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.

Wednesday 31 October 2012

Citrus Wine - Tenth Bottle (B6), 25th-26th October 2012

When Claire asked which bottle she could open on Thursday night I offered either Dandelion or Tea. Both were met with contempt and so Citrus it was. This was actually a stronger taste than I was in the mood for on either Thursday or Friday. There is nothing subtle about citrus wine: it stomps on your palate with steel capped boots, and it is lucky that it is a flavour I generally enjoy.

My Friday night's ration was drunk to a Thai prawn curry where Claire put in two chillis and it still was not hot enough. I then spent the rest of the evening bottling last year's Tutti Fruti - meaning an extra glass of wine (hurrah) and putting my Crab Apple & Strawberry into its demijohn. So yet another evening dominated by wine.

Monday 29 October 2012

Rhubarb Wine - Sixth Bottle (B5?), 22nd-24th October 2012

I spent much of the time this bottle was open feeling vaguely cross. For a start I had planned to take a bottle of rhubarb wine into work on Friday to celebrate our office move, but Claire opening this whilst I was at Orchestra meant I needed to consider an alternate flavour. Rhubarb is particularly good for celebration - it is the closest thing to champagne that I produce, with a wonderful pink colour. Then on Wednesday it was the office move, which mostly involved moving boxes, feeling unsettled and failing to print documents. To top it all I played badly at WYSO - I was out of tune and my tone was rough. So not a happy bottle of wine, despite actually being rather good.

Sunday 28 October 2012

Blackberry Wine - Fifth Bottle (B2), 21st October 2012

We were meant to have Christmas Tutti Fruti tonight, but Claire spent ten minutes searching for it and this was the closest she got. I was out all afternoon and more of the evening than was ideal playing with the Yorkshire Wind Orchestra. The main piece was Pictures at an Exhibition (minus The Gnome, which was a relief) but there was other stuff besides. It was all a test of my sight-reading and by the end I was in need of a bottle of wine. It was all I could do to avoid looking at my watch during the concert.

When I got home, Claire handed me a glass immediately, and then fed me a meat and potato pie. Neither touched the sides. The wine is excellent and slips down very nicely. What a pity I have to go to work tomorrow.

Saturday 27 October 2012

Crab Apple & Strawberry Wine - The Making Of ...

4 lbs of crab apples in a bowl

Since cracking open a bottle of last year's crab apple & strawberry in early July, this flavour has been on the list of wines to make this October. I have kept a pound of strawberries in the freezer for that purpose and I removed them last night, 20th October, to defrost. Some of the afternoon was spent plucking crab apples from our tree in the sunshine. It is a hard life.

This morning, after making bread and a vegetarian chilli for later in the week, I started the wine. There has been rather more negotiation of kitchen space than ideal. We have finally had the new fridge freezer that failed to work towed away. However, a new one (from a different retailer) arrived this morning, which means that we still have the old one sitting in the middle of the kitchen, its flex creating an entirely successful tripping hazard. With any luck, the new one will work this time (is that too much to ask?) and we can get rid of the old.

Anyway, I washed 4 lb of crab apples and blitzed them through the food processor. I added the pound of strawberries (which were looking less than pristine) and mashed them. This was covered in three pounds of sugar and I have poured over six and a half pints of boiling water, giving it all an enthusiastic stir. By the time I had returned from playing in a Yorkshire Wind Orchestra concert on Sunday evening (main piece: Pictures at an Exhibition) the wine had cooled sufficiently to add the yeast and a teaspoon each of pectolase, nutrient and citric acid.

The fruit in its bucket
I put the liquid into its demijohn on Friday evening, 26th October. As with crab apple, I started by scooping out the fruit with a plastic collander, which speeds things up no end. The amount of liquid I added was right. However, I should have left a gap in the demijohn. It is currently sat in the bath with red foam trickling down the plug hole doing its best impression of Janet Leigh in Psycho.
Janet Leigh

Oh - if you want to have a look at a fabulous website that deals with how to make wine, as well as beer, and has plenty of gardening tips, I can thoroughly recommend Two Thirsty Gardeners, which you can see if you click here. They have just done an interview with me, but this is not the only reason I am recommending them. Have a trawl through their archive, but don't leave me, never to return!


