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 30 July 2012

Citrus Wine - Seventh Bottle (A6) 25-27th July 2012

So far, 2011's vintage of citrus wine has been a delight. That is, until this bottle, which had distinctly nasty undertones. I hope that this is because this bottle was last out of its demijohn and thus picked up sediment, rather than the wine deteriorates through age. Time will tell. We managed to get through it, though, and it was hardly a chore.

Otherwise, this was an entirely unremarkable mid-week bottle coinciding with few even moderately interesting or diverting events. "No change there, then" I hear you, Dear Reader, cry.

Saturday 28 July 2012

Blackcurrant Wine - The Making Of ...

Blackcurrant wine is one of my very best. It has a sharp, tangy taste which is unmistakeable. Blackcurrants, however, are not consistently available in sufficient quantities for me to make it every year. Therefore, I was delighted when Julia rang this morning, 22 July, to let me know she had three pounds going spare. The timing could not have been better; today is a Sunday where I have little else planned and by starting the wine today it will be in its demijohn by the time I go to Rydal Hall.

Claire and I went over to Julia's bearing gifts of a jar of strawberry jam and one egg. In return we were given a bag full of gooseberries, the blackcurrants and recipes for gooseberry chutney and gooseberry ketchup. We returned home via Sainsbury's, where we collected vast amounts of vinegar, sugar and rum - the last being for a rumtopf which Claire shall begin today.

Immediately after lunch of salad and pitta bread I started the wine, a process which took little time. I boiled 3 lbs of sugar in 6 pints of water. Whilst this was on the hob I poured the currants into the bucket and mashed them. I did not bother washing the fruit; it was already sticky and I did not want to lose any of the juice. The boiling water will kill anything nasty and a little dirt is good for the immune system. I poured the water-sugar mix over the mashed blackcurrants and gave it all a stir.

When we returned from a feast at Richard and Linda's I added one teaspoon of pectolase, and then the yeast (Burgundy) and a teaspoon of nutrient on Monday morning.

I had planned to put this in its demijohn on Friday night and then bottle my Prune & Parsnip as a pre-Rydal treat. What I had not planned to do was to be still in the office at 10 p.m. finishing off a set of 14 certificates of title that landed on my desk the day before a two week holiday. Scuppered! So, I sieved out the fruit and put the liquid into the demijohn of Saturday morning, 28th July, at 7 a.m., while listening to reports about the Olympic Opening Ceremony on Radio 4.

If you want to see how this wine turned out, at the drinking stage, click here.

If you want to see a video on YouTube of how someone else - Alex Dav - has made blackcurrant wine, using quite a different method - click here. It lasts about 5 minutes and has some intriguing ideas.And his follow up is here, and again it is worth watching

Thursday 26 July 2012

Christmas Tutti Fruti - 7th bottle (B1), 22nd July 2012

Generally Richard prefers his wines white, but as I had not had the foresight to put any in the fridge, he got Christmas Tutti Fruti instead. We spent a pleasant evening at Richard and Linda's eating lots of fine food. For once, I came away without clutching my stomach and groaning that I ate too much. It was a close run thing, though.

We had a starter of mushrooms and prawns in cream sauce, followed by cannelloni stuffed with goats cheese and spinach in a tomato sauce and a green salad, and finished off with a warm cherry and cinnamon cake garnished with ice-cream. Really rather delicious - as was the wine, which from a high base level manages to improve with age. It is a shame, therefore, that I was driving and only had one glass.

Wednesday 25 July 2012

Rhubarb Wine - Third Bottle (B5), 21st July 2012

Think of two musical genres that are unlikely to be found together, and you may well come up with 'Classical' and 'Hip Hop'. Yet this is what I was involved with today. WYSO took a string sextet and wind quintet to the Leeds On the Edge festival where we played in a gritty (though domed) warehouse loading bay, alternating our sets with a scratch DJ and three body poppers. The latter were excellent - as someone who is massively uncoordinated I am always impressed by dancers.

At the end of the concert, we all came together in a fusion piece which, unexpectedly, worked rather well. And from the audience we received whistles and applause rather than baffled looks.

