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.

Saturday 30 June 2012

Blackberry Wine - 17th Bottle (A1), 24th June 2012

This is a particularly good bottle of wine. It has reached a stage of maturity that creates a depth which begins to resemble real red wine. It is a shame, therefore, that there is only one bottle left. I was all for drinking a white wine, but Claire pointed out, reasonably, that we were having a beef and ale pie, and a red would be far more suitable.

Despite having had a gin & tonic in the garden, enjoying a rare bit of June sunshine and a glass of redcurrant wine each, we managed to polish off the bottle, ignoring the fact that we both had work the next morning. I reckon that being sensible and taking all things in moderation is overrated.

Friday 29 June 2012

Gooseberry & Elderflower Wine 2012 - The Making Of ...

Soft fruit is ripening later than usual this year. It is no surprise - the weather has been diabolical. But as gooseberries are just coming into their own, and elderflowers are still abundant, it made sense to do this wine again. 2011's vintage is extremely good, so have decided to do a double batch.

I met Julia at the allotment on Saturday afternoon, 23rd June, during a rare break from the rain. The day before we had June's monthly average rainfall in just 24 hours. Julia has several gooseberry bushes and we picked fruit from a couple - taking the larger berries in the hope that this would allow the smaller ones to swell in time for a second picking. Between us we picked 8 lbs 4 oz and in return I dug two patches of ground for her. One of these involved taking out several butch thistles. These come out with a pleasing 'pop', their tap root in tact.

Then on Sunday, around noon, I went to pick my elderflowers. Claire and I had gone to Pannal to play chamber music with some WYSO string players, practising for a surreal-sounding concert on 21 July which is to fuse classical music with Hip-Hop. Once my bit was over I wandered to the parish church, where I had seen an elder tree, and picked about half a plastic-bag's worth.

Back at home I stripped the flowers (Radio 4 at hand, as always) which came to seven-eighths of a pint. I measured 6 lbs of gooseberries and put these, the flowers and 1 lb of minced sultanas into the bucket. I then had a frustrating and difficult time trying to crush the berries with a potato masher. Claire made it better by bringing me a gin & tonic and helping cut the berries with our super-sharp knife.

(Quick aside - I have just fettled Claire's hiccups by shouting BOO at her very loudly.)

I added 12 pints of boiling water and 5 lbs 8 oz sugar. The yeast and about a teaspoon each of pectolase and nutrient went in on Monday morning, 25th June. I sieved out the fruit and flowers on Friday evening, 29th June, and put it into its two demijohns. This was a tedious task as the liquid took an age to drain through the sieve. The wine is possible the brownest that I have made, which does not fill me with hope. I anticipate a large sediment.

Brown wine (plus Quince ready for bottling to the right)

To get my first impressions on the first bottle click here. I'm not sure what I did wrong!

Tuesday 26 June 2012

Redcurrant Wine - First Bottle (1), 22nd-24th June 2012

Redcurrant is redeemed. After a frankly disappointing batch from 2010, the first bottle of Redcurrant 2011 is actually quite good. If you concentrate really hard there is a trace of mustiness, but that can be ignored. It has both sharpness and depth and is, of course, a splendid colour.

I drank half of the bottle whilst Claire was out playing 'Ludlow and Team'. It was a rare night in by myself and rather than taking the opportunity to do something self improving and worthy, I watched Episodes and Pointless.

We finished the bottle tonight following a gin & tonic in the garden, where the sky has turned a strange blue colour and there is a large yellow circular thing, which I am told is called 'The Sun'.

Sunday 24 June 2012

Elderberry Wine - 13th Bottle (C1), 19th-22nd June 2012

It has been a busy week, both at work and home. Consequently Claire drank most of this bottle and I should hand over my pen to her. At work I have had Darren's daughter with me for work experience, so rather doing dull Property Law tasks we have been to a murder trial and to West Yorkshire Archives. At home, I have been out every night - including two different Wind Quintets and beers for Julia's sixtieth birthday. This has all left Claire at home with a bottle of elderberry wine to get through. I had a glass on Wednesday after WYSO (where Claire and I both came away feeling like we played badly) and half a glass on Friday as fortitude in preparation for the monthly Sainsbury's shop. This wine has now matured properly and has a deep, earthy taste.

Saturday 23 June 2012

Hedgerow Wine - Fifth Bottle (5), 16th June 2012

We had a warming winter meal - a sausage and lentil casserole with mashed potato and diced swede - that called for a bottle of red wine. It might as well be February. The weather has been so horrid recently that I have forgotten what sun and blue sky feel like. Hedgerow wine fitted the bill nicely, and we drank our last glass in a shared bath.