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

Thursday 25 October 2012

Redcurrant Wine - Third Bottle (3), 20th October 2012

Our Saturday night bottle has been downed after Music Club and consequently my cheeks are feeling numb. This was the night that Theresa, Donald and I performed eight trios, each from a consecutive century, starting with the thirteenth. A bottle of redcurrant wine was neither celebration nor commiseration. I came away feeling a bit cross but with no other emotion. Donald was clearly nervous and his timing was suspect in many of the pieces - dropping a whole bar in one. But only the Vitali was a disaster, and three or four of the eight were fine. Good, even. Which is also an adequate description of the wine. It is a perfectably acceptable rosé with sharp flavours, and we drank it whilst wathcing the final of The Great British Bake Off, which I found surprisingly emotional.

Sunday 21 October 2012

Crab Apple Wine - 11th Bottle (B1), 18th-19th October 2012

Much of this bottle has been consumed whilst reading Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal, Jeannette Winterson's memoir. This is our next Book Group book and I think in ten years is only our second autobiography (if one ignores the biography-themed party). It is a strange, passionate book and I hear the author's Lancastrian voice speaking the words as I read. So far it is absorbing, sad and funny. I suspect that as the adoption story comes more to the fore I shall start to find it an emotional wrench.

Tonight's wine as drunk after coming back from Pat and Peter's, and our final rehearsal for tomorrow's slot at Music Club. We are playing eight short pieces, each from a different century, and the early ones have a bare, alien sound. I suspect we will leave the audience looking baffled, unsure when or whether to applaud.

Saturday 20 October 2012

Elderberry Wine - Second Bottle (A4), 14th October 2012

Claire and I are very bad at being with the zeitgeist. We discovered The League of Gentlemen about four years after everyone else, and I have only now started listening to Chumbawamba after they announced their disbandment. Therefore it is no surprise that weeks after the nation as a whole has been talking about it, we are catching up with The Great British Bakeoff, and that is how we spent most of this bottle.

It is a lovely programme - full of real people doing things well and being nice to each other. And it is heartbreaking when a contestant does not make it through to the next round. A talent show with a soul - and based around cake. What more could I want? Well, elderberry wine possibly. I think I have rarely made a better batch than this. It is drier than previous versions and I wouldn't want it any more so. But it has an overall roundness, which is pleasing.

Tuesday 16 October 2012

Orange Wine - Eighth Bottle (A5), 11-12th October 2012

Finishing the orange wine tonight was not the best of ideas. There was two-thirds of a bottle left and we had already drunk a bottle of champagne. Consequently I am currently feeling woozy. And woozy is a fabulous word.

The champagne was a gift from Darren for basically doing my job. He is an excellent boss. But a bottle of bubbly was not quite enough for a Friday night and somehow we have polished off the orange wine. Damn.

I started the bottle with a phone call providing legal advice to Paul - Bridget's husband (as opposed to the Canadian version) - about leasehold law. Alcohol and legal advice is a winning combination. Having only had once glass though, I think what I said was mostly accurate. Good job he didn't ring tonight.

Sunday 14 October 2012

Blackberry Wine - Fourth Bottle (C3), 6-9th October 2012

My blackberry wine has started exploding. With any luck, this will be both the first and last bottle to pop its cork. Watch this space. I was on the phone to a nice lady who is to collect our old fridge-freezer (when the new one starts working) (and that is a tale in itself) when I heard a bang. I explained as best I could whilst Claire ran for the bottle. We only lost half a glass.

