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.

Tuesday 31 December 2013

Rhubarb & Elderflower Wine - Fourth Bottle (5), 24th-25th December 2013

Most of this bottle was had on a glorious, drunken Christmas Eve. We are in York and on Tuesday night so was Chris. This made for an entertaining, noisy evening full of debate, food, wine and whisky. Perhaps too much of the last. I woke on Christmas morning with a throbbing head. A couple of paracetamol, lots of water and an aborted attempt at walking round York City Walls settled that.

Pop and I finished the bottle late on Christmas afternoon as a tidying up exercise before the meal. The wine was less good that I remember, but entirely passable. It is one of those that gets better the more you drink. Funny that.

The Walls were closed on Christmas Day

Monday 30 December 2013

Blackberry Wine - Eighth Bottle (D1), 24th December 2013

It has been a splendid Christmas Eve. The first part of the day was spent making sure a house sale went through at work. It was touch and go but was ultimately a success. This alone is worthy of celebration.

From late afternoon we have been in York and it has been just lovely spending time with Mom, Pop and Chris. We have chatted about the important and trivial, sat round the dinner table together and have been a family. I have also foisted a bottle of blackberry on everyone and it has been enjoyed. Amongst other drinks. Hic.

A Stonebridge Homes Estate

Saturday 28 December 2013

Crab Apple Wine - Tenth Bottle (C5), 21st-22nd December 2013

Until Christmas our diet will largely consist of vegetable curries. Something plain yet tasty. On Saturday night it was biryani and something made from chickpeas and red lentils. Both were fabulous. Then on Sunday it was a mung bean and brown lentil stew, with a tomato, potato and coconut curry. Delicious.

The crab apple wine accompanied the first and was finished by the second. Claire wanted something not particularly special so that its flavours would not impair or be impaired by the food. Crab apple fitted the bill perfectly.

Where most Claire's curry recipes come from

Friday 27 December 2013

Christmas Tutti Fruti 2013 - The Making Of ...

It is the Sunday before Christmas, 22nd December, and we have lots of travelling ahead of us. Making the Christmas Tutti Fruti today is the best fit with our plans, which involve York, Cambridge and York again.

Scary Gruffalo Slippers
I started wine making at around eleven this morning after returning from our pre-Christmas shop. This was not nearly as ghastly as feared and the highlight was overhearing a young father returning a pair of Gruffalo slippers because his two year old was scared of them. My first job was to clear the freezer of its fruit, to fanfares and celebration from Claire.

Fruits of the Freezer
This year we have 14 different ingredients in 8 lb 13 oz fruit. Running from most to least: blackcurrants (1 lb 12 oz), blackberries (1 lb 1¾ oz), red gooseberries (same), sloes (13½ oz), crab apples (13 oz), rhubarb (same), damsons of three different varieties (12½ oz), elderberries (10 oz), rose petals (4 oz), redcurrants (3¾ oz), blueberries (3½ oz), a clementine - no satsuma this year and this was the closest (2½ oz), green gooseberries (1 oz) and wild strawberries (¾ oz).

Fruit in the bucket whilst frozen
It was all in the bucket by noon and was well on the way to defrosting by half-five, at which point I put in a pint of boiling water to help. I then gave it a good mash, added 6 lbs sugar and poured over a further 11 pints of boiling water. I added the yeast and one teaspoon of pectolase and nutrient on Monday morning, gave it all a stir and then pretty much left it alone while Claire and I went to York for a rowdy and enjoyable Christmas.

Fruit in the bucket whilst not frozen
On Thursday, Boxing Day, I put this into its demijohns. The first stage was dipping a plastic collander into the bucket to fish out the fruit at the top. I did this a few times, each time pressing the fruit with a wooden spoon to extract as much liquid as possible. Then I did the usual jug-sieve-funnel thing, making my right arm ache in the process. I left a gap at the top of each demijohn in case of enthusiastic fermentation keeping back a bottle full of the incipient wine for topping up purposes. In fact, this gap was not needed, and I have poured what I kept back into the demijohns, leaving only a small gap between wine and neck.

The wine in its demijohns
If you want to see how this wine turned out, click here

Thursday 26 December 2013

Exotic Tinned Fruit - Seventh Bottle (A5), 18th-20th December 2013

We are in the last fortnight of the year and this means dark nights, hard work and too much alcohol. I am struggling at work to hit my targets - it will only be just a fail, but a fail nonetheless - and consequently am both busy and grumpy. Therefore, I drank a good deal of this bottle on Wednesday while rewatching Sherlock on i-player. We finished it off on Friday and I made up the alcohol gaps with a few stiff G & Ts. Friday night was nice, though, sat in front of the fire catching up with Claire and our respective weeks, listening to David Sedaris and eating a bring-round curry.

The wine was fine - maybe a little chemically with an aftertaste of bland - but it fulfilled its function.

Tuesday 24 December 2013

Prune & Parsnip Wine - Final Bottle (A3), 13th-17th December 2013

Claire chose this bottle of wine as something to drink whilst I was at my Work Christmas Party. This was held at 'The Pit', a subterranean bar down a side street full of loud music and young people. Not really my scene then - a bottle of prune & parsnip may have been preferable. In fact, it was more fun than I had feared and I left after only having a little more booze than was sensible.

I managed a glass of prune & parsnip on Monday night after a particularly disasterous Airedale rehearsal, whilst addressing Christmas cards. That particular chore is done and a glass of wine was suitable reward.