Once at home Claire and I had a much needed bottle of Rhubarb wine, sat in our jungle of a garden, coming down from the experience.

Tuesday 24 July 2012

Elderberry Wine - 14th Bottle (C5), 19th-20th July 2012

Other than a glass snaffled by Claire on Thursday whilst I was in Ilkley playing quintets, this was an archetypal Friday night bottle. It has been a busy week, which means having a lazy Friday night, eating take-out curry and watching Midsomer Murders on DVD is an absolute pleasure. The elderberry wine merely added to this, and is a good flavour for curry:its sweet, metallic flavour holds its own against the richness and spiceness of Indian food. I am now, of course, sleepy and full. Perhaps the large glass of port was a mistake.

Sunday 22 July 2012

Crab Apple Wine - Sixth Bottle (C5), 17-18th July 2012

Wind Quintets were a feature of this bottle. On Tuesday night I was at Madeleine's quintetting, and then on Wednesday I was at Jude's rehearsing for Saturday's Hip-Hop/Classical mix concert. I returned home on Tuesday (which was actually a quartet as Katie was excused for having a heavy cold) to find my wife returned from Peterborough and a half-empty bottle of crab apple wine. The two events were not unrelated. Claire had experienced train frustration and felt she needed to make it better.

Visiting Peterborough had mostly been a success. Wicked Uncle Alasdair is ill but improving, and Uncle Bert is not as feeble as first imagined. But it is very nice to have her home - and she left me a large glass of wine on Wednesday, which was much appreciated.

Friday 20 July 2012

Rose Petal Wine - Second Bottle (1), 14th July 2012

I brought this bottle to York with me, to share with my parents and Chris. After all, the majority of the ingredients came from Mom's garden. And this year her roses are doing splendidly. They must thrive on cold, damp conditions.

I only got one glass from this bottle - the rest was snaffled by my family and all enjoyed it. Mom particularly so. This bottle was better than the previous Rose Petal wine, which is surprising. As I only had the one glass I consoled myself with several helpings of real wine, and consequently failed to follow Henry IV Part 2, which was being shown on telly. I gave up a third of the way in.

Wednesday 18 July 2012

Sloe Wine - Final Bottle (2), 11th-13th July 2012

And so sloe wine comes to an end. It isn't a great bottle and garely makes the "acceptable mid-week drinking" list. Certainly my last glass on returning from book Group was drunk through gritted teeth. (Only the very worst wines get tipped down the sink.) At Book Group we discussed Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides which most of us loved, though Linda was hostile - thinking it at turns silly, racist and insulting. I have to say I disagree - it was a funny, epic sweep that at its heart discussed the nature of 'Self'.

Claire did not attend - she is down in Peterborough looking after her Uncle Bert (who was a drag artiste in the 1970s and can tell an interesting tale) because Wicked Uncle Alasdair has had a stroke and is in hospital. The prognosis is good and rapidly improving, but Bert is distressed and probably needs some looking after. So begins a stage of having elderly and infirm relatives for whom we have some responsibility.

Monday 16 July 2012

Orange Wine - Fifth Bottle (A3), 7th July 2012

Opening a third bottle was really not a good idea, however much it seemed so at the time. We had come back from a successful WYSO concert and were entertaining Rachel, Duncan and Rachel's Estonian colleague, Gunnar(rrr). Basically, I was showing off.

We all agreed that this orange wine tasted lovely. Rachel pointed out thought that at this point we could be drinking potato wine and thinking it rather good.

Amazingly, and undeservedly, I woke on Sunday morning without a hangover. There is no justice.

Saturday 14 July 2012

Strawberry Wine 2012 - The Making Of ...

Strawberry is the stickiest of wines in the making. It is ninety minutes since I last did anything strawberry wine related and despite having done a mountain of washing up in the interim I just feel sticky.