Most of the contents were drunk after Music Club - and it was a good night. Barbara and Dawn sang duets by an obscure composer named Abt. One would have thought he could have afforded a few more letters in his surname. We also had a horn, clarinet and piano trio by an obscure composer not named Abt. Though I sometimes complain about Leeds Music Club, the variety of little known music makes it all worthwhile.

Saturday 13 October 2012

Crab Apple Wine 2012 - The Making Of ...

Our crab apples in the sunshine
Everyone has been complaining about how dreadful this year has been for fruit from trees. Apparently you can't get a plum for love nor money and Julia tells me her apple crop is pathetic. However, the crab apple tree in our back garden is as bountiful as ever. Small red apples are dripping off its branches in pleasing clusters. Picking twelve pounds for a triple batch of crab apple wine took little time, even though I tried to be selective in my fruit selection - making a real effort to go for the shiniest, reddest ones. Some of these, of course, had been invaded by grubs and I thought it best to leave those. On the whole insect larvae in wine is not the greatest of flavours.

I picked the apples on Saturday afternoon, 6th October and did the first proper stage of the wine on Sunday 7th October. This involved washing the apples - more accurately leaving them in a basin of water until I needed them - and then whizzing them through the 'slice' attachment on the food processor. I put them in the bucket and added 8 lbs 10 oz sugar - it was meant to be 9 lbs but I ran out - and 3 lbs of minced sultanas. Again I used the food processor for mincing. It is one of the more useful kitchen gadgets. I poured over 21 pints of boiling water and left it over night, adding the yeast and two teaspoons each of nutrient, pectolase and citric acid the next morning.

The bucket is one of the many items in the kitchen causing obstruction. Another is our fridge-freezer. This has been replaced by a shiny new larger one. Except the new one doesn't work and is actually an electric cupboard. I think it gets replaced tomorrow.

It didn't. Eight days on from having the new fridge delivered, we still have two fridge shaped objects in our kitchen. One day I will look back on this and laugh.

On Saturday 13th October I put the liquid into its three demijohns. My first task was removing the apple bits floating at the top. I did this by dredging the surface with a plastic collander. It was an effective method and cut down the time I usually spend at this point in making crab apple wine. Once the apple numbers were manageable I employed the usual technique of dipping and filling my plastic jug and pouring the contents through a nylon sieve and funnel into the demijohn.

I probably could have used another pint of water in the initial stages. However, the wine is currently a pleasing pink and fermenting aggressively.

Thursday 11 October 2012

Quince Wine - First Bottle (4), 7th October 2012

Now, before I start typing up my diary for the first bottle of Quince Wine, I should draw your attention to how to make it. If you click here, you will be taken to my instructions. The reason for this introduction is twofold:

1.  My page on 'Quince Wine - The Making Of ...' is by far my most popular blog post since I started, with only Rose Petal and Crab Apple being anywhere near.

2.  If you google 'Quince Wine' (and I have just this second tried this) currently I am the number one result. Which makes me feel quite giddy. I don't want this post to knock the 'Making Of' post off the top.

Anyway, here were my first impressions ...

There were many positive things about this wine. It certainly has the floral quince flavour that one might expect. It is clear and light and is an attractive colour. The walloping 'But' is that it is far too dry. To make it drinkable I have had to add a teaspoon of sugar syrup. And that makes it actively nice.

We have drunk the bottle to a Sunday roast dinner of chicken and the usual gubbins. What has made the meal remarkable is that I cooked it. Claire provided close instructions and gave me moral support, but otherwise it was my own doing. And because I am a man I shall probably go on about it endlessly.

Tuesday 9 October 2012

Crab Apple Wine - Tenth Bottle (C1), 26th September - 3rd October 2012

I think this bottle was opened on Wednesday last week after WYSO, but possibly on Thursday. It was so long ago that I can barely remember. Certainly it was finished on Wednesday this week - again after WYSO whilst I was getting to grips with a stack of washing up. It became one of the many things mouldering away in the fridge. One item in an inventory that included the remnants of a bean-lash (over a week old) and a bowl of blue cheese soup (getting on for a month). There has been an amnesty - of that trio only the wine was consumed. We are disgusting.

