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.

Friday 31 August 2012

Dandelion Wine - Third Bottle (6), 25th-27th August 2012

Dandelion wine has an odd taste - one that I fluctuate between enjoying and not. It is herby, and if it was a tea I expect it would be drunk by middle-aged women wearing long purple skirts and lots of beads. An acquired taste, I think - and not one I drink frequently enough to acquire.

I now can't remember why we did not finish this on Saturday night, but Saturday was an unremarkable day where I read the Guardian and did little else. We eschewed a glass on Monday, after travelling to Skipton to hear Schubert's String Quintet played in a church crypt, in favour of a kir assembled from Cassis and cooking wine. Instead, we had our final glass early on Tuesday evening in a successful attempt to prevent me from going to Rubbish Summer Orchestra.

Wednesday 29 August 2012

Crab Apple & Strawberry Wine - Second Bottle (5), 26th August 2012

Claire said that we needed an aperitif bottle if the fridge for Lambert's visit on Sunday evening and I told her she had a free choice of flavour. She chose 'Crab Apple & Strawberry' and I felt a look of extreme anguish pass over my face. We weren't meant to start this wine until October, and here we are on the second bottle already.

Lambert has a sophisticated palate and took his tasting seriously. He commented on the wine's acidity, its metal and its bitterness. One might suspect that he didn't like it, but he had several glasses. This could have been good manners of course. But this is clearly one of Claire's favourite flavours and I already have strawberries in the freezer for later in the year.


As a quick aside, and nothing to do with my wine, I have had an article published by the On-line magazine, The Foodie Bugle, all about vegan cake. Have a read by clicking here - and do feel free to tweet it!

Monday 27 August 2012

Rhubarb Wine - Fourth Bottle (A2), 22nd-25th August 2012

Rhubarb wine is a dependable if not particularly interesting bottle. I enjoy its fizz and pinkness, though both are subtle, and otherwise it is a dry white, which is no bad thing.

My need for a glass on Thursday was pronounced. I had just made that mackerel, onion and olive dish from The River Cottage Year and I'm not that comfortable with cooking fish. There was also a timing issue - making sure the potatoes, beans and cous-cous with salted lemons were all ready together - which I always find difficult. But rhubarb wine helped - as I think it would with many of life's problems.

Saturday 25 August 2012

Blackcurrant & Red Gooseberry Wine - The Making Of ...

We really must buy a larger freezer. I have mentioned this before, though it is usually a problem later in the year when blackberries, elderberries and sloes have all fruited. This year we have harvested more rhubarb, gooseberries and blackcurrants from our garden than expected and our freezer is crammed. To the extent that we had gin & tonic yesterday without ice. Therefore, action was needed, and as blackcurrants tend to get lost in a mixed fruit wine, I decided to make another batch of that.

Our minuscule freezer
When weighing the blackcurrants this morning, 19th August, I discovered I 'only' had 2 lbs 8 oz - half a pound down on the required amount for pure blackcurrant wine, so I have bulked the fruit up with 8 oz of red gooseberries - also from our garden. I suspect frozen ants have made it into the mix too. Our blackcurrant bushes are crawling with them and whilst I tried to avoid them I don't think I had an absolute success rate. One of the buggers bit me during harvesting, so I have little sympathy.

I weighed the fruit this morning and left it to defrost a little before returning to it this afternoon. Once it was in the bucket I poured over half a pint of boiling water to aid its defrosting and mashed it all with a potato masher. Meanwhile I boiled 3 lbs of sugar in five and a half pints of water and poured this over the mashed fruit. I put in a teaspoon of pectolase later the same night, and added the yeast and a teaspoon of nutrient the next morning.
The ingredients
I transferred the liquid into the demijohn on Thursday night, 23rd August, while listening to Stephen Fry on Radio 4 discuss intonation. The process was faster than many wines and I helped matters along by having a glass of Prune & Parsnip, which I had bottled earlier in the evening. I have left a significant gap in the demijohn and stored some wine in a bottle separately for topping up once I am certain the fermentation has calmed.

