. The first episode was promising, though I suspect nothing can match the original series. It was a pleasure to have the opportunity to stay in and watch telly, having had seven nights out on the trot.

Earlier in the evening I stood around the kitchen drinking orange wine, watching Claire cook and generally catching up with her. It feels like we have not done this enough recently, with one of us dashing off to be somewhere. The orange wine was a tasty addition to a pleasant evening.

Monday 26 November 2012

Crab Apple & Strawberry Wine - Third Bottle (1), 22nd November 2012

Thanksgiving this year was at Richard and Linda's, with Claire on pumpkin pie duties. Before we went over I would have volunteered to stay at home if I could. This was my seventh night in a row out (counting the Wine Party as 'out' even though it was 'in') and I had just come back from a day's seminar in Manchester on employment law. However, cancelling was out of the question and a good job too. I had a marvellous time - good company and excellent food. Jenny and my mother were the other guests, and of the six only Claire had not spent any time at an American school.

The wine was well received: Richard had been hoping that I would bring this flavour. It fizzed over the floor, but a cloth remedied that, and despite it being a little dry even my mother liked it.

Sunday 25 November 2012

Spiced Beetrot Wine - First Bottle (5), 17th November 2012

I liked this wine. Of all the bottles opened at the Wine Party, this was one of my favourites. The guests did not agree. It was awarded last place by a convincing margin. Gunnar was most damning, declaring its smell 'horrible' and writing 'WORST' in big letters. Julia was kinder, but thinks it needs a longer maturation period. In fact, she is threatening to come with a crate, kidnap several bottles and keep them in her cellar for five years. A small part of me thinks this is a good idea, but the rest does not understand the concept of delayed gratification.

Saturday 24 November 2012

Peapod Wine - Third Bottle (1), 17th November 2012

Peapod wine, despite all my predictions, got the bronze medal at the Wine Party. I had expected it to come bottom, or at least close to. However, no-one found it objectionable and, indeed, a couple of guests quite liked it. Rachel commented that it was not nearly as vegetably (if that is a word) as she had expected.

I know that I tried Peapod during the evening, but it is not one of the bottles to which I returned. 'Okay' is my highest praise. The party as a whole, though, was fab - despite my initial misgivings. I was a better host than normal, by not yawning loudly at ten and appearing in my pajamas at half-past. The party closed down at midnight and I could have gone on longer.

Friday 23 November 2012

Gooseberry & Elderflower Wine - Fifth Bottle (5), 17th November 2012

Gooseberry & Elderflower was just beaten into second place at the Wine Party by Rose Petal. There was only one point in the final score - this getting 30/42. This did not stop Rachel from describing it as "a bit aseptic", or Duncan labelling it as "sour". Jen was more positive - it was her favourite, though also the last one she tried, by which time her critical faculties will have been in shreds. Claire, I think, was most eloquent: "Neither the sweetness of gooseberry nor the cattiness of elderflower". However, praising a wine by denying its negatives is a suspect way of paying a compliment.

Wednesday 21 November 2012

Blackberry Wine - Sixth Bottle (C5), 17th November 2102

How could I possibly have a wine party without opending a bottle of blackberry? Victorious in the vote on at least one occasion, this came a surprising fourth out of seven. I think its bubble and fizz counted against it - people expect their red wines to be full-bodied and flat.

You will note that only seven bottles were opened. It was a smaller wine party than expected. From Friday afternoon to Saturday morning I had a flurry of guests e-mailing to inform me of their illness. Jude was most explicit in detailing her levels of snot. Tracey, Catherine, Angela and Jude were all struck down, and this accounted for Chris, Phil and Neil too. I did wonder whether it was something I had said, or possibly the threat of Celery wine. Which will be appearing next year.

Tuesday 20 November 2012

Strawberry Wine - Third Bottle (1), 17th November 2012

I have always opened a bottle of Strawberry for the wine party. However, this year it may have lost its position as an unmissable wine. It came fifth out of seven bottles, with only Richard saying it was his favourite, and Duncan declaring it his worst. This did not stop Rachel and Duncan taking the rest of the bottle home with them at the end of the evening.

Jen thought strawberry wine tasted insipid, but she blamed that on the blackberry, which she had just tasted. When I invited Jen, I had no idea whether she would come, or if she did, would enjoy it. I had only met her once - at a YWO concert - but I knew she made wine and read my blog, and she just struck me as 'one of us'. I was right! She fit in perfectly, brought fabulous vegetable-based cakes and dashed off in Cinderella fashion at the end to catch her train with literally seconds to spare, leaving only a clotted cream fudge tin in place of a glass slipper.

