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 29 March 2012

Elderflower Wine - Bottle A1, 27th-29th March 2012

This was meant to be a bottle of crab apple wine. I was out on Tuesday playing quartets in Ilkley and Claire, reasonably, fancied a glass of wine after viola practice. But searching high and low for crab apple proved fruitless, so elderflower it was. And a fine bottle it is too; crisp and dry with an unmistakable flavour.

We each had a glass on Wednesday, after WYSO, at which we played Russian music and Claire gave part of her grandmother's rhubarb plant to Amy. So far, everyone who has owned that rhubarb has lived to 101. Mind you, this is only a sample of one person, so perhaps less impressive than it initially sounds.

We have finished the bottle tonight and I am officially on holiday. Tomorrow I travel to Derbyshire for an 'Extended Hardy Family Do' where there will be all manner of aunts, siblings, cousins, uncles and parents.

Sunday 25 March 2012

Christmas Tutti Fruti - Bottle A2, 24th-25th March 2012

What a splendid bottle of wine, if I do say so myself. Fruity, smooth, well rounded. I think it one of my best, but suspect chances of replicating it are low. Still, there are another eight bottles to go.

I opened this on Saturday night, after a concert with the Yorkshire Wind Orchestra in Ilkley. The theme was French and we played in a church where the echo effect was on its full setting. The most exciting part of the evening, though, was not the music, but meeting a bass clarinetist who reads my blog. She said I look younger in real life and insisted I leave with a baguette. What's not to like?

Claire and I finished the bottle tonight to a roast shoulder of lamb which, on the whole, is chewier than leg. It has been a glorious day, full of digging, sunshine and spinach soup.

Thursday 22 March 2012

Tea Wine - Bottle 3, 18th-21st March 2012

I returned home on Sunday night from a terrific concert in Ilkley. The Airedale Symphony Orchestra played 'The New World' Symphony and bits of tuneful ephemera, and we played them well. I knew I would find an open bottle on my return, and was surprised Claire had chosen 'Tea'. This is not one of her preferred flavours - it is both too sweet and too bitter, but only slightly in each case. I had a glass to bring me down from that feeling of having perfomed, which is one of energy and joy and not conducive to sleep.

The remainder of the bottle was drunk slowly over the next three evenings - mostly by me as Claire has declared it nasty. By the end of the bottle the clarity had deteriorated into a brown sludge, but the taste was no different. I suspect this batch will be Tea Wine's last hurrah.

Monday 19 March 2012

Hedgerow Wine - Bottle 4, 15th-17th March 2012

Wednesday was the WYSO AGM (and that is far too many acronyms in the space of a sentence). Which is irrelevant to this bottle, because I realise we didn't open it until Thursday. I drank that evening's share to sausages and mash, followed by a long hot bath.

Ordinarily we would have finished the bottle on Friday, but I was too sleepy for even a glass after returning from the Wakefield G & S (there - another acronym) Society production of H M S Pinafore, which was all rather jolly in an am-dram kind of way. Buttercup and Captain Corcoran were both good, and the other leads were variable.

Coming back through Wakefield on a Friday night was eye opening. I'm sure dresses never used to be quite that short.

Sunday 18 March 2012

Citrus Wine - 17th March 2012

Today is St Patrick's Day, hence the green ink. And the earlier pint of Guinness, whilst Claire was rehearsing for a Vivaldi performance at Music Club. It was the last meeting of the season, so I put a pre-emptive bottle of citrus wine into the fridge, not intending to finish it. Except somehow we have. I was hoping there might be half a bottle left for Claire to drink tomorrow whilst I am playing the New World Symphony. But foiled. Instead, we have sat in the study and chatted about nothing in particular: anachronisms in 'The Mist in the Mirror', my habit of wearing only grey when I was 17, the irritation of cats. And somehow we have finished the wine. Citrus is an acquired taste, but one that I like. There is nothing subtle about it.