I started this wine yesterday, Sunday 8th July. It was a rare and welcome sunny day, and we spent it in the south western reaches of North Yorkshire, nosing around some large and extremely posh gardens - including that of Low Hall in Dacre. Before this, however, we stopped off at the 'Pick Your Own' at Wharfedale Grange Farm, and in best gang-master style, I had Claire, Duncan and Rachel picking strawberries for me. The fruit was large and abundant this year - some of the strawberries were the size of small eggs. Between us we picked about ten pounds of strawberries. This is far too many for the single batch of wine I have made (which only requires 4 lbs) but enough for several bowls of strawberries and cream, a batch of strawberry jam and two bags of frozen strawberries in anticipation of fruit combinations for wine later in the year.

On Sunday night I got myself into a thoroughly bad mood by hulling all strawberries picked, weighing them and struggling to get those destined to be frozen into the freezer.

I put four pounds of fruit into the bucket and added two tiny wild strawberries from our garden - I could not find any more. I mashed these up and poured over four pints of boiling water and three pounds of sugar. This evening I strained the liquid into a demijohn, saving the pulp in a second bucket. This was the particularly sticky bit. I then poured two pints of cold water over the pulp, let it stew whilst I washed and sterilised the original bucket, and then strained the liquid back into this, throwing out the pulp. I also poured in the strawberry liquid from the demijohn. (All very complicated.) I added the yeast and a teaspoon each of nutrient, pectolase and tannin.
Mashed strawberries
It went back into the demijohn on Thursday evening. I had half a pint of liquid left over, which I mostly threw out (though added a small quantity to a glass of sloe wine in the hope it would make it nicer. This experiment failed.) In the bucket the wine appeared not to be fermenting but in the demijohn it is bubbling away happily.
If you want to see how this wine turned out (and it turned out really very well indeed) click here

Friday 13 July 2012

Gooseberry Wine - Second Bottle (4), 7th July 2012

Shockingly, this was the second of three bottles finished in one evening. But there was a multitude of excuses. We had just come back from our Russian-themed WYSO concert where Scheherazade went particularly well. Amy's bassoon twiddly bits were fantastic. So we had one thing to celebrate. Then we had Duncan, Rachel and a random Estonian called Gunnar(rrr) come over, so we had guests to entertain. And Gunnar(rrr) makes his own vodka, so I needed to show him a variety of flavours. (He was particularly impressed with this bottle of gooseberry, and rightly so.) There was also the small matter of Rachael's pregnancy.

NB - Note the different spellings of Rachel and Rachael. One is a friend, the other is my sister.

Thursday 12 July 2012

Gooseberry Wine 2012 - The Making Of ...

I feel like I am becoming a stuck record. But this summer has had the most appalling weather that I can remember. Back in mid-April the news was full of 'Hose Pipe Ban' this and 'Hose Pipe Ban' that. Save for one glorious week in late May it has not stopped raining since. Today, 6th July, it rained from ten past eight (I know this because I was walking to work) until six o'clock without let up. According to news reports we had July's average rain fall in just one day. And the current forecast is for a whole month of this. Still, it hasn't prevented Julia's gooseberries ripening. Which is a Good Thing.

Julia rang on Wednesday to ask when would be a suitable time to bring over three and a half pounds of gooseberries that she had picked and true to her word, on our return from WYSO, they were sitting in a plastic bag on our doorstep. Tonight I combined these with the 2 lb 4 oz in the freezer and 4 oz from our garden bushes to make six pounds of gooseberries. Those from our garden are doing rather less well than Julia's. They are mostly small and bullet-like. Claire thinks this is because the blackcurrants are crowding them out.

I put the fruit in the bucket and crushed them with a potato masher. This was far easier than crushing the gooseberries for my 'Gooseberry & Elderflower' a couple of weeks ago. Freezing them makes them softer. However, it was no walk in the park and I predict blisters on my thumb.

I poured over five and a half pints of boiling water. One teaspoon of pectolase went in on Saturday morning, 7th July.

I strained the liquid into a demijohn on Monday evening, 9th July, whilst listening to I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue. It is a pale soupy green colour. I put 2 lbs 10 oz sugar into a freshly sterilised bucket, poured the liquid in, gave it all a thorough stir and added the yeast and a teaspoon of nutrient. It all went back into the demijohn on the evening of Thursday 12th July. I am not convinced that it is stable enough to avoid exploding out the top of the air trap, but there is about a quarter of a pint's worth of space between the liquid and the demijohn neck. I may be lucky.
If you want to see how this batch of gooseberry has turned out, click here.

