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 30 November 2012

Rhubarb Wine - Seventh Bottle (B3), 25th November 2012

Rhubarb wine was chosen in preference to Elderflower for tonight's curry extravaganza. Claire wanted a sharp, dry white - and that describes rhubarb wine perfectly. The curries were fabulous; the main one being haddock, yoghurt and tumeric, but the subsidiaries were just as good. We had mushroom & spinach, aubergine, onion & tomato, and a spicy dall. Just wonderful.

Earlier in the day we went to Jude's to order a couple of bespoke lampshades. Claire wants something in the study that she can't pierce with her viola bow, and we need to replace the one in the bedroom which captures the light and won't let go. It is probably also full of spiders.

Tuesday 27 November 2012

Orange Wine - Ninth Bottle (B5), 23rd November 2012

Rejoice. 'The Killing' is back. My last glass of orange wine was spent reading Danish subtitles and trying to work out the beginnings of a convoluted plot. The first episode was promising, though I suspect nothing can match the original series. It was a pleasure to have the opportunity to stay in and watch telly, having had seven nights out on the trot.

Earlier in the evening I stood around the kitchen drinking orange wine, watching Claire cook and generally catching up with her. It feels like we have not done this enough recently, with one of us dashing off to be somewhere. The orange wine was a tasty addition to a pleasant evening.

Monday 26 November 2012

Crab Apple & Strawberry Wine - Third Bottle (1), 22nd November 2012

Thanksgiving this year was at Richard and Linda's, with Claire on pumpkin pie duties. Before we went over I would have volunteered to stay at home if I could. This was my seventh night in a row out (counting the Wine Party as 'out' even though it was 'in') and I had just come back from a day's seminar in Manchester on employment law. However, cancelling was out of the question and a good job too. I had a marvellous time - good company and excellent food. Jenny and my mother were the other guests, and of the six only Claire had not spent any time at an American school.

The wine was well received: Richard had been hoping that I would bring this flavour. It fizzed over the floor, but a cloth remedied that, and despite it being a little dry even my mother liked it.

Sunday 25 November 2012

Spiced Beetrot Wine - First Bottle (5), 17th November 2012

I liked this wine. Of all the bottles opened at the Wine Party, this was one of my favourites. The guests did not agree. It was awarded last place by a convincing margin. Gunnar was most damning, declaring its smell 'horrible' and writing 'WORST' in big letters. Julia was kinder, but thinks it needs a longer maturation period. In fact, she is threatening to come with a crate, kidnap several bottles and keep them in her cellar for five years. A small part of me thinks this is a good idea, but the rest does not understand the concept of delayed gratification.

Saturday 24 November 2012

Peapod Wine - Third Bottle (1), 17th November 2012

Peapod wine, despite all my predictions, got the bronze medal at the Wine Party. I had expected it to come bottom, or at least close to. However, no-one found it objectionable and, indeed, a couple of guests quite liked it. Rachel commented that it was not nearly as vegetably (if that is a word) as she had expected.

I know that I tried Peapod during the evening, but it is not one of the bottles to which I returned. 'Okay' is my highest praise. The party as a whole, though, was fab - despite my initial misgivings. I was a better host than normal, by not yawning loudly at ten and appearing in my pajamas at half-past. The party closed down at midnight and I could have gone on longer.

Friday 23 November 2012

Gooseberry & Elderflower Wine - Fifth Bottle (5), 17th November 2012

Gooseberry & Elderflower was just beaten into second place at the Wine Party by Rose Petal. There was only one point in the final score - this getting 30/42. This did not stop Rachel from describing it as "a bit aseptic", or Duncan labelling it as "sour". Jen was more positive - it was her favourite, though also the last one she tried, by which time her critical faculties will have been in shreds. Claire, I think, was most eloquent: "Neither the sweetness of gooseberry nor the cattiness of elderflower". However, praising a wine by denying its negatives is a suspect way of paying a compliment.

Wednesday 21 November 2012

Blackberry Wine - Sixth Bottle (C5), 17th November 2102

How could I possibly have a wine party without opending a bottle of blackberry? Victorious in the vote on at least one occasion, this came a surprising fourth out of seven. I think its bubble and fizz counted against it - people expect their red wines to be full-bodied and flat.

You will note that only seven bottles were opened. It was a smaller wine party than expected. From Friday afternoon to Saturday morning I had a flurry of guests e-mailing to inform me of their illness. Jude was most explicit in detailing her levels of snot. Tracey, Catherine, Angela and Jude were all struck down, and this accounted for Chris, Phil and Neil too. I did wonder whether it was something I had said, or possibly the threat of Celery wine. Which will be appearing next year.