Thursday 19 December 2013

Blackberry Wine - Seventh Bottle (B3), 8th December 2013

Despite setting the weekend aside to write Christmas cards, I still haven't done any. I foresee that this year will be exactly the same as the last. Instead, I spent much of the weekend, including most of this bottle, reading The Mulberry Empire by Philip Hensher. It is an excellent book - telling the story of the first Afghan war in 1839 (I may have the year wrong). The author concentrates on small moments and character, paradoxically creating a bigger sweep than he would have otherwise. And he retains a fairy tale element. Terrific, compulsive stuff.

Claire spent the weekend feeling washed out and ill, but was well enough to help finish this bottle. I have been the dutiful husband - and this is not just because it is the Work Christmas Party on Friday this coming week.

Alexander Burns - the 'hero' of the book

Sunday 15 December 2013

Orange Wine - Ninth Bottle (B3), 7th December 2013

Today was set aside for writing Christmas cards. I have written a grand total of zero. Maybe tomorrow will be better. It is such a daunting task. Last year I couldn't face it at all, and ended up sending none. It is not as if today has been a hive of activity. I have shopped, cooked, napped and read - The Mulberry Empire by Philip Hensher, which is excellent.

Orange wine has accompanied the cooking and eating - a vegetarian shepherd's pie, which for the first time ever I have made without checking Delia's instructions. And jolly nice it was too.

Claire has done even less than I today, but she has the excuse of being properly ill - bunged up with cold and shivery. I cannot afford to catch it.

Tuesday 10 December 2013

Elderflower Wine - Fifth Bottle (B6), 5th-6th December 2013

I had an unexpectedly free Thursday evening because Madeleine's quintet was cancelled, so I spent most of it drinking wine instead. Claire and I ate by candlelight, not for romantic reasons but because one of the living room light bulbs exploded in dramatic fashion on Wednesday evening and we haven't worked out how to remove the remainder from its socket. But a glass or two of elderflower win in candlelight is rather lovely.

By Friday night there was only one glass each left in the bottle, so we filled up on whisky macs as a suitable alternative.

Monday 9 December 2013

Crab Apple Wine - Ninth Bottle (A6), 1st December 2013

This was our Sunday night bottle, drunk to a leftover-turkey chilli and rice. We now have leftover leftovers in the fridge, and this could go on ad finitum.

Sunday had two cultural aspects. In the afternoon, we went to see 'Gravity' in the cinema. My mother had raved about how breath-taking it was, and it was certainly a fantastic spectacle. Boiled down, though, it was no more sophisticated than watching a steam train approaching a heroine tied to the tracks. The thing that took my breath away was the price. £21.40 for two tickets. Blimey.

In the evening I lay on the chaiselong and finished A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, which I loved. The surface story is page-turning, but it is also a clever exploration of time, of now, of self.


NB This is my 500th blog post since I started in April 2011 (which doesn't sound that long ago - what a lot of wine!). Thank you to those who have read intermittently over that period, and welcome to those who stop by just the once. My most popular post has been 'Blackcurrant Wine - The Making Of ...' (which overtook 'Quince Wine - The Making Of ...' earlier this year), and the blog has been at its most popular during this summer - mainly thanks to Lovely Greens. Here is to the next 500. Cheers.

Sunday 8 December 2013

Blackberry Wine - Sixth Bottle (A4), 29th-30th November 2013

By the end of the evening, Duncan was calling for more wine. Between the seven of us, we had already had bottles of raspberry, real, and crab apple & strawberry, half a bottle of blackcurrant & gooseberry, and various whisky macs or gins and tonics. So I fished out a bottle of blackberry and also took the opportunity to put the kettle on.

Only half of this bottle was drunk on Friday, so Claire and I finished it on Saturday when we had the house to ourselves. It is lovely having lots of guests and eating feasts, but it is also nice when everyone has gone.

Friday 6 December 2013

Strawberry & Crab Apple Wine - Second Bottle (5), 29th November 2013

There was no room in our fridge, what with all the Thanksgiving food bursting from it, so I left this bottle outside to cool. This method worked, it being late November, and the wine was chilled, sparkling, dry and delicious. It was shared between seven of us, gathered for Thanksgiving II (very much the same as Thanksgiving I but with cold turkey and no vegetarian alternative). It would have been eight but Sooz was upstairs in bed, feverish.

Earlier in the day we been to York - mostly to see Rachael and Myles, who were visiting from Leicester. Myles is on the verge of toddlerdom and is a happy baby. Except when Claire had a hold, when there were screams and real tears.

Not Myles - but there are similarities

Wednesday 4 December 2013

Blackcurrant & Red Gooseberry Wine - Third Bottle (5), 28th-29th November 2013

This bottle spanned Thanksgiving I and Thanksgiving II. Claire decided that because she only cooks a turkey once every two years, she should get a large one and have two dinner parties. Did I say large? I mean enormous. It is currently Sunday morning, and (not counting soup, to which you can add four) the turkey has provided 14 hungry people with plenty of meat. And there is still loads to go.

The blackcurrant & gooseberry was as good as ever, but didn't form part of the meals. It was post on Thursday and pre on Friday. Of the flavours Rory tried (including an 18 year-old bottle of Raspberry, courtesy of Julia) I think this was his favourite.

Monday 2 December 2013

Strawberry Wine - Third Bottle (1), 28th November 2013

This was our Thanksgiving bottle. More accurately, it was one of our Thanksgiving bottles, but the only one which started the night full and ended it empty.

It was our year to host and we had Richard, Linda, Andrew and Sooz as guests. The turkey was ostrich size and we ate rather less than half. This is a Good Thing as we are having Thanksgiving 2 tonight with eight diners.

