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 29 September 2012

Elderberry Wine - 16th Bottle (A6), 22nd September 2012

We drank this bottle at Sooz's mostly waiting for Doctor Who. Bob and Judith were at a university reunion, meaning we had to make alternate plans. Knowing that Sooz is a Doctor Who fan and has recently acquired a telly, I suggested that we spend Saturday night with her. Also, an evening in my sister-in-law's company is always entertaining.

The bottle of elderberry wine lasted a couple of hours, which between three of us is not bad going - through pasta and tomato slop (Sooz's description, not mine - and very tasty) and Doctor Who, which was an entertaining episode far too neatly tied up through baffling plot. I dread next week's episode, when the Ponds leave. All indications are that one or both will die, and I am still traumatised by Adric's exit in 1982.

Thursday 27 September 2012

Peapod Wine - Second Bottle (6), 21st September 2012

"Like an episode of Friends," Sooz countered when I described this as sweet and bland. Bob detected a minor seventh in its taste and said there was just a hint of vegetable. Everyone else seemed to enjoy it more than I, with Diane and Richard being very complimentary ("There's no taste of chemicals"). I brought peapod wine with me as a brand new flavour rather than one that was particularly good.

Earlier in the day Claire, Judith and I went to Seaton Delaval Hall, a Georgian mansion house in near ruin, now owned by the National Trust and complete with a Norman chapel. It was a surprising place with a skeleton of a main hall and a furnished living wing, full of aged volunteers desperate to tell the building's tales.

Wednesday 26 September 2012

Rose Petal Wine - Third Bottle (4), 20th September 2012

We are at 3 The Alders, towards the end of a week's holiday. I brought this bottle with me as a New Flavour and Bob &  Judith were more impressed than I. They praised its taste and colour whereas I would only agree with them on the latter. It was an indifferent pink wine - but then I see that I thought the previous bottle was good. A puzzle.

Other than travelling to Newcastle, I spent most the day reading The Stranger's Child by Alan Hollinghurst, which is compulsive. It is one of those books where I have to slow down for fear of gobbling it up too soon and missing something vital. Beautifully written, cleverly structured and a ton of plot. Who could ask for anything more?

Tuesday 25 September 2012

Blackberry Wine 2012 - The Making Of ...

I have been worrying about this wine for the last few weeks. Most years I pick my blackberries on the August bank holiday weekend. This year, however, my parents were away in Shropshire then and the blackberries around Leeds had yet to ripen. The following two weekends were entirely taken up with the Northern Wagner Orchestra, which meant I had to do my foraging on 16th September. It has been over a decade since I left blackberry wine this late and I kept on hearing dire reports about the brambles being thin on the ground and over-picked at the cemetery.

I went to York Victorian Cemetery on Sunday morning with Claire, Rachel and Duncan, fearing the worst. It was quickly apparent that - as is usual - my worries were foundless. There were large blackberries hanging over the main path from the chapel within easy reach. Claire says that she can't remember a year where I have not worried. Rachel suggested that we stay together but then immediately wandered off.

Picking was a little slower than in past years, and I did rather more clambering on top of gravestones and stretching to pick those tantalising perfect specimens I usually ignore for something within easier reach. My best graves were Frances Craven, Jeremiah Riley, Dora Wil- (there was too much ivy on her gravestone to determine her name properly) and John & Bessie Carr. Claire made a note of Mary Somerset and William W Wilberforce. She thinks she picked from Thomas Douthwaite, but he was hidden by vegetation this year.

Between the four of us we picked 15 pounds of blackberries. Claire won with 4 lbs 13 oz. I came second with 3 lbs 15 oz and Duncan and Rachel got the rest shared equally between them. Though I should really have 16 lbs for a quadruple batch, I have decided to make 24 bottles anyway.
Blackberries before crushing
I did not wash the fruit, partly through laziness and partly because it was too ripe. I crushed it in the bucket, added 10 lbs of sugar and 20 pints of boiling water. The yeast and two teaspoons each of nutrient and pectolase went in on Monday morning, and then I left it virtually untouched for a week as we went to Lincolnshire and then Newcastle and saw many splendid things.
Fermenting crushed blackberries
Sieving out the blackberries on Sunday afternoon, 23rd September, took over an hour but I entertained myself with Radio 4 comedy. None of the four demijohns are full, so I could have added probably another two pints of water.
This will be 24 bottles of wine - eventually

If you want to see how this wine turned out, click here

Sunday 23 September 2012

Blackberry Wine - Third Bottle (B3), 15th September 2012

I took this bottle to York with me as the 'overflow' bottle should I run out of wine at the Local Authors' event at York Victorian Cemetery. It remained unopened there, and I thought I might get it home to drink at a later date. However, the white wine Pop had bought for the evening to go with the trout was horrid. Far worse than the stuff I normally produce. There was no other white in the house and real red doesn't sit well with Claire, so we opened this (and finished it too). It is a fine batch of blackberry wine, and I think even better than last year's - though lighter. I had the opportunity for a near-direct comparison, having had the last bottle of Blackberry 2010 earlier in the day.

Friday 21 September 2012

Elderflower Wine - Fourth Bottle (B3), 15th September 2012

This bottle was my example of 'White Wine' for the York author's event held at the Victorian Cemetery Chapel. I opened it after I had finished speaking and served it outside to avoid any spillage on the brand new marble floor.

Angie Stabler-as-was came to the event with her mother-in-law, which was wonderful. Having been at sixth form with her and then lost contact for 24 years (eek!) it was just a joy to see her again. She enjoyed this wine too, which was more than one woman did. After one sip this woman, who I did not know, said "No, I don't like that," and then we had a long and intense conversation about aging and death. I finished her glass for her, not wanting to see the wine go to waste.