Monday 8 October 2012

Elderberry Wine 2012 - The Making Of ...

As with blackberry wine, my elderberry is a fortnight later than usual. This is partly down to general busy-ness but also because the fruit is later this year. I was concerned that I might have left it too late, but there is at least another fortnight of elderberries on the trees.

Claire and I went on our usual (shortened) Hetchel Wood walk on Saturday afternoon, 29th September, with a variety of plastic bags. As well as elderberries we were on the look out for sloes and brambles to use in gin and crumble respectively. It was a pleasant amble in mostly sunny weather - there is something entirely pleasing about autumn afternoon sunlight cascading through a forest.

We picked most of our elderberries in the regular field, thought continued foraging down the length of Kennel Lane. Once I got my eye in, elder trees were easy to spot, even when they did not bear any fruit.

Between us we gathered one full plastic bag and one two-thirds full. I was confident that this would be sufficient for a double batch. At home I started stripping the elderberries at 4:25 pm and did not finish until 7:10. It is a tedious task made bearable by Radio 4. I have found stripping the berries into sandwich bags aids their weighing.

The elderberries in their bucket, in the dark.
 I left the berries over night, and completed the process on Sunday evening. Between us we picked 6 lbs 1 oz, which was more efficient than expected. I crushed these in the bucket and poured over 5 lbs of sugar and thirteen pints of boiling water, which proved to be at least a pint too much. The yeast and one teaspoon each of pectolase and nutrient went in on Monday morning. I gave the bucket its twice daily stir and should probably have put the liquid into its demijohns on Thursday. However, I was out both that night and Friday (and in fact every evening this week - I'm exhausted), so did this on Saturday afternoon. It was a fast process and the wine is now bubbling in a half-hearted manner.


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

Sunday 7 October 2012

Crab Apple & Blackcurrant Wine - First Bottle (3), 30th September-2nd October 2012

Claire made an oxtail stew on Sunday. It was her first time with this cut of meat and it resulted in a superb gravy with lots of bone. The only possible colour of wine to accompany the meal was red, so I opened our first bottle of Crab Apple & Blackcurrant. In terms of the food, a heavier red would have been better - probably elderberry. However, on its own terms, this is a great wine. It is light and fruity and extremely drinkable. That said, we did not finish the bottle - a task left to Claire for Tuesday night. I went to the Dogs in Sheffield as a work night out (total loss - about £6) and got back near midnight to find the bottle empty.

Saturday 6 October 2012

Gooseberry & Elderflower - Fourth Bottle (1), 29th September 2012

We have finished September's wine ration and are now taking an advance on October. Our meal started with globe artichokes and lemon butter, followed by plaice, new potatoes and vegetables in a sorrel sauce, and I gave Claire a free choice at the wine.

Gooseberry & Elderflower is always a winner, and went particularly well with the meal - its sharpness complemented all the flavours.

We spent the rest of the evening waiting for Doctor Who to be available on i-player, and then watching it when it finally arrived. I had been worried about the episode, it being the Pond's last one, but it was terrific. Well written, scary in places and with the best exit for Companions ever. I cried and Claire called me soppy.

Monday 1 October 2012

Christmas Tutti Fruti - Ninth Bottle (B1), 28th September 2012

I have just Skyped. This is my first time ever and shows that I can do the twenty-first century if I really put my mind to it. I have bought a new laptop at great expense, having got entirely fed up with the 2005 model taking whole eras to boot up, freezing at inopportune moments and stuttering badly on i-player. This one has a built in webcam and microphone, and I have just talked to Paul and family in Canada. Science fiction suggested this in my childhood and now it is real life. Oh Brave New World.

It being a Friday night I am, of course, more than half a bottle down, and as usual, this Christmas Tutti Fruti is fabulous. Complex in taste and just the thing for new experiences.

Me and my new web cam