In fact, it was apparent the next morning that there would be no bubbling over disasters so I filled the gap from the bottle and I now have a demijohn at capacity.
The wine in its demijohn
If you want to see how this wine turned out, click here

Wednesday 22 August 2012

Christmas Tutti Fruti - Eighth Bottle (B2), 19th-20th August 2012

We had roast duck on Sunday. This is my favourite meat; I love the rich, fatty flavour and its crispy skin is an unbeatable treat. It is not a cheap meal, however, and we will now spend our old age in penury. It was worth it, though. Plus we had Claire's fabulous roast potatoes - no-one does them better - and a red gooseberry and blackcurrant slump for pudding. Christmas Tutti Fruti was really the only bottle to choose for this feast but - nearly unheard of for a Sunday night - we did not quite finish it in one sitting. Instead we shared the last (large) glass on Monday whilst marking cuts in the sheet music for Der Rosenkavalier. This is Northern Wagner Orchestra's next project and it looks fiendishly difficult, even with several pages of music removed.

Sunday 19 August 2012

Crab Apple Wine - Ninth Bottle (A2), 18th August 2012

Crab apple wine is disappearing faster than the Arctic ice-shelf. I noticed on Wednesday that this bottle's cork was inching its way in an upwards trajectory, so I put it in the fridge to reduce its chances of explosion. This tactic was successful and even on opening very little was lost.

We drank the bottle to home-made chicken curry pasties and then watched episodes of Doctor Who and Hi-de-Hi on DVD. The latter was interesting - it was filmed in 1980 and I have vague memories of seeing it first time round when I was ten. Whilst dated, it merits a re-watch, and it is close to tragedy, despite being a sitcom. Perhaps that is a mark of good comedy. And many of the actors, despite seeming impossibly old when I was ten, were a good deal younger than I am now. Age plays cruel tricks.

Saturday 18 August 2012

Citrus Wine - Eighth Bottle (B1), 15-17th August 2012

This was a thoroughly satisfactory mid-week bottle of wine. It has been a rare week where I have been at home every night and thus was on cooking duties for most of them. The baked trout was furthest outside my comfort zone, the garden vegetable based tortilla most within it. And Nigella's Involtini was both the fiddliest and the flashiest.

Other events of note: we have been looking after a friend's rabbit all week who does little but shake in terror and produce pellets. Less annoying than the cats, certainly, but not nearly as interesting.

None of this, of course, has anything to do with citrus wine, which was its usual tasty self, and which I finished whilst watching The Best of Men on i-player: a lovely and affecting drama about the origins of the Paralympics.

Thursday 16 August 2012

Tea Wine - Fourth Bottle (6), 5th-15th August 2012

I opened this bottle of tea wine in the dim and distant past for reasons I cannot now remember. Probably we wanted to drink some wine. That is usually the reason. It was the Sunday before I left for the Olympics and I fully expected it to have been finished on my return. However, when I got back the bottle was still in the fridge - Claire had entertained herself with sweet German white wine in my absence. And whenever there was a choice of 'tea wine' or 'something else', Claire chose the latter.

I manfully struggled through the remainder of the bottle - which oddly had not deteriorated over the time it had been open. There could be an easy explanation, involving the words 'Not', 'Much', 'Further', 'To' and 'Go' but in fact I thought it was okay, and Claire's shunning of it a little harsh.

Tuesday 14 August 2012

Elderberry Wine - 15th Bottle (C3), 13th August 2012

Courgette Week has arrived - about a fortnight off schedule. I blame the terrible summer, though the last week has reminded me why we live in this country. Claire harvested the two large courgettes and proceeded to stuff them with beef mince, their own flesh, fried onions and some aubergine offcuts, adding nutmeg and covering it with a tomato sauce. Delicious. A bottle of elderberry went well - it always does with red meat - and I drank my half trying not to think about work tomorrow. Having just had a fortnight away I am nervous about what lies in store and I shall probably sleep badly tonight.

Sunday 12 August 2012

Crab Apple Wine - Eighth bottle (B2), 11th August 2012

A Saturday afternoon nap was rudely interrupted by a loud pop. Another bottle of crab apple had exploded. I sprang out of bed, put the bottle in the fridge and grabbed a mop. Any neighbours peering too closely through our frosted glass would have had a nasty surprise. Naked mopping has little to recommend it.

As before, half the bottle had been lost. Claire and I drank the remainder during a quiet evening where I read the Guardian and did little else. After an active fortnight of high living, the rest and relaxation was welcome.