Monday 19 November 2012

Rose Petal Wine - Fourth Bottle (2), 17th November 2012

It is curious how different each bottle of Rose Petal turns out. This was rather better than the last, which is a Good Thing, as I opened it for the Wine Party.

Rose Petal was the night's winner (just) with a score of 31 out of 42, and there were many 'Turkish Delight' related comments. Richard and Julia both mentioned the smell, in a good way, with Richard saying that it tasted of a rose's scent. It was only one of two flavours to which Gunnar would give house room, and with Quince, was the only one of two bottles finished. I suspect it is no coincidence that Quince was Gunnar's other favourite.

Sunday 18 November 2012

Quince Wine - Second Bottle (5), 17th November 2012

Quince Wine was one of 'Must Open' bottles for the Wine Party, and it proved to be the most controversial of the evening. Duncan took one sip and declared 'Kettle Descaler', whereas both Gunnar and Julia raved about it. Gunnar awarded it 'Anro Prêît' (or possibly 'Anro Prt') which presumably means something in Estonian. It was only one of two bottles finished, even though it got the most 'worst wine served' votes and came sixth (out of seven) in the overall stakes. I overheard people talking about its perfume, and those who didn't like it added sugar water, agreeing this improved it. However, Richard opinioned that this only made it reach 'a bit non-descript'.

Thursday 15 November 2012

Citrus Wine - 11th Bottle (B3), 14th-15th November 2012

I have decided that Citrus Wine will not appear at this year's wine party, so chose it as our mid-week bottle this week.

Wednesday had its traumatic moments. I went to John's funeral in Wakefield. I saw him last almost exactly a year ago at my book launch. It is always hard to imagine that a person you knew no longer exists; moreso because he was my age. It was an emotional occasion and the crematorium was standing room only. He was a lovely man. Still, life continues because it must, and whilst futures may change, the past is caught and remains for us to take out of the drawer from time to time. I will think of John, pour myself another glass of wine, and will remember him again, often, throughout my own life.

Tuesday 13 November 2012

Elderberry Wine - 17th Bottle (A1), 10th November 2012

We are in York to celebrate Rachael's 40th. My little sister. She can't possibly be forty already? Doesn't she wear her hair in bunches and go to ballet lessons?

I hadn't seen her since February so haven't really had a chance to talk properly about her pregnancy. She is taking a refreshingly down-to-earth attitude. Pleased - yes (she thinks) but also very practical. I also met Paul, who I really like. He copes well with the amassed Hardys - and I suspect when gathered we can be quite intimidating.

I brought elderberry wine with me as it seemed right for the occasion: a solid, dependable and sweet red. Rachael had a sip to check and then decided that a glass could be her week's unit. I am honoured.

Saturday 10 November 2012

Ginger Wine - The Making Of ...

It has been a long time since I made ginger wine - at least eight years. On that occasion a large solid lump formed in the liquid, looking like a diseased organ stored in formaldehyde. I hope I shall have more success this time.
The raw ingredients

Last time I remember bananas being in the recipe, but I could not find this in any of my books. Those books all require such a pathetically small amount of ginger - 1 oz in the case of C J J Berry, and a quarter of this from Brian Leverett - that I ignored these recipes entirely. Instead I found instructions on the Guardian website, which was bold in the amount of ginger - five inches worth. In fact, I have shied away from that much and probably used three inches instead. Skinned, this weighs 2½ ounces. I am also concerned about the number of lemons. Four strikes me as too many, but that is what I have used.

So, on Sunday 4th November I skinned the ginger and sliced it as finely as I could. I grated the zest off the lemons and minced one pound of sultanas. The Guardian recipe asks for raisins, but I didn't have any of those in the cupboard. All of this went into my bucket and I have covered it with 3½ pints of boiling water. Again I am going to deviate from the given instructions. I am meant to leave this for 24 hours before doing anything else, but I need to put it into its demijohn on Friday night, and leaving this till Monday will be too late. I have boiled another 3½ pints of water and added the juice from all four lemons and 3 lbs sugar into the pan in which I have boiled the water. This will stand around and cool until I return from Julia's tonight, at which point I shall pour that into the bucket and add the yeast and a teaspoon of nutrient.
The processed ingredients
I put the liquid into its demijohn on Friday night, 9th November, and this was rapid work. Which was lucky, as I did my wine making tasks (including bottling the Rhubarb) before eating, and by the time I had finished I was ready for my steamed trout, plum sauce and noodles.

The wine has been smelling fabulous every day I have stirred it, and the small taste I got at this stage was promising.


If you want to read how the first bottle turned out (and it was good!) click here