The meal as a whole was both traditional and delicious, and Richard and Linda brought the pumpkin pies. Strawberry wine seemed to go down nicely. It certainly went down and I barely remember it. The combination of a huge meal, a couple of whisky macs and a stressful time at work meant I fell asleep at ten and left everyone else to it.

Sunday 1 December 2013

Prune & Parsnip - Eleventh Bottle (A5), 27th-29th November 2013

Most of this bottle was drunk in Wednesday night after WYSO. We have just started a new programme, the main piece of which is Franck's Symphony in D minor. It is a dense, soupy piece where the bassoons take a back seat and mostly double each other. Still, it can't all be Beethoven's violin concerto.

Claire and I drank our wine in the kitchen, chatting about her possible redundancy. This is all worrying and frustrating - particularly because she has just had three papers published (click on the link for one of them). The wine helps things a little, and it is a good bottle. More rounded than the last one.

Cesar Franck

Saturday 30 November 2013

Elderberry Wine 2011 - Eleventh Bottle (B5), 23rd-24th November 2013

Claire wanted a proper bottle of elderberry wine on Saturday to recover from Music Club. She played Glazunov's Elegy for viola and piano brilliantly and managed not to get distracted by reaching the high notes and playing them in tune. Because this was a special occasion we drank the wine from my grandfather's delicate, precious glasses that rarely see any action. The wine was fabulous - you can't beat an aged elderberry wine. However, we didn't finish it (unheard of for a Saturday night!) and saved the rest for watching Doctor Who's 50th anniversary episode on Sunday. As often happens, I ended the episode an emotional wreck.

Alexander Glazunov

Tuesday 26 November 2013

Exotic Tinned Fruit - Sixth Bottle (A2), 20th-22nd November 2013

I have just watched a lovely drama about the creation of Doctor Who. 'Adventures in Space and Time' by Mark Gatiss. It was the story of Verity Lambert and William Hartnell, and was tremendously sad, loving and celebratory. This week I am in danger of a Doctor Who overdose, but I think that excusable on the fiftieth anniversary. And for me it is more important than the anniversary of Kennedy's assassination. I never really could get things into proper perspective.

Anyway, I finished this bottle of Exotic Tinned Fruit whilst watching 'Adventures' and it has not been a bad bottle at all. I shouldn't get carried away - it was less than actively delicious, but it was certainly acceptable for a three-night bottle.

Saturday 23 November 2013

Christmas Tutti Fruti - Eleventh Bottle (B2), 16th November 2013

Saturday was a two bottle night. It could be no other. Partly this was because Rachel and Duncan were around. Mostly, though, it was because we had just played an all-Beethoven concert with WYSO in Chapel Allerton. It went exceptionally well, and I got my own applause for the violin concerto. The night had to be rounded off with plenty of alcohol.

I don't really remember the taste of this bottle - and that is not just because I followed it with a horseradish vodka chaser. Dry, red and fizzy is about as close as I can get. But it was a wonderful evening, and I still get a buzz three days later when I think about it.

Wednesday 20 November 2013

Rhubarb Wine - Seventh Bottle (A6), 16th November 2013

Well, I played a blinder tonight. It was our Beethoven concert with WYSO and the violin concerto could not have gone better. I was pretty much note perfect. The soloist stood me up at the end for my own applause, and more than three hours later I am still buzzing about it. Along with Leonora Overture Number 2 and Symphony Number 3, this was a bassoon heavy concert, and my lip was dead by the end. My left hand and wrist went into a cramp spasm during the interval, which was worrying, but recovered quickly.

At home afterwards Claire, Rachel, Duncan and I polished off a bottle of rhubarb wine in no time at all. It was just the thing, but not nearly enough. I have rectified that, however, and am about to collapse into unconciousness.

Monday 18 November 2013

Gooseberry & Elderflower Wine - Fourth Bottle (B5), 6th-13th November 2013

The length of time an open bottle of wine sits in the fridge is generally an indication of its quality. This one managed a week. At least it was not poured down the sink. Claire suggested the addition of a sugar syrup to make it better, and this was partially successful, but only partially. The wine has an overbearing sense of mustiness and little taste of its original ingredients. There are still eight bottles to go.

I opened it after a WYSO rehearsal, where we played through most of Beethoven's violin concerto with our soloist, James Pattinson, who is exceedingly good. The bottle was finished after the following week's rehearsal where we played through all of Beethoven's third symphony. These two pieces are currently on my internal juke box and make it difficult to sleep.

James Pattinson

Sunday 17 November 2013

Crab Apple & Blackcurrant Wine - Final Bottle (6), 11th-12th November 2013

At work, before I went home, I checked Facebook and saw that Claire's status update mentioned how cross she was and that there had better be wine available. I took the hint and offered her a choice of flavours involving blackcurrant. This bottle was the preferred option and seemed to do the trick. I was out at Airedale Symphony Orchestra when Claire opened it, and her Facebook status update that evening referred to "Comedy Exploding Wine". Apparently she had to mop up crab apple & blackcurrant froth twice. Most fizzy bottles only require this to be done the once.

I had a glass on my return and we have finished it tonight. It is unusual to have a bottle over Monday & Tuesday though not unknown. It is a fine bottle of wine: fruity and sharp. I may well make it again one day.