Tuesday 20 November 2012

Strawberry Wine - Third Bottle (1), 17th November 2012

I have always opened a bottle of Strawberry for the wine party. However, this year it may have lost its position as an unmissable wine. It came fifth out of seven bottles, with only Richard saying it was his favourite, and Duncan declaring it his worst. This did not stop Rachel and Duncan taking the rest of the bottle home with them at the end of the evening.

Jen thought strawberry wine tasted insipid, but she blamed that on the blackberry, which she had just tasted. When I invited Jen, I had no idea whether she would come, or if she did, would enjoy it. I had only met her once - at a YWO concert - but I knew she made wine and read my blog, and she just struck me as 'one of us'. I was right! She fit in perfectly, brought fabulous vegetable-based cakes and dashed off in Cinderella fashion at the end to catch her train with literally seconds to spare, leaving only a clotted cream fudge tin in place of a glass slipper.

Monday 19 November 2012

Rose Petal Wine - Fourth Bottle (2), 17th November 2012

It is curious how different each bottle of Rose Petal turns out. This was rather better than the last, which is a Good Thing, as I opened it for the Wine Party.

Rose Petal was the night's winner (just) with a score of 31 out of 42, and there were many 'Turkish Delight' related comments. Richard and Julia both mentioned the smell, in a good way, with Richard saying that it tasted of a rose's scent. It was only one of two flavours to which Gunnar would give house room, and with Quince, was the only one of two bottles finished. I suspect it is no coincidence that Quince was Gunnar's other favourite.

Sunday 18 November 2012

Quince Wine - Second Bottle (5), 17th November 2012

Quince Wine was one of 'Must Open' bottles for the Wine Party, and it proved to be the most controversial of the evening. Duncan took one sip and declared 'Kettle Descaler', whereas both Gunnar and Julia raved about it. Gunnar awarded it 'Anro Prêît' (or possibly 'Anro Prt') which presumably means something in Estonian. It was only one of two bottles finished, even though it got the most 'worst wine served' votes and came sixth (out of seven) in the overall stakes. I overheard people talking about its perfume, and those who didn't like it added sugar water, agreeing this improved it. However, Richard opinioned that this only made it reach 'a bit non-descript'.

Thursday 15 November 2012

Citrus Wine - 11th Bottle (B3), 14th-15th November 2012

I have decided that Citrus Wine will not appear at this year's wine party, so chose it as our mid-week bottle this week.

Wednesday had its traumatic moments. I went to John's funeral in Wakefield. I saw him last almost exactly a year ago at my book launch. It is always hard to imagine that a person you knew no longer exists; moreso because he was my age. It was an emotional occasion and the crematorium was standing room only. He was a lovely man. Still, life continues because it must, and whilst futures may change, the past is caught and remains for us to take out of the drawer from time to time. I will think of John, pour myself another glass of wine, and will remember him again, often, throughout my own life.

Tuesday 13 November 2012

Elderberry Wine - 17th Bottle (A1), 10th November 2012

We are in York to celebrate Rachael's 40th. My little sister. She can't possibly be forty already? Doesn't she wear her hair in bunches and go to ballet lessons?

I hadn't seen her since February so haven't really had a chance to talk properly about her pregnancy. She is taking a refreshingly down-to-earth attitude. Pleased - yes (she thinks) but also very practical. I also met Paul, who I really like. He copes well with the amassed Hardys - and I suspect when gathered we can be quite intimidating.

I brought elderberry wine with me as it seemed right for the occasion: a solid, dependable and sweet red. Rachael had a sip to check and then decided that a glass could be her week's unit. I am honoured.

Saturday 10 November 2012

Ginger Wine - The Making Of ...

It has been a long time since I made ginger wine - at least eight years. On that occasion a large solid lump formed in the liquid, looking like a diseased organ stored in formaldehyde. I hope I shall have more success this time.
The raw ingredients

Last time I remember bananas being in the recipe, but I could not find this in any of my books. Those books all require such a pathetically small amount of ginger - 1 oz in the case of C J J Berry, and a quarter of this from Brian Leverett - that I ignored these recipes entirely. Instead I found instructions on the Guardian website, which was bold in the amount of ginger - five inches worth. In fact, I have shied away from that much and probably used three inches instead. Skinned, this weighs 2½ ounces. I am also concerned about the number of lemons. Four strikes me as too many, but that is what I have used.