Earlier in the day we had played in a workshop on Mozart's 40th Symphony held at Carr Manor School. Claire and I had expected dreadful things, but in fact it was all rather jolly and musically not bad. Being a three minute walk away was just an added bonus.

Friday 22 June 2012

Orange Wine - Fourth Bottle (B3), 13th-14th June 2012

This bottle was opened to celebrate the last day of being 41 and finished to celebrate the first day of being 42. Any excuse. We had come back from WYSO on Wednesday night and Claire agreed to make Thursday's sandwiches if I would both wash up and do my sexy fish impression. One bowlful of warm soapy water and a sexy fish impression later the sandwiches were made.

Tonight, despite it being my birthday, I should really have been revising for tomorrow's 'Accountant in Business' exam. But the orange wine was calling to me, so between us we finished that instead. And very good it was too.

Afterword - unlike the exam, which was distinctly average. The further I get from it, the more convinced I am that I failed. Results in August.

Sunday 17 June 2012

Blackberry Wine - Sixteenth Bottle (C5), 10th June 2012

Today is the Feast Day of St Ithamar, and we have celebrated him with a feast. Our main course was lamb chops marinaded in olive oil, garden grown mint and tarragon, with broad beans, spinach, potatoes and that aubergine-tomato-breadcrumb dish. The most exciting course, however, was the starter. This, including the pigeon, was entirely foraged from the garden. We had our first summer salad - lettuces of various kinds, chive flowers and radishes, as well as plump pigeon breast lightly fried.

About a month ago Claire heard a 'thunk' against our back bedroom window. It was an adolescent pigeon with suicidal tendencies. Checking it was already dead, Claire plucked and removed the breast and put it in the freezer. This meat was delicious - tender and flavoursome. The blackberry wine went well, and we raised our glasses to Ithamar, first Anglo-Saxon bishop of Rochester (and, indeed, England).

The Salad of St Ithamar

Saturday 16 June 2012

Sloe Wine - Fifth Bottle (1), 8th-9th June 2012

It is always good news when we get to Friday evening and the fridge is empty of vegetables that Need Using Up. This will result in a bring-round curry, which is rare enough to qualify as a treat. And in ordering two main dishes (Lamb Karahi and Paneer something) and a side (Tarka Dall) with two garlic naans, we ensured sufficient quantities for Saturday night too. The sloe wine was supplemented with dandelion on Friday and the first-glass-while-bottling of Elderberry 2011 on Saturday.

This bottle was inexplicably better than the last and I wonder if this is because I had no audience. It is a dry, interesting taste, and of course a fabulous colour. I may make it again.

Friday 15 June 2012

Christmas Tutti Fruti - Sixth Bottle (B3), 6th June 2012

I found something cloying about this wine. It was like drinking fruit that had tipped into over-ripeness. The other drinkers; Claire, Bob and Judith; disagreed, and thought this as good as ever. We drank it to slices of courgettes and cucumber stuffed with lamb mince baked in a tomato sauce and then to a spiced orange and ginger cake that Judith had brought with her. She did her usual "This will taste awful" shtick but, as ever, it was delicious. There has only been once where Judith has presented food, declaring "You won't like it" and been proved right. This was her infamous spiced apple cake that was grey and tasted like it had been made in the 1940s with powdered egg during the height of sugar rationing. It is not a cake that anyone will quickly forget.

Thursday 14 June 2012

Elderflower Wine 2012 - The Making Of ...

June is already proving to be a busy month, and today - Saturday 9th June - was really the only day I could dedicate to making elderflower wine. It is early in the season but next weekend is packed with concerts and the weekend after that could well be too late. I also need to fit 'Gooseberry wine' in somewhere.

Generally I go to Harewood to forage for my elderflowers. This year, however, to save both time and petrol, I thought I should check out the local playing fields on Stonegate Road. It was a good idea; this had elder trees flowering in abundance. Whilst going to Harewood makes elderflower gathering more of an event, there are definite attractions in picking them a five minute walk away.

I collected elderflowers from several trees and met virtually no-one whilst doing so. A large German Shepherd came sniffing around and I said "Good Dog", hoping that it was, rather than being the sort that would leap at my throat with a snarl. It trotted off again after its owner, and I continued with my foraging.