Thursday 15 March 2012

Redcurrant Wine - Bottle A4, 13th-14th March 2012

This was the bottle of wine which included a five inch piece of string soaking for extra flavour. The string was not in the recipe books, but the result of a disaster whilst bottling. Perhaps 'disaster' is over-egging it somewhat. In fact, the string did not adversely affect this wine - if anything, it has been the least objectionable bottle of redcurrant so far. And that is a Good Thing, because I am currently cross. Mostly about oboists. I need two to play in Scheherazade in July and I potentially have none. I'm not sure why I am as tense as I am (it being months away) and the wine has helped a little.

Claire has distracted me from brooding by taking me on a tour of our bookshelves to choose 'Guilt Books' for our summer Book Group party. These are those books which were given or loaned and sit on the shelf unopened. Claire's most likely choice is Tarka the Otter, won as a school prize when she was twelve. Mine must be The Chamber by John Grisham - probably not my usual choice of book but, crucially, given to me by my grandmother - who died in 2001.

Tuesday 13 March 2012

Rhubarb Wine - Bottle B3, 11th March 2012

There is a cat at my feet about to pounce on something in a dimension undiscernable to the human eye. And in the time it has taken me to write that sentence, Aggie has left the room, chasing something that was not there.

Today has officially been a Good Day. It was the Peter and the Wolf performance, and it went splendidly (despite a missing second oboist). The audience was large and packed with noisy children - which was entirely fitting. My 'Grandfather' bits went as well as they were ever going to, and I got to show off my bassoon to a child exactly the same height as it after the concert.

The last bottle of Rhubarb 2010 was therefore a fitting bottle tonight - a touch of sparkle and the merest hint of pink. This has been an excellent batch of rhubarb wine; probably the best I have made. And only another seven weeks before we try Rhubarb 2011.

Sunday 11 March 2012

Blackberry Wine - Bottle B1, 10th March 2012

Today's most noteworthy feature was not this wine, lovely as it was, but an experiment I shall not be trying again: I attempted to cut my own hair.

In the past this task has always been performed by Claire using a set of clippers. This morning, when I got out of the bath, Claire was out gardening. Rather than disturb her I thought I would show some initiative and do it myself. How difficult could it be?

My beard trimmer proved ineffective and ran out of batteries, so I got the clippers and applied them to a small area of head. The result? Instant baldness - on one of the side bits where I normally have hair. Oh well - it was only a tiny area, so I adjusted a leaver and tried again, this time with confidence.

Now with a much larger entirely shorn patch I ran into the garden (quickly donning my dressing gown so as not to frighten the neighbours) shouting "Claire, I've had a disaster". She was her usual competent self, gave me a very short cut all over, and I no longer look like I have had a bad experience with ring worm.

Saturday 10 March 2012

Crab Apple Wine - Bottle A4, 8th-9th March 2012

I had my first glass from this bottle whilst reacquainting myself with the middle ages. Since finishing my MA in Medieval Studies nearly two years ago I have hardly touched the era - unless one counts visiting Gothic churches and cathedrals. However, this week I began reading a promising book about Thomas Becket (imaginatively titled Thomas by Shelley Mydans) though it is fiction, and last night I watched a documentary about Empress Matilda and Eleanor of Aquitaine. Though simplified, with some jarring images (lots of Victoriana and many shots of York when Oxford was being discussed) it was well done with a consistent argument. Maybe one day I shall return properly to the subject.

We finished the bottle tonight to a meal of 'The Sick and the Weak' which was rather more splendid than usual: left-over chicken with chickpeas and Moroccan spices, and a side helping of cabbage and cashews bathed in pomegranate molasses.

Friday 9 March 2012

Orange Wine - The Making Of ...

March has come round quickly again, and with it my annual double batch of orange wine. Often, when making this flavour, everything around me suggests spring: the sun shines, birds chirp merrily and daffodils turn their head to the light. Today, 4th March, when it was not raining it was sleeting. We had 'Winter - the Return'. And rather than deciding to say snugly indoors bemoaning the weather, Claire and I went out in the worst of it to shovel horse manure into plastic bags for future gardening purposes. It was during this escapade that I was reminded my gardening shoes were demoted to such because one of them lets in water. This was not a jolly experience. Claire told me it could have been worse. Granted, we were not attacked by wolves and did not fall down a disused mineshaft, but other than that I am not sure how.