Saturday 16 November 2013

Elderflower Wine - Fourth Bottle (A3), 10th November 2013

Because I had driven on Saturday night, Claire drove on Sunday and I was able to drink the majority of a bottle of elderflower wine. We were at Richard & Linda's and, as is the norm, were experimented upon. The first course was soup, and two days later I forget its ingredients. Something root vegetabley, possibly. This was the least of the food, but was fine. Next we had Garlic Pie. I was dubious. This just sounds wrong. But in fact it was lovely - and was misnamed. 'Goat's Cheese Flan' would have been more accurate. Then finally, and best of all, was a wonderful apple cheese cake. Delicious. We brought two large pieces home with us - I was too full for thirds - and I have just had a taste to remind myself how wonderful it was.

This was not the actual pie, but it looked like this.

Tuesday 12 November 2013

Blackberry Wine - Fifth Bottle (D4), 9th November 2013

I took this bottle to Jude's house-warming party and drank only a mouthful. The floor consumed more than I. The bottle had spent half an hour in the car, rolling along the back seat with every turn. When a wine starts off with a fizz, this is not the ideal preparation for opening it in someone's new house. Luckily the fountain of red liquid landed on the table, avoiding any food, and a wooden floor. So I did not have to go home in disgrace.

Those who I encouraged to try it enjoyed the wine - particularly Ruben's father who had lots. Alice Nutter said it worked as a shot.

I spent much of the party playing Uno in the quiet room, but plenty of it being properly sociable too.

Ruben - with whom I played Uno in the Quiet Room

Monday 11 November 2013

Spiced Beetroot Wine - Final Bottle (6), 3rd November 2013

There is something very English about cheap fireworks. They blaze for a few seconds at no great height and then go phut, returning to darkness. Bonfires, however, are far more satisfying. They flame and glow and heat a cold autumn night.

Spiced Beetroot wine seemed like the right choice for a bonfire party. It has a warming taste of cloves that goes well with standing around outside in hat, scarf, gloves and five layers of clothing.

Earlier in the day I had helped Julia build the bonfire, and as it was formed by Julia, it was as much Art as a pile of wood for burning. She created a stage in homage to Opera North's production of Beatrice and Benedict, complete with poppies, a flaming arch and a nun on a bicycle. Catherine wheels gave an illusion of movement before fire asserted its authority and the whole thing burnt. It was a memorable evening.

Saturday 9 November 2013

Crab Apple & Strawberry Wine 2013 - The Making Of ...

November is a month beyond ideal for picking crab apples. I have spent this morning, Sunday 3rd November, getting my hands covered in rotten apple pulp as over-ripe crab apples exploded on contact. I'm not great with slime. Anything that oozes over my fingers must be wiped off immediately. Therefore, picking four pounds of crab apples today took about the same amount of time as picking twelve pounds a fortnight ago. I examined the apples before I picked them, often unsuccessfully, and then again afterwards. Even with this attention to detail I am certain some over-ripe fruit has ended up in my wine.

The raw ingredients
Other than bursting crab apples with a mere touch, it was pleasant half hour or so, picking fruit in the sunshine and bluster, while my pound of strawberries sat in a bowl, defrosting. (This wine takes some forward planning - from about July!)

I did not think the strawberries would stand either washing or hulling - they were not the firmest of specimens - so I just put them into the bucket and mashed them, ignoring the bits of straw I could see. I sliced the crab apples with the food processor and put these in, and then covered the fruit with three pounds of sugar. Over this I have poured six and a half pints of boiling water, and the mixture smells more of strawberries than apples.

I added the yeast (a Chablis) and a teaspoon each of nutrient and pectolase after returning from a bonfire party on Sunday night, and then left it until Thursday evening, when I put the liquid into its demijohn. I now have every demijohn I possess in use, which I think is 27, and must get on with bottling some wine. Anyway, crab apple & strawberry wine is baby-girl pink, though I anticipate the colour will fade.

If you want to see how this wine turned out, including a photo of how it looks in its bottles, click here

Friday 8 November 2013

Orange Wine - Eighth Bottle (A4), 2nd November 2013

Sleepy and drunk. Isn't that two of the seven dwarves? Stan is running round the room chasing conkers as I write. And there are fireworks banging away three days early.

It has been a busier Saturday than I had planned. This morning was Emmaus Leeds' tenth birthday, where I bought lots of cake, raffle tickets and Christmas cards - maybe I'll send some this year. This afternoon I drove to Halifax to spend time with Martin.

The orange wine was chosen to accompany fish curry and mightily effective it has been - though two gins and tonic should take some blame. Now I must sleep. It is only 9:38.

Thursday 7 November 2013

Gooseberry Wine - Third Bottle (2), 26th October 2013

The loser. This bottle came tenth out of ten at the Wine Party with an average score of 2.19 out of 5. There was much talk of men's changing rooms and sweat as people tasted this. Lindsay disagreed and thought it more akin to "cat wee". She gave it a zero. Only David liked it.

I am genuinely surprised. Four years ago, gooseberry wine won the wine party. It shows how different the wine can be between years. An alternative explanation, and one I prefer, is that the gooseberry wine has remained the same and all my other bottles have improved to the level of 'Awesome'. Yes, that must be it.

Wednesday 6 November 2013

Celery Wine - Third Bottle (2), 26th October 2013

Well, this wine proved controversial at the Wine Party. Duncan scored it -8 out of 5 and wrote "The consistent awfulness of this concoction never fails to disappoint". Claire scored it "minus all the points that everyone else gives it," and wrote "HORRIBLE YUK" in big letters. I adjusted their scores to zero. Helen, however, thought it was lovely and gave it top marks.

With adjusted scoring, celery wine did not come last. It was ninth with an average score of 2.28 (though if you take Duncan at face value, it was last with 1.39). When I tried it I thought the first taste unpleasant, but in fact it got better them more I drank. Which is often the case.