So, on Sunday 4th November I skinned the ginger and sliced it as finely as I could. I grated the zest off the lemons and minced one pound of sultanas. The Guardian recipe asks for raisins, but I didn't have any of those in the cupboard. All of this went into my bucket and I have covered it with 3½ pints of boiling water. Again I am going to deviate from the given instructions. I am meant to leave this for 24 hours before doing anything else, but I need to put it into its demijohn on Friday night, and leaving this till Monday will be too late. I have boiled another 3½ pints of water and added the juice from all four lemons and 3 lbs sugar into the pan in which I have boiled the water. This will stand around and cool until I return from Julia's tonight, at which point I shall pour that into the bucket and add the yeast and a teaspoon of nutrient.
The processed ingredients
I put the liquid into its demijohn on Friday night, 9th November, and this was rapid work. Which was lucky, as I did my wine making tasks (including bottling the Rhubarb) before eating, and by the time I had finished I was ready for my steamed trout, plum sauce and noodles.

The wine has been smelling fabulous every day I have stirred it, and the small taste I got at this stage was promising.


If you want to read how the first bottle turned out (and it was good!) click here

Friday 9 November 2012

Crab Apple - Twelfth Bottle (C2), 6th-8th November 2012

This has been a classic mid-week bottle of wine: started on a Tuesday, finished on a Thursday, with Wednesday in between. Claire has spent her time playing the viola; I have wasted mine doodling on the computer. Wednesday evening was good, though. At WYSO we played through the first movement of Beethoven's violin concerto. This is the best of all violin concertos, despite some stiff competition, and has a fantastic bassoon part.

We are back rehearsing in Wakefield as the West Park Centre has been condemned for its dodgy electrics. WYSO appears cursed to wander the streets of West Yorkshire - we are a homeless orchestra who keeps on getting evicted from wherever we settle. Maybe its the noise we make. The answer does not appear to be at the bottom of a glass of crab apple wine, however tasty that might be.

Thursday 8 November 2012

Tea Wine - Fifth Bottle (4), 31st October - 6th November 2012

Tea wine seems to be one of those bottles that is not finished with any haste. This took a week to drink. That suggests some reluctance on the part of the drinkers. It was an eventful bottle, however. On its first night I went to play wind quintets in a house where the resident 16 year old was having a Halloween party. All I can say is that there was some competition for noisiest grouping, and having a trainee paramedic playing French Horn proved to be a Good Thing.

The next night's glass was drunk after a long drive, before which we had been celebrating Ellis's second birthday. He is a charming toddler and never walks but runs, in the way two year olds do.

The rest of the bottle was unexceptional.

Sunday 4 November 2012

Gooseberry Wine - Fourth Bottle (1), 3rd November 2012

I shall not sleep well tonight, despite the bottle of gooseberry wine. Outside is a cacophony of whistles and explosions as fireworks detonate two days early. Based on previous years, this is likely to continue until past midnight. I am a miserable old bugger.

Today has mostly been good, though, with much of it taken up in Bingley collecting my bassoon from its annual service. The evening meal was fabulous, and called for the sharp, crisp flavours of gooseberry wine. Claire cooked a fish pie that was so hot it caused me to spit my first two mouthfuls onto the plate - the second time with gagging sound effects. It took me some time to convince her that I actually was enjoying her food.

Saturday 3 November 2012

Christmas Tutti Fruti - Tenth Bottle (B5), 28th October 2012

Our Sunday roast was courtesy of me, for the second time this month - and the third time since Claire and I met. This time I branched away from chicken and did a roast gammon. The pleasing aspect, other than the taste of course, was that I managed the whole meal - timings and everything - without transforming into a pillar of stress and grumpiness. Three cheers for me. Christmas Tutti Fruti is a bottle for celebration and special occasions, and this (just) qualifies.

The day as a whole has been a good one, if unexciting. I have written an article for January's Home Farmer, picked sloes for the 2012 version of this wine, arsed about on the computer and generally treated the day as a Sunday. I am now sleepy, however, and I still have tomorrow's sandwiches to make.

Thursday 1 November 2012

Elderflower Wine - Fifth Bottle (A1), 27th October 2012

Hurrah! Our old fridge-freezer has been taken away. We can walk from one end of the kitchen to the other again. We can even open all our cupboards and drawers. A bottle of something chilled was in order, and elderflower wine is a quality white.

It may have been the pre-prandial gin, of course, but by the end of the bottle I was more befuddled than usual. I could barely keep my eyes open for the Midsomer Murders  episode we were watching (insert punchline here).

Re-reading this, I can see I have the very opposite of a rock and roll lifestyle. On a Saturday night, my life is dominated by kitchen appliances and cosy middle class murder dramas. If the cap fits ...