Saturday 11 August 2012

Gooseberry & Elderflower Wine - Third Bottle (3), 10th August 2012

I opened this bottle for Book Group in preference to the half bottle of tea wine left standing in the fridge for nearly a week. We were discussing The Help by Kathryn Stockett - a story of domestic racism in 1960s Mississippi. On the whole it was a 'Hit', with Claire and I being the most reserved. It is immensely readable, rattling on at a pace, but we both felt it was writing by numbers, clearly written for book groups to discuss with the rather simple message 'Prejudice is Bad'. It is not our generation's To Kill a Mockingbird despite the back cover blurb.

Book Group was a little down on numbers, but both Richard and Jenny had half a glass each of the wine and enjoyed it. Rachel stuck resolutely to the rosé. Her loss.

Friday 10 August 2012

Orange Wine - Sixth Bottle (A6), 4th-5th August 2012

Having woken feeling delicate on Saturday morning, I had not been planning on a bottle of wine. Claire, though, drinks in more moderation whilst at Rydal and chose 'orange' as our home-coming flavour. In fact we only had a glass and a half each - we were both entirely washed out after a week of hedonism, and barely managed the mental capacity demanded by an episode of Midsomer Murders.

Sunday was better. I had the energy to unpack and spent a vast proportion of the afternoon planning things that needed to be planned for my trip to the Olympics on Wednesday and Thursday. Our evening meal was a quiche of garden vegetables - the broad beans being particularly good, and a marmalade bread & butter pudding denied to us at Rydal. The orange wine went well.

Monday 6 August 2012

Blackberry Wine - First Bottle (C4), 3rd August 2012

It has become traditional to open my first bottle of a blackberry vintage on the last night of Rydal. And what a riotous last night it turned out to be. The highlight was winning the team games with a choreographed rendition of 'Hey Barn Opener', sung to the tune of 'Hey Big Spender'. Julia can do 'sultry' which was unexpected. Of course I drank far more than was good for me, but that appears to be a tradition too. This bottle was one of the culprits. And it was fine without being spectacular. It is lighter than previous blackberries and fizzy too. I suspect it needs time to mature - time that it is unlikely to get.

Sunday 5 August 2012

Elderflower Wine - Third Bottle (B5), 1st August 2012

Wednesdays at Rydal are our free days, where there is no morning rehearsal. If the weather is good it is an opportunity to go on a long walk in the hills. Our walk today was on the shorter side of ideal. It was still worth doing though; up the Lion and Lamb from Grasmere. Then in the evening we played  Saint-Saëns' cello concerto with a hugely talented 15 year old - Eliza - as the soloist. She played with enviable skill and grace and I think is destined for great things.

As it had been a Good Day I opened this bottle of elderflower to share round the orchestra, though I drank about half. The vicar was particularly impressed, commenting on its green, open flavour. Which sounds good, even if I don't know what it means.

Saturday 4 August 2012

Hedgerow Wine - Final Bottle (6), 29th July 2012

There is something about Brahms that requires a bottle of red wine. I think it is his dark, brooding harmonies and complex rhythms. There is also something about struggling unsuccessfully to play his third symphony that requires a bottle of red wine. I think it is the sense of frustrated failure.

We are at Rydal Hall and this is the first of three bottles of homebrew that I have opened. Though I drank about half of it myself, I thrust a taster onto as many people as I could. And everyone said they thought it was good. I recognise that this was not a scientifically controlled test. It is a good bottle, though, with a complex fruit flavour and sufficient body. The fizziness is a little disconcerting, but does not take much getting used to. It is a shame, therefore, that this is the last bottle of its kind.

Thursday 2 August 2012

Crab Apple Wine - Seventh Bottle (A3), 26-27th July 2012

The first of 2012's exploders. I was sat at the computer on Wednesday night when I heard a 'pop'. Checking Claire in her bath, I ascertained that she was not the cause and ran downstairs to my bottles. I was too late - half the contents had shot out of the bottle, which is impressive going for a bottle stood upright. Refraining from sucking the carpet, I put the remainder in the fridge.

Claire saved me half of what was left for Friday night when I returned home from work at about 10:30, having put in a thirteen-and-a-half hour day. This is not an activity I would recommend. I had a baffled, vacant look that one might find on the walking dead. I drank my wine with rather more enthusiasm that I ate my evening meal.