Tuesday 5 November 2013

Crab Apple Wine - Eighth Bottle (B5), 26th October 2013

This bottle was unloved, but nobody hated it either. It came eighth out of ten at the Wine Party, with an average score of 2.93. Of all the bottles opened last night, I think this was my personal least favourite. I generally like crab apple wine, but this came across as thin and a bit sour. Mind you, I was in no real position to judge at that point in the evening. I remember looking at my watch at quarter past nine thinking that it would be wise to slow down. Ignoring my inner voice, I galloped away and felt absolutely shocking this morning. I can't remember a worse hangover in recent years and at six o'clock this evening I am still a little headachey. Next year I will pace myself. Definitely.

Monday 4 November 2013

Rhubarb & Elderflower Wine - Third Bottle (2), 26th October 2013

"No no no no no". One out of five.

I had expected Rhubarb & Elderflower to do rather better at the wine party. Lindsay did not like it one bit. She was the only one, though. Angela gave it a five. It came seventh out of ten with an average score of 3.36. Before the party I would have predicted a top three placement. Maybe I had not chilled it enough. There was no room in the fridge and the weather was unseasonably warm, so leaving it outside all day was ineffective. It was one of the many finished bottles, though. Of the twelve people at the party we had three drivers, and between us we finished the equivalent of at least eight bottles. It was all rather jolly.

Sunday 3 November 2013

Prune & Parsnip Wine - Tenth Bottle (B1), 26th October 2013

We are now getting into the realms of bottles that did badly at the Wine Party. This flavour came sixth out of ten, scoring 3.5 out of 5. It had the smallest range of scores for any wine served - no-one giving it lower than a 3, no-one giving it higher than a 4. Philip labelled it a sweet and sour sherry, which makes it sound like it should be served by Chinese takeaways up and down the country. Lindsay commented 'inoffensive', which sums it up.

The party itself was marvellous. We had ten guests, so twelve in total, and I had worried that this would be too few. But, as last year, I was proved wrong and it meant there was often one conversation going round the room in which everyone took part. And we drank more wine, far more, than has been known previously.

Saturday 2 November 2013

Strawberry Wine - Second Bottle (4), 26th October 2013

Wine parties are always a huge amount of effort. I spent all Saturday cleaning and tidying. All those jobs that have needed doing for a year or more get done. So, I dusted, I cleared the drive of weeds and moss, I washed the stairs and I even vacuumed the ceiling of its cobwebs. This on top of the general tidying that gets done about once a month. I do live in squalor. It is all worth it, though. The party was excellent.

Surprisingly, strawberry wine was fifth out of ten, with an average score of 3.83. Rachel said it was "really, really lovely" and Angela wrote "A hint of summer afternoon on the night when summer officially ends" but others were less keen. Claire, again, thinks it tastes of hot plastic

Friday 1 November 2013

Blackcurrant Wine - Third Bottle (4), 26th October 2013

Of my wines at the Wine Party, blackcurrant came third with an average score of 3.89. However, it was pipped to the bronze medal by David's orange wine, which got 3.93. I had not met David before the party, but he is a fellow wine-maker and a friend of Helen's. He wrote a review of my book on Amazon, and therefore automatically qualified for an invitation.

The orange wine was excellent - less assertive than mine, even though he followed my recipe.

Anyway, the blackcurrant wine got mixed reviews, starting with 'meh' from Nick. Virtually everyone wrote on their score cards that it tasted like an alcoholic ribena. And, as Rachel says, what's not to like?

Thursday 31 October 2013

Ginger Wine - First Bottle (3), 26th October 2013

I was not absolutely certain how well ginger wine would do at the Wine Party. When I bottled it I thought it little more than passable. However, the wine has matured well and came second out of ten, with an average score of 4.14. Only Helen thought it horrid and awarded it a one. This was balanced by Rachel giving it 5½ out of 5, which I suspect is cheating. She thought it tasted like the alcoholic version of Chinese tea and Lindsay said she could happily drink it by the pint glass. Duncan is a hard man to please, but it was his favourite.

I am very pleased with this wine - it has sufficient ginger to cut through its sweetness and I will make it again.

If you want to see how I made this wine, click here.

Wednesday 30 October 2013

Blackberry Wine - Fourth Bottle (B6), 26th October 2013.

It was the Wine Party last night and this bottle was the winner. It scored 4.25 out of 5, though Angela cheated by giving it a 6. David gave the comment "Drink every day", and I like to think that this is an order.

It was the first bottle I opened, before any guests arrived, because I noticed the cork was making its own way out. I avoided spilling more than one drop as the wine gushed into its waiting jug, and I had a glass (merely to relieve the pressure, you understand) before pouring it back into the bottle. Lindsay noted later that blackberry wine is really an alcopop.

Tuesday 29 October 2013

Exotic Tinned Fruit - Fifth Bottle (B1), 23rd-24th October 2013

The last bottle of this flavour was so nasty that I have been putting off having another. However, I bit the bullet on Wednesday and put an exotic tinned fruit wine in the fridge before WYSO. I was pleasantly surprised when I opened it - the wine is not disgusting. At worst it is inoffensive. Light and floral and bland.

We drank most of the bottle to The Great British Bake Off final. I had spent the previous 24 hours avoiding all news and being selective with the internet. This policy was successful, which I had not predicted, and it made the programme better for it. And now my Wednesday nights are released from the tyranny of cosy yet addictive television. Hurrah.