Wednesday 19 September 2012

Blackberry Wine - Final Bottle (B6), 15th September 2012

I see that the first bottle of this batch was given away to promote The Book. We have come full circle. This bottle was drunk at York Victorian Cemetery as part of a 'Local Authors' Festival', where I was one of the guest speakers. It was an entertaining affair, with two crime writers, a Gervaise Finn-alike and a couple of memoirists - one of whom was extremely intellectual. More importantly, there was stacks of cake.

I enjoyed my slot, though I spoke for less time than anyone - about 20 minutes. Expecting to be nervous, I opened the bottle half an hour before hand and had a couple of slugs of Dutch Courage. It was not a precaution that I needed - I was not nervous and (what a surprise) enjoyed being centre of attention. I shared the bottle outside the chapel and everyone who tried it made appreciative noises.

Monday 17 September 2012

Orange Wine - Seventh Bottle (B4), 12th-14th September 2012

This bottle started life as a post-WYSO bottle and ended as a pre-Book Group aperitif. In between was Thursday. It was one of those days were I came away from work with my head full of noise. I can never switch off my internal monologue, and on days where I have many things to do, all at once, it gets louder. Thursday was such a day, and to cleanse the sound I spent the evening playing trios with Pat and Peter. That is an entirely different quality of noise. A glass of orange wine before bed helped reduce it further.

Saturday 15 September 2012

Elderberry Wine - First Bottle (B6), 9th September 2012

On Sunday night all I really wanted to do was sit quietly and not have to concentrate. Claire and I had spent the day - and in fact the weekend - playing Der Rosenkavalier with the Northern Wagner Orchestra. It is difficult and demanding music, and Sunday was the full run through. By the end of the first act my brain hurt and there was still another two hours to go. Therefore, coming home to the first bottle of a new batch of elderberry wine was just the thing. We drank it with a pork chilli and Mexican beans with guacamole, assembled by Claire. The wine is excellent - and for once does not feel too young, though I am sure aging will only make it better.

Tuesday 11 September 2012

Gooseberry Wine - Third Bottle (2), 8th September 2012

We spent the whole of Saturday rehearsing Acts 2 & 3 of Der Rosenkavalier. This requires an enormous amount of concentration and a bottle of wine to recover. Renate is staying over, so we began with gins in the garden. The weather is about the best it has been this year, and chatting outside, inspecting the brassicas and sipping gin & tonic was just lovely.

Once the gooseberry wine was open it was time to go indoors, and we drank it to honey & lemon roasted chicken with a side order of garden vegetables. The courgettes have reached marrow status and I predict they will be a feature of the coming week.

This is a fine batch of gooseberry wine - sharp, distinctive and mostly unmusty.

Sunday 9 September 2012

Strawberry Wine - Second Bottle (5), 7th September 2012

This bottle hardly touched the sides. Renate, Claire and I returned from the Friday evening rehearsal of Der Rosenkavalier, opened the strawberry wine and about 45 minutes later it had disappeared. It was late though, so I like to look on it as "Being efficient".

Northern Wagner Opera went so much better for me than it had on Sunday. I pretended to like the third bassoonist and it worked. Rather than spending the time in bitter resentment, I concentrated on the music.

Forgiveness is liberating - dammit. I had worked hard on maintaining that grudge and now it has gone. Which is annoying.

Incidentally, the strawberry wine was fabulous and Renate said she felt honoured. And of course, she was.

Saturday 8 September 2012

Rhubarb Wine - Fifth Bottle (B4), 5th-6th September 2012

I love the beginning of September. There are hints of autumn but the weather is warm, and I associate it with new beginnings. Not that I am starting anything new - unless once counts opening a bottle of rhubarb wine, which is hardly an extraordinary experience. But WYSO has started after the summer break and we celebrated afterwards with this bottle (during which I mostly made sandwiches). This term we are playing Beethoven 8 and Mozart 40 - both substantial pieces if a little dull for second bassoon.

The wine was as fizzy, dry and slightly pink as ever.

Tuesday 4 September 2012

Blackberry Wine - Second Bottle (A3), 2nd September 2012

On paper, today should have been excellent, and many parts of it were. It was this year's first rehearsal for the Northern Wagner Orchestra - where we are doing Der Rosenkavalier, and then we had pizza, Delia's citrus pudding and the first episode of a new season of Doctor Who. What could possibly go wrong? The third bassoonist. I find it impossible to forgive him. This is the man who sacked me from his bassoon group several years ago. But I can play the instrument. Really quite well. So once he turned up (several hours late) I became tense and unhappy and ignored him as best I could.

A bottle of blackberry wine has helped matters - it is rather better than the last - as has the citrus pudding, the pizza and Doctor Who. It is good to have him back.

Sunday 2 September 2012

Redcurrant Wine - Second Bottle (4), 30th-31st August 2012

I encouraged Claire to open this bottle whilst I was out playing trios with Pat and Peter. On my return home she reported that it was 'very nice'. Evidently. Half the bottle had gone.

We made short work of the remainder on Friday night - preceded by gins and tonics and followed by one of Sooz's flavoured vodka concoctions. It was not necessary to open another bottle. But the whole purpose of Friday night is to reflect on the week just gone in soft focus.

This batch of redcurrant is a transformation from the last. It has a sharp 'cherry lips' flavour that is both unusual and contains depth. Next time I shall ensure that I am around for the entire bottle.