Anyway, safely back at home I started the orange wine. The first task was to thinly peel 12 of the 24 oranges, avoiding as much pith as possible. This was a tedious task and took a little less than an hour and a half.

Oranges freshly shorn of their peel
I covered the resultant peel with four pints of boiling water, to be left to one side for about a day.
The orange peel, before being covered with water
I then squeezed all 24 oranges, which is a sticky process, and put the juice in my bucket. As usual, attempting to avoid painfully stiff shoulders the next day, I swapped hands every two oranges and had a long break half way through. During the second half of this process I caught most of an excellent Radio 4 dramatisation of The Cruel Sea by Nicholas Monserrat.

I poured seven-and-a-half pints of cold water into the bucket together with five-and-a-half pounds of sugar, the yeast and a teaspoon each of nutrient and pectolase. This is half a pound of sugar less than used on previous occasions, entirely because the bottle of orange wine drunk on 3rd March was just a little bit too sweet.
The orange juice, water and sugar in the bucket
I poured the water from the orange peel into the bucket once home from work on Monday 5th March. After leaving the mixture for another four days, though stirring it every morning and evening, I put it all into its two demijohns on Friday night, 9th March. The amount of water was very nearly exact - another quarter of a pint would have been just too much - and it is a glorious sunshine yellow.


If you want to see how this batch tastes, you can click here

The wine in its demijohns

Wednesday 7 March 2012

Bonfire Wine - Bottle 6, 4th March 2012

This was a celebratory bottle of wine. The reason was simply that it was the first night this year where we have had time to have a roast dinner. Every other weekend evening in 2012 either we have been doing something or one of us has been ill. So it has been wonderful to have a day where nothing particular has been planned.

I spent most of the day making orange wine (details to be posted shortly) and some it shovelling horse droppings in the sleet. But the space to be able to do this has been pure luxury.

We drank this bottle to a full chicken roast, shared with Julia, whom we invited over on a whim. Both wine and company were excellent. The chilli in this wine makes all the difference: it provides a lift, making a good wine fabulous.

Tuesday 6 March 2012

Orange Wine - Bottle B1, 3rd March 2012

On my first sip I thought that this was the best orange wine I have made. There is no hint of bitterness and it has an open, floral taste. Half a bottle later (Claire having had the remainder) I now wonder if it is just a tad too sweet. Still, it is an excellent bottle: distinctly orange in flavour but without any taste of industrial cleaner. The test will be feeding it to Richard.

It has been a lovely evening - which itself has followed a lovely day. The day involved pottering around and making both soup and scones - neither of which I have done before and both of which proved fabulous (if I do say so myself). Then it was Music Club, where Pat, Peter and I played Piazolla trios which went Very Well Indeed. And then this evening Claire and I took the opportunity simply to chat and eat scones. Would it be too corny to label it a night of Wine, Woman and Scone? (But this only works if you pronounce the last word to rhyme with 'gone' or 'shone' - which is, of course, the correct way.)

Sunday 4 March 2012

Elderberry Wine - Bottle B4, 28th February - 3rd March 2012

Claire and I both had a night in on Tuesday, which is a rare enough occasion to justify opening a bottle of wine. However, when Claire requested elderberry I pulled a disapproving face. We had already had an elderberry in February. Even as I was vocalising this thought I realised it was pathetic (and not a little controlling) so elderberry it was.

We drank it slowly through the week, not finishing it until tonight - Saturday - and it deteriorated from really rather drinkable on Tuesday to just on the right side of 'rank' for the last glass. Wednesday night's glass was (as is usual for a Wednesday night) after a WYSO rehearsal. I am really enjoying Peter and the Wolf; it is clever, engaging music too easily dismissed as a novelty for children. The cat has the best tune, which is no surprise.