Monday 28 October 2013

Blackberry Wine - Third Bottle (C1), 20th October 2013

This is a fabulous bottle of wine - full of pure blackberry flavour and with the added benefit of fizz. It is certainly alcoholic - I have a numb face and am finding it hard to concentrate. The bush tea in front of me is helping.

We drank the wine to a beef, black bean and ale casserole assembled by Claire this morning. I spent the day on my feet in the kitchen making wine, washing up and cooking. Sitting down was a welcome relief. And now I can barely keep my eyes open. Happy Sunday.

Now - I have been asked to provide recipes when mentioning food (hello Jaye). This is a little difficult most the time, because Claire is the one who does the exciting, delicious cooking whereas my own efforts are often little more than functional. However, an approximate recipe for the casserole above is as follows (serves four - or in our case two twice):

Three slices of braising steak
A medium or large onion
400g tin or box of cooked black beans
500 ml of beer
A dollop of a sharp jelly - Claire used redcurrant, but crab apple or similar should do
A clove of garlic (I think)
A bay leaf (probably)
Salt and pepper to taste
If you want, stick in some quartered mushrooms or slices of leek, though I don't think Claire did.

Chop the steak into medium sized cubes (an inch or so dimension) and fry over a high heat for not very long at all, so that the sides are sealed and browned
Slice the onion and fry it with crushed garlic - using the juices from the meat and possibly a little oil.
Put it all in a casserole dish with the beans
Pour over the ale
If you need more liquid to just cover the ingredients, put in some water.
If you are using vegetables/mushrooms bung them in too
Add the salt and pepper (err on the side of caution - and add more later if you need to)
Add the bay leaf
Put in an oven at gas mark 3 and cook for a couple of hours
Inspect and taste - it may be too bitter. If so, add enough jelly until it tastes right.
Put it in the oven again - you are unlikely to over cook it.

Sunday 27 October 2013

Crab Apple Wine 2013 - The Making Of ...

Crab apples in the sunlight
Most years I start by crab apple wine on the cusp of October. This year it is slap bang in the middle. If anything, it is late October - Sunday the 20th. I blame our two week holiday in America, which I timed carefully so that it did not massively interfere with my wine calendar. Leaving the crab apple wine three weeks beyond my normal timing may prove to be a wise move. The apples on our tree are redder and riper, and come off with barely a tug.

Our crab apple tree plus a teazel
I spent around half an hour this morning picking crab apples in intermittent sunshine, collecting 12 pounds. This is probably about a third of what the tree has to offer, and I don't really know what to do with the rest. Possibly Freecycle them. Or make more wine.

For every three apples I picked, one would plummet into the undergrowth. I retrieved a handful, but mostly the casualties were lost forever, and that was frustrating.

This afternooon, which has been hugely busy - I have been in the kitched for four and a half hours making wine, baking bread and cooking lentil boll - I washed the apples and sliced them using the food processor. These went into the bucket with three pounds of minced sultanas (again using the food processor) and nine pounds of sugar. I boiled 22 pints of water and poured this over the ingredients, giving it all a good stir.

On Monday morning I put in the yeast and two teaspoons each of nutrient and pectolase. The bucket I used has an air trap and has been annoying Claire by belching loudly at frequent intervals. We can hear it from our bedroom.

Anyway, I put this into its three demijohns on Friday night, 25th October. The first stage involved scooping out the apples with a plastic collander, and I am certain this saved an hour or so. From then on it was relatively quick. The wine is browner than in past years, but should clear to a glorious golden yellow.

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

Thursday 24 October 2013

Rhubarb Wine - Sixth Bottle (B3), 18th-19th October 2013

I had misremembered this to be a disappointing batch of rhubarb wine. This bottle, however, was everything rhubarb wine should be: dry, fizzy, pleasing and ever so slightly pink.

I opened it after coming home from the theatre feeling emotionally drained. We had been to see My Generation by Alice Nutter, which was superb. It followed a Leeds family over four decades, exploring their internal politics through external ones. I had to make an effort not to sob audibly during the performance - but there were moments of hilarity too.

Then, I finished the bottle on Saturday after returning from the theatre again, this time open mouthed in horror at Sweeney Todd. It too was excellent and both plays remind me how important live theatre is, and how I do not got enough.

Tuesday 22 October 2013

Crab Apple and Strawberry Wine - First Bottle (1), 16th-17th October 2013

I wanted to open something special. Claire's paper on bladder cancer, the work that kept her busy and excited this summer, has been accepted by Human Genetics  magazine. This is fabulous news and worthy of celebration. Therefore, after WYSO and before The Great British Bake Off, I opened my first bottle of Crab Apple & Strawberry. I had expected this to be wonderful. A proper bottle to toast Claire's success. Instead it was good. Certainly in the top quarter of the wine that I produce, but no more. And that is disappointing. I often find that lowering one's expectations is the secret to being delighted. So the next bottle should be delightful.
If you want to see how I made this wine, click here

Sunday 20 October 2013

Elderberry Wine 2013 - The Making Of ...

When I booked it, I knew that our fortnight's holiday in America would interfere with wine making. It was elderberry that was most affected. The berries were ripe in September, but I had too much to do the week before we left to make wine as well. Forward planning, though, meant that I had two elderberry picking sessions on my walk home from work. Each of these produced not quite two pounds of fruit and some interested passers by. There was just room in the freezer for me to store the berries while we were away.