Wednesday 11 July 2012

Crab Apple & Strawberry Wine - First Bottle (3), 7th July 2012

This was the first of three bottles finished tonight. Ordinarily I would be writing about how outrageous it was drinking this much. Or possibly about what a fabulous concert it was that Claire and I have just played in. But actually, the important and absolutely joyous thing (which partly excuses three bottles in one night) is that Rachael is pregnant. She rang shortly before the concert to let me know, and I squealed with happiness. It was something that the family had pretty much written off, but it has happened. I am struggling to see this page, and it isn't just because I have drunk too much. Tears do that.

Tuesday 10 July 2012

Elderflower Wine - Second Bottle (A5), 6th July 2012

"In July the Sun is hot. Is it shining? No it's not." What Flanders and Swan failed to mention (in this couplet at least) was the monsoon like rain. It poured all day, soaking me on my walk to work. I tried to remind myself what summer felt like by drinking elderflower wine. It worked - by late evening the rain stopped. Claire and I took advantage of this respite and made a circular walk round the neighbourhood - the midpoint being Little Sainsbury's where we bought an unhealthy and luxurious pudding. Water was flooding down the streets, treating the gutters and drains with disdain. We returned home with our New York cheesecake and finished the bottle of wine.

Monday 9 July 2012

Pea Pod Wine - First Bottle (2), 4th-5th July 2012

There is absolutely nothing nasty about this wine. It is entirely clear, sweet and with no hint of mustiness. I also suspect it is rather alcoholic, judging by a certain amount of befuddlement after two glasses. My main criticism is that it is not interesting. Claire's first comment was that it tastes like it has been made from sugar. I see her point, but think she is being a little harsh. The flavour, though, is not distinctive. Pea pod wine is, I think, destined to serve as a perfectly adequate mid-week bottle.

Opening the first bottle has coincided with Claire declaring war on slugs. The Invertebrate Court of Mollusc Rights would lock her up for genocide. She is keeping a tally of the number of slugs collected and killed each day, and over the last week it has never been fewer than 100. I am amazed we have any plants left in the garden at all..

NB - If you want to see how I made this pea pod wine, click on the label 'pea pod' and it should take you there.

Saturday 7 July 2012

Strawberry Wine - First Bottle (6), 1st-3rd July 2012

Sunday was our fourteenth wedding anniversary. Written down, that sounds like an enormously long time. Certainly I find it hard to believe there was ever a time that I did not know Claire. Yet our first kiss, where I stuck my nose in her eye, feels like yesterday. Time is strange.

Fourteen years is worthy of celebration, and how better than a bottle of strawberry wine to a meal of Greek Baked Lamb (which was the first thing I ever cooked for Claire). Both food and wine were as excellent as ever, and we followed our meal by watching a remarkably silly episode of 'Midsomer Murders' - a DVD I had bought earlier in the day as an anniversary present. Who says romance is dead?

Friday 6 July 2012

Crab Apple Wine - Fifth Bottle (B5), 30th June 2012

Apple Champagne. It is really rather delicious. The wine is a golden hue and it fizzes enthusiastically on pouring. Hence there was no effort involved in finishing the bottle on a lazy Saturday night.

We had spent some of the day at Thwaites Mills, invited by Julia, where Pyramid of Arts had created an installation all to do with Time, involving a clock face with numbers made from bread on a giant hand surrounded by small pots of earth planted with grass and bean seeds. 'Dali-esque' doesn't do it justice. Claire spent Friday baking substitute bread numbers which were covered in bird seed, rather than glitter, to be attached to the clock later. The idea is that as the plants grow, the numbers decay and in September the whole piece will be set free in the Aire and Calder canal.

Thursday 5 July 2012

Tea Wine - Third Bottle (1), 28th-29th June 2012

This has been the nicest bottle of Tea Wine so far. Though sweeter than ideal, and swampy in both colour and texture towards the end of the bottle, the taste is good. It has lost the bitterness of this flavour's first batch. Halving the amount of tea in the recipe was the correct thing to do.