Picking elderflowers is the fun part of making this wine. Stripping them is not. I needed two pints for a double batch and my work rate is just less than a pint an hour. The last half-pint felt like it took forever. I helped things along by listening to Radio 4 comedy on i-player. John Finnemore's Cabin Pressure is very good.

Two pints of elderflowers and half a glass of sloe wine

I broke the stripping up by going to Sainsbury's to buy sugar and an extra litre of grape juice, but had to make do with 'Grape & Peach Juice Drink'. So, I put 2 pints of elderflowers in my bucket, then 5 lbs sugar, 1 litre of 'Grape Juice', 1 litre of the aforementioned 'Grape & Peach Juice Drink', 12 pints of cold water, one-and-a-half teaspoons of tannin, 1 teaspoon of pectolase, two crushed vitamin B tablets and two crushed camden tablets. I added the yeast and between a teaspoon and two of nutrient 12 hours later on Sunday morning.

Elderflowers in bucket
It all went into its two demijohns on Thursday evening, my 42nd birthday, when I should really have been revising for my first Accountancy exam tomorrow. It was a fast process, and Claire kept me company in the kitchen, mostly in friendly silence.

If you want to see how the first bottle of this turned out, click here

Tuesday 12 June 2012

Blackcurrant Wine - Final Bottle (2), 5th June 2012

It was the final night of Patriotic Fervour on Tuesday and this was the second bottle opened to mark the occasion. Having to go to work the following day was not given a moment's consideration. Bob and Judith are staying and my father came over for the evening, so I wanted to give them one of my better bottles. They should feel truly honoured: not only is blackcurrant one of the nicest wines I make, it was also my last of this flavour in the house. There was too little fruit in 2011 to make any - though our bushes this year look promising.

The other celebration was Claire completing the Jubilee Raised Bed, in which she has planted the Jubilee Courgettes. This project has been going on some time - delayed by weather, by the wrong sort of mortar and by the general lack of time. But it is now finished and we shall have courgettes in abundance.

Monday 11 June 2012

Gooseberry & Elderflower Wine - Second Bottle (4), 5th June 2012

Tonight's meal required a sharp white, so I opened a bottle of gooseberry & elderflower. I was a little pre-emptive, however. The bottle was opened at 6:30 and we did not eat until nine. So matching food and wine rather went out of the window. It was still a good wine to serve to Bob, Judith and my father - all of whom joined us for the meal - because it is definitely one of my best whites. It is full of its base flavours, yet is more rounded than most homebrews.

We finished the wine quickly whilst picking at chorizo, olives and locally grown asparagus. The evening has been lovely, chatting about family (both Claire's and mine) and generally having a relaxed, entertaining evening in. However, now I must sleep and I have yet to make tomorrow's sandwiches or pack my work bag.

Sunday 10 June 2012

Elderberry Wine - 12th Bottle (B3), 3rd June 2012

NB 1 - I'm getting a little behind in keeping up with this diary - apologies. NB 2 to follow shortly.

Today is the highlight of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations - a huge flotilla of barges sailing down the Thames. If there is a God, He is a republican. It has pissed it down all day, and the temperature is more March than June.

Our own Jubilee celebrations today have been going to Isabella's party, which was originally to be a barbecue. The weather has scuppered that, so all guests crowded into her flat and mostly ate cake (including an impressive Union Jack Battenburg creation). It has been an age since I saw any of the Medieval crowd, and Claire has never met them, but we both had a splendid time. Despite being more than one-and-a-half times the age of the next oldest guest.

I took a bottle of elderberry and encouraged people to try it. The general reaction was favourable, and I think that was genuine.

NB 2 - I use the word 'republican' in its French Revolution meaning, rather than 'voting for Mitt Romney' meaning.

Saturday 9 June 2012

Dandelion Wine - Second Bottle (2), 7th-8th June 2012

Ray Bradbury died on Wednesday. Growing up, he was one of my favourite authors. His short stories were perfect. It was the science-fiction that grabbed me, but often the everyday that stayed. They were sinister, nostalgic, inventive and always beautifully written. Writing that was dripping with both lemon and honey. His death meant there was no other flavour I could open, and we raised our glasses to him. Dandelion Wine is a wonderful book and one that I only read last year. It is full of honest and truth, hearkening back to a childhood in small town America. I will be pulling Ray Bradbury from my bookshelves over the next few weeks and reminding myself of his brilliance.

Thursday 7 June 2012

Rhubarb & Elderflower Wine - The Making Of ...