I was concerned that by mid-October all elderberries would have gone over and I would have to make a single batch. However, when I went to the Stonegate fields on 13th October, there were plenty of perfect ripeness. It was not the best weather for picking, though. I got thoroughly drenched and stayed out less time than I would otherwise. This session produced 2 lbs exactly, making a total of 5 lbs 12 oz, which is 4 oz under the recipe weight for a double batch. That is good enough for me. And stripping the berries in three sessions meant I did not get bored and frustrated.

I put the berries in the bucket and added half a pint of boiling water to help defrost the frozen ones. I gave it all a thorough mashing and poured over another 12 pints of boiling water.

On Monday morning, after a night of jet-lag induced wakefulness, I added the yeast (burgundy), a teaspoon of pectolase and half as much again nutrient. Then on Wednesday evening (after another restless night) I put in 5-and-a-half pounds of sugar.

I put it into its demijohns on Sunday 20th October, a day later than I had intended. There was about a pint too much liquid, though its colour is a pleasing purple. And yes, I recognise that is a non-sequitur.

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

Friday 18 October 2013

Orange Wine - Seventh Bottle (B1), 13th October 2013

Considering I stepped off a plane after 26 hours of travelling yesterday (some of which, admittedly, included visiting a mammoth museum in South Dakota), today has been a surprisingly ordinary Sunday. I listened to Broadcasting House, had a haircut, made wine, made bread and failed to do any bassoon practice. What could be more normal than drinking a bottle of orange wine while eating tuna surprise (the surprise being that the cats didn't get up on the table to have a taste)? The orange wine was clear and crisp as always and half a bottle should stop me worrying about what I might face at work tomorrow after a fortnight away.

Mammoth Bones

Wednesday 16 October 2013

Crab Apple Wine - Seventh Bottle (C6), 12th October 2013

Oh, it is good to be home. We have just returned from two weeks in America, which was fabulous. But after all that travelling and excitement, sitting at home with a glass of wine eating plain food is Just the Thing. My body clock should have been telling me it was not yet noon when I opened this bottle, but in reality it was shortly after six. I am not sure whether this is disgraceful, but it was certainly welcome.

After being on a beer diet for a fortnight, crab apple wine is like the return of an old friend, and this was a tasty, refreshing bottle. As an added bonus, I did not need to put it in the fridge. The house was distinctly chilly when we got back. At least there were no exploding bottles in our absence.

Mount Hood, overlooking Portland - a place we saw.

Sunday 13 October 2013

Blackcurrant & Red Gooseberry Wine - Second Bottle (2), 27th September 2013

It is the night before we travel to America and consequently it has been one of packing and checking and generally feeling hassled. A bottle of wine has helped. It is half past nine, and there is still plenty to do, including setting my alarm for 3:30. I predict little sleep, and my toes will tingle the way they do when I am excited.

Earlier today I thought I might have appendicitis - at work I had severe abdominal pains and was getting ready to cancel the entire trip. It turned out to be lots of trapped wind - [and the rest of the sentence has been removed for grounds of taste]. I wouldn't be writing that down without having drunk half a bottle of wine. And what a particularly good bottle it was. Fruity and delicious.

Saturday 12 October 2013

Elderflower Wine - Third Bottle (A5), 25th-26th September 2013

I have discovered that Claire does not much like elderflower wine. All these years I have been making double quantities, spending hours upon hours of stripping the flowers form their stalks, and Claire thinks the wine is less than merely okay. Whereas I think it is 'Quite Nice'. Whilst I am unlikely to demote it from a regular, I may change it to a single batch wine.

I opened the bottle on Wednesday night, after narrowly escaping having to attend the Yorkshire Property Awards (phew!). Instead we watched The Great British Bake Off and went to bed too late. We finished the wine tonight after I had bottled and sampled my orange wine. Consequently my cheeks have turned numb and the room is not as stable as it might otherwise be.

Monday 7 October 2013

Prune & Parsnip Wine - Ninth Bottle (B6), 21st-22nd September 2013

I left Claire alone with this bottle on Saturday. There was a Proms concert at Glusburn in which I was playing, requiring me to leave the house at not-yet-one, and I was out until nearly 11:30. Though I complain about Proms concerts, the audience reaction makes them all worthwhile. There was  enthusiastic applause and cheering after nearly every piece, and we had a terrific soprano soloist - Sarah Fox - who has sung with the Berlin Philharmonic.

Anyway, when I got home, three quarters of the bottle had gone and Claire was in a very happy mood. The final glasses were drunk by my parents tonight, who have been round with tales of their 50th anniversary of meeting, which they celebrated on the Marrakech Express. We ate lots of curry and spent a good deal of the conversation talking about our forthcoming trip to Chadron.

The building in which we played

Saturday 5 October 2013

Elderberry Wine - Fourth Bottle (A4), 22nd September 2013

This bottle was yet another controlled explosion. Claire defused it by leaving it in the fridge for 24 hours before taking out the cork, and in doing so lost no wine at all. We saved it for Sunday night to share with my parents, who came round for home cooked curry and to share tales of North Africa. Pop was driving, so only had a sip. Mom, Claire and I drank the rest and showed great self control in sticking at the one bottle.

The curry was fabulous and the elderberry wine good, if too young to really be drinking now. However, we had little choice in the matter.

The Marrakech Express - where my parents celebrated 50 years

Friday 4 October 2013

Christmas Tutti Fruti - Tenth Bottle (A4), 20th September 2013

I heard this bottle go 'Pop' at about two in the morning. It did not wake me up. I was already awake, lying in the back bedroom, comfort reading William Carries On while fretting about Alan Titchmarsh. (See 'Clove & Ginger Bottle 2' for the whole sorry story.) Stan looked askance at the noise and I took it as my sign to try sleeping.