Claire started the bottle on Thursday evening, whilst I was at Pat and Peter's playing trios. For the first time in well over a year I played the flute. This caused havoc with my bassoon playing for the remainder of the evening and reminded me why I don't get the flute out more often.

We finished the bottle on Friday evening, much of which was taken up with putting my Gooseberry & Elderflower into demijohns, which was a tedious process, and bottling the Quince wine, which was not.

Tuesday 3 July 2012

The Liebster Award

Okay - this post isn't about wine. There is no need to worry - I haven't woken up and decided that maybe abstemiousness is my next life style choice. Indeed, there is a bottle of strawberry wine in the fridge to finish off. However, my lovely fellow Medieval Studies MA friend, Lucy has given me a Liebster Award. The idea behind this is below - and it is a little like a chain letter. Generally I am opposed to 'pass it on' type things - all those endless posts on Facebook about 'Repost this if you have ever tripped over and hurt yourself or know someone who has' are tedious. But this Liebster Award has already resulted in my blog being read by several other people. What you should first do is have a look at Lucy's blog, Offally Good - which is all about cooking and eating offal, and is brilliantly written. Some people think I am adventurous with food. I pale in comparison to Lucy.

Right - here are the rules:

  • Link back to the person who gave it to you and thank them.
  • Post the award to your blog.
  • Give the award to five bloggers with less than 200 followers who you appreciate and value (please do not be offended by this, I don’t think you have less than 200 followers I am sending on some blog love because I think your blog is great!)
  • Let your award winners know!

And here are my five people (in no particular order):

Firstly, Carol Dance and her blog 'Believe You Me'. It causes me to emit loud guffaws that have Claire running into the room wondering what is going on. Carol has such a distinctive writing style, and things just seem to happen to her. Like two other of my 'awardees', she has not posted for a while - and I trust this is temporary. Carol - if you are reading this - please come back.

Secondly, my good friend (though we have never met), Dave Dealey and his take on living on an Irish small holding, Northsider. Dave is funny and poignant, and is a regular follower of my blog. He has a book out - also published by Good Life Press - called Archie Sparrow's Book of Useful Tips to Beat the Recession - with Baling String.

My third award is to a blogger who I suspect has shut up shop, which is a real shame. However, his blog is so good and so interesting, that you should look all the way through his archives. He is Ars Brevis, and he writes intelligently about both famous and obscure pieces of art - giving a snapshot of their cultural history and how they are relevant to an issue today - either political or personal. It is quite simply brilliant.

Fourth on this list in no particular order is to possibly one of the best unpublished (to my knowledge) writers that I have come across on the blogosphere. I don't know her name; I only know her as Dysnomia (actually until just now, I knew her as Dysomnia, but I realise that I have been getting her name wrong since I started reading the blog). Her writing is just so beautiful, and thoughtful. It is full of literature and cadence, and I wish that I had a third of her talent. As with Carol, she hasn't posted recently, but I hope that she comes back. Dysnomia - you are missed in this corner of Leeds.

Finally a blog that I keep on meaning to read far more than I actually do. It is 'Beekeeping and Homebrewing' and essentially does what it says on the tin. But does so in an entertaining and informative way, and with fabulous photos. On Ian's most recent post, you can see a bee licking nectar. This blog is well worth a read, and the author lives a hop, skip and jump away in Wakefield.

Monday 2 July 2012

Citrus Wine - Sixth Bottle (A3), 26th-27th June 2012

This bottle has coincided with more wisdom tooth problems. I only have the one left, and it is making its presence known. Monday I felt a slight twinge in the gum and pretended I had not. Yesterday and today I acknowledge there is a problem, but live in hope that it will go away. By Friday I will be booking dental appointments. Still the mouth wash might work. It certainly makes Citrus Wine taste odd, in an unpleasant way. This is a shame, as last night's two glasses (shocking for a Tuesday) were particularly good.

I drank last night's ration whilst reading 'Middlesex' by Jeffrey Eugenides. Though I am only a quarter of the way through, I think it is wonderful. Shocking, funny, beautifully written and gripping. In fact, I want to get back to it right now.