This flavour is another one suggested by Claire. However, I think her motive was to reduce our holding stock of rhubarb in the freezer rather than necessarily inventing an unmissable combination of ingredients. Our various rhubarb patches in the back garden have been prolific this year and do not show any signs of abating. I am hopeful that this means we will be eating pie into July. It won't result in any more wine, though. 'Rhubarb and Elderflower' is likely to be 2012's last wine involving rhubarb (unless it makes it into the Christmas Tutti Fruti).

Today, 2nd June, is on the early side for elderflowers. I have been noticing the odd 'head' on my way to work this week, but little more. Therefore, when I went out foraging this afternoon, I was expecting to be out quite some time. Including the walk to and from the Stonegate playing fields, I was gone about fifteen minutes. This was hardly foraging at its most difficult. All the elderflowers came from one tree, and I collected about one quarter of a small plastic bag full - which on stripping proved to be half a pint's worth of blossom. I used my new 'birthday jug' to measure this. Though I have yet to turn 42, I spotted Claire coming back to the car this morning with a measuring jug. I did not realise she was trying to be surreptitious, so when she announced she had bought me a birthday present I asked if it was the jug. Apparently this has spoiled the surprise, so she has given it to me - unwrapped - twelve days early.
My Birthday Jug (with elderflowers)
As well as half a pint of elderflowers, this wine also has 3 lbs of rhubarb, 3 lbs of sugar and 7-and-a-quarter pints of boiling water poured over the rest of the ingredients. The rhubarb, being frozen, came to be painfully cold to the touch.
Rhubarb & Elderflower - in a bucket
I added the yeast and a teaspoon each of nutrient and pectolase on the rather rainy morning of 3rd June. It was inevitable that the weather for the grandest day of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Celebration would be mostly drizzle. I left everything in the bucket, stirring twice a day, until Thursday evening, 7th June, which has been another incredibly wet day. I poured the liquid, sieving out the solids, into its demijohn and I have wrapped this in silver foil, to preserve the pink. The wine is not bubbling as frantically as I would like it to, but there is definitely some fermentation going on.

Tuesday 5 June 2012

Rhubarb Wine - 2nd bottle (A1), 1st June 2012

Please raise your glasses to the Queen, Gawd bless Her. It is the start of an extra-long weekend (extending into Tuesday) to celebrate Her Maj's 60th anniversary. I shall mostly avoid the media during the next few days. However, Claire and I did toast the Queen with a bottle of rhubarb wine. Somehow this feels suitable - it has a fizz and its colour is somewhere between red and white (though blue, alas, is lacking). It also sounds like something people would be drinking in 1952, an era of post-war hardship and rationing.

Our food was quiche assembled from garden vegetables, including one broadbean pod and a tiny asparagus spear, with plenty of parsley - which is growing in abundance.

Sunday 3 June 2012

Crab Apple Wine - 4th Bottle (B6) 29th-30th May 2012

Claire announced on Tuesday evening that she had been chilling a bottle of crab apple wine. Rather than being pleased on hearing this, my immediate thought was "Did we not have one of those just a few days ago?" However, this did not stop me opening and enjoying it. Despite being just that little too sweet, it is very drinkable. This particular bottle had huge amounts of sediment which, due to the wine's fizz, was unavoidable.

Wednesday's glass was drunk after our last WYSO rehearsal before the Pontefract Castle concert. I was not heartened to learn that 2,000 people are coming, and that every player will be wearing a microphone. Therefore, I cannot swear when I go wrong, or count bars' rest out loud. Damn and blast. The orchestra as a whole was sounding unsure and under-rehearsed. It will be one of those 'skin of the teeth' concerts. Wish me luck!

Friday 1 June 2012

Raspberry Wine - Bottle 5, 27th May 2012

Well, today has been tedious. Whilst most of the country has been enjoying a rare Sunday of cloudless skies and warmth, I have been sat in the Alwoodley Community Centre rehearsing for, and then playing in, a concert that went on for two and a half hours. Even good concerts should only go on for ninety minutes. But this one had twelve items, including a concerto, a symphony, most of a sonata, a prelude and fugue, and a them and variations. And there was a raffle. I hate raffles in concerts. They go on forever, for such unexciting prizes. Today's most banal prize was a notebook. God! At least I came home to a bottle of raspberry wine - the last, which is a shame, as this is a terrific flavour. We drank it to a chicken roast (on the hottest day of the year so far) and the first salad of the season where many ingredients were from our garden.