Later in the morning, at a reasonable hour, I inspected my bottles and found this one without its cork, so our Friday night bottle was decided upon. I have had a sober week, what with the infected wisdom tooth and antibiotics, but I did not let this stop me from finishing the bottle with Claire. The wine was on the thin side, but perfectably acceptable. It helped the elderberry stripping process and was a decent accompaniment to 'Hot Tomatoey Garlicky Chicken', which works just as well as 'Hot Tomatoey Garlicky Prawns'.

Thursday 3 October 2013

Clove & Ginger Wine - Second Bottle (1), 18th September 2013

Well, this wine won't win any prizes for 'Most Alcoholic Home Brew'. Claire and I drank the entire bottle in an hour, late on Wednesday night, and neither of us felt like we had drunk as much as a glass of wine. I picked clove & ginger partly because I had forgotten to put an elderflower in the fridge, but also because cloves are meant to be good for toothache. Despite having been on antibiotics for 48 hours, my tooth still hurts. As does my self-respect. Yesterday I was given the chance to appear on The Alan Titchmarsh Show to discuss wine making. But it was for today, in London. And I turned it down for being too short notice. I am kicking myself. I could have gone. I should have gone. The opportunity is unlikely to return. Why am I so cautious, unwilling to break out of my routines?

Friday 27 September 2013

Blackberry Wine - Second Bottle (B4), 15th-16th September 2013

My wisdom tooth has returned with a vengeance. It has always been there, of course, but is the last one of four and is showing its displeasure at the state of affairs. On Sunday night I dulled the throb with not quite half a bottle of blackberry wine whilst manfully struggling through a chicken roast dinner. This is another sign that autumn has arrived and one of the most welcome things about the season. By Monday I was on antibiotics and contemplating minor surgery. Therefore the last glass in the bottle was Claire's.

The blackberry wine was fabulous - better than the last bottle, which was already good.

A Medieval Depiction of Toothache

Wednesday 25 September 2013

Quince Wine - Fifth Bottle (1), 13th September 2013

I remember the last bottle of Quince Wine being on the verge of 'horrid'. This, however, was also on a verge - but of 'rather good'. Yes, it is far too dry, but a syrup solution fettles that. And there is an exotic, perfumed taste. The clarity leaves much to be desired - my last glass had the consistency of a cloudy apple juice. But this bottle has removed the flavour from my 'Never Again' list.

We drank much of the bottle watching an review of Torchwood Miracle Day, which is fair in its criticisms, though which I would like to be more scathing. The rest of the bottle was spent eating cauliflower cheese and apple snow.

Tuesday 24 September 2013

Gooseberry & Elderflower Wine - Third Bottle (B2), 11th-12th September 2013

On the basis that I have too many bottles of this flavour simply to ignore it, I put a Gooseberry & Elderflower in the fridge for a post-WYSO midweek drink. I had expected it to be awful and, in fact, it turned out to be merely not particularly nice. I see this as a distinct result. There was not the ghastly aftertaste of the first bottle, and the overall effect was one of blandness.

Our first couple of glasses were after WYSO (where we started on the violin concerto), while watching The Great British Bake Off. The bottle was finished on Thursday after trios at Pat and Peter's. I have developed a mouth ulcer immediately opposite my pointiest tooth (for which I blame a particularly horrible solicitor I am dealing with at work) and it makes playing the bassoon painful. The wine was an anaesthetic.
I thought this a suitable illustration.

Saturday 21 September 2013

Apple Wine - The Making Of ...

I have made apple wine only once before, and that used a ridiculous quantity of fruit - 24 lbs of windfalls. This time my recipe is more sensible, but largely invented.

Apple wine was not one I had planned, but Julia required some emergency apple picking yesterday, Saturday 14th September. It was a balmy early autumn day but the forecast for Sunday was gales and rain. Therefore Julia had to get much of the fruit off her trees to avoid widespread apple catastrophe. As we had no plans for the afternoon, Claire and I went to help and inevitably my thoughts turned to wine-making as I filled sacks with apples. Julia has five apple trees, and I got some off each one, though I shall keep the russets for eating. Of the remaining four, one was a Bramley, one a John something and I do not know the other two. I will try to find out and put in a foot note later.

Five varieties of apple
The apples picked were mostly not quite ripe, and we probably got less than a third off the trees. In fact, the gales that were threatened have yet to arrive and there has been a good deal of sunshine today, so emergency fruit picking was premature.

I have loosely based my recipe on C J J Berry's, but it is a distant cousin. I chopped 6 lbs of apples into small pieces and put them in our largest pan. These were covered with 6½ pints of water and brought to the boil, then simmered for 15 minutes. Meanwhile I put 3 lbs sugar, thinly peeled lemon rind, juice from the lemon and 4 oz minced sultanas in the bucket.

Apples in the pan - 6 lbs with the water only just fit
After the apples had done their 15 minutes, I poured them and the water into the bucket and stirred to dissolve the sugar. In fact, some of the water missed and ended up over the kitchen floor, but probably less than half a pint. It turns out that the remaining amount of water was just about perfect - I have ended up with less than a quarter of a pint of extra liquid.  Anyway, I added the yeast (champagne variety), pectolase and nutrient on Monday morning, 16th September, and sieved the liquid into the demijohn on Thursday evening, 19th September. This took a long time as the apples had turned into puree and I had to be careful not to get the 'solid' (not that it bears this desciption with ease) into the demijohn. Instead, I got much of it over my shirt. Clean on today, too. Bah!

The wine is cloudy with just a hint of sunset to its colour.

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