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 30 January 2013

Citrus Wine - Final Bottle (A1), 26th January 2013

Claire suggested that something citrussy would go well with the outrageously hot prawn curry she was making, so the final bottle of Citrus Wine was dusted off and opened. The curry was excellent and not quite at the heat levels promised. The wine was a good choice as it needs a dominant meal to counter its own strong taste.

Earlier in the day I had played in a concert with a new orchestra: the Elmet Sinfionetta: which included Nielsen's Second Symphony - an unfamiliar piece but one which deserves to be better known. It is both rousing and intense, and I felt like I was clinging on by my finger nails through much of it. Sight-reading in six flats does that.

In the evening after our meal Claire sat in bed reading Angela Thirkell whilst I watched Attack the Block - a low budget horror sci-fi comedy set in an inner London tower block. It was definitely a boys' film - Chris would love it - and I could not decide if it was bordering on racist. The hero was a mugger, the villain a drug-dealing gangster and both were black. But on the whole I have decided not. It would be wrong to make all black characters dull and saintly.

Saturday 26 January 2013

Rhubarb Wine - Ninth Bottle (B2), 22nd-25th January 2013

Well, what a lot happened during the four days this bottle was open.

Tuesday - nothing much (to the extent that I can barely remember that Tuesday existed).

Wednesday was a satisfactory WYSO rehearsal where we are getting to grips with Dvorak 7.

Thursday, however, I met Myles (and forgot to take a bottle of wine with me, for which I was sorely chastised). He is small and gremlin-like in the best possible way. Rachael appears to have taken to motherhood as if she was born to it, and Paul glows with pride. I was not going to get out of the house without a hold of the baby - and it made me far less uncomfortable than I would have predicted. To the extent that I enjoyed it.

Then Friday we had the most exciting bus journey ever outside a Keanu Reeve's movie, on the unlikely route 'Harrogate to Leeds'. It was the final bus of the evening, and the roads were snow covered. Our Polish driver, presumably used to these conditions, saw it as an adventure and at one point drove up a hill on the wrong side of the road, passing all the cars travelling at less than walking pace. Claire and I looked out nervously for traffic coming the other way. Once we were safely home (after a mile's walk in four inches of snow) we felt justified in finishing the rhubarb wine.

Monday 21 January 2013

Spiced Beetroot Wine - Third Bottle (4), 20th January 2013

Claire was adamant that only Spiced Beetroot would be right for tonight's meal, though she would not tell me what would be served. I had just come home from playing in a concert at Saltaire and so was too exhausted to make more than a token protest. But we are drinking this flavour more quickly than I would generally allow.

The concert was a family friendly one, including Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra and many movements from the Nutcracker Suite. By the end of it both my lips and my bassoon were objecting. Half a bottle of Spiced Beetroot wine later and I am ready for bed.

Claire was right (she generally is). The wine went well with Haggis, roast potatoes and cauliflower in an onion sauce. And it is a fabulous colour.

Saturday 19 January 2013

Elderberry Wine - Fifth Bottle (A2), 18th January 2013

Elderberry wine was really the only choice for this evening. It has been snowing since mid afternoon, and I arrived home from work to an open fire and a glass of whisky. Claire rustled up some French Onion Soup (which itself is one of the reasons I married her) and a rice pudding. What wine other than elderberry could possibly be opened in these circumstances? It was an excellent bottle too: rich and dark flavours made for a cold winter evening.

Friday 18 January 2013

Orange Wine - Eleventh Bottle (B2), 17th January 2013

This bottle was compensation for not meeting Myles, my brand new nephew.

We had originally planned to travel to York on Friday, but the weather forecast suggested heavy snow. Tonight's prediction was 'white cloud', so I rang my mother at lunchtime to tell her to buy extra food. Which she did. And started cooking it. Whilst the snow arrived 24 hours early.

I rang to apologise for a change of plans: despite my American heritage I am English through and through. This partly manifests itself in panic at the first hint of snow. Mom was not best pleased - and in retrospect, we should have gone. But (and small consolation) the orange wine was particularly good, drunk to a fish curry, and I will make it again this March, in preference to Citrus.

Monday 14 January 2013

Crab Apple Wine - Fourteenth Bottle (C6), 13th January 2013

It is probably a good thing that I had the opportunity to open this bottle. Had I left it much longer it would have detonated. As it was I ended up with a kitchen covered in a thin coating of crab apple wine and rather less in the bottle than was ideal. Drinking half the remainder was mostly worry-displacement therapy. There is still no news on Rachael and her baby, and she was in the early stages of labour on Friday night. I don't want to ring as I know I will be told when something happens, but my inner ghast insists on taunting me with the idea that it has all gone horribly wrong.

As extra laudanum, I watched While You Were Sleeping, a Sandra Bullock rom-com. That is an hour and thirty eight minutes I won't get back again.


It is now 24 hours since I wrote the above in my diary. Happily, the ghast was as wrong as can be. Rachael gave birth to Miles today - 14 January 2013 - a 1:08 p.m. It was a vastly long labour, but resulted in a 6 lb 12 oz baby and everyone concerned is doing well. I get to meet my new nephew on Friday.

Saturday 12 January 2013

Pineapple Wine - The Making Of ...

Claire's birthday is rapidly approaching. It is an irritating time of year to celebrate a loved-one's birth. Christmas has only just left the stage, and now I have to put my mind to further gifts. In bed on Friday night I announced that I would be going into town the following day, 5th January, to buy pineapples for this month's wine. There was an 'ahem' from Claire, so I added "and presents for you, of course".

So, on Saturday I made my way into Leeds and went immediately to find the price of pineapples in Kirkgate Market. There were two stalls selling them at 'two for a pound', which sounded reasonable to me. I started fondling fruit at one of the stalls when I heard a tut behind me. A West Indian woman was frowning. She told me the pineapples were no good - they had evidence of frost (a thin grey sheen on some of the bumps) and I should not buy them. I asked her opinion of the other stall. "Worse". However, I needed pineapples, so I waited until she went away and bought two from each seller.
One of the 'Worse' pineapples

I started the wine on Sunday, 6th January, meaning to use the webcam on my computer to record this process so I could put a video up on this blog. I abandoned the idea when I could find no way of pausing the recording.

Pineapple pieces in the pan
Each pineapple was tasted, and three of the four were fine. The fourth wasn't particularly sweet or flavoursome, but was not actively nasty. I sliced each of the pineapples into circles, discarding only the very top and bottom, but leaving on the skin. The circles were less that a centimetre thick. I quartered each circle, put these in a pan and poured in three-and-a-half pints of water. This was brought to the boil and I simmered it for half an hour. With the help of Claire, a ladle and a colander I poured the liquid over 2 lbs 12 oz sugar and put the pineapple pieces back in the pan. These I covered with 4 pints of cold water, and left them for a few hours, before transferring the liquid into the bucket.

I added a sachet of champagne yeast (SB7 variety), 2 teaspoons of citric acid and a teaspoon each of pectolase and nutrient the following day. It all went into the demijohn on Friday, 11th January, shortly after I had spoken to Rachael (my sister) to wish her luck. She is currently having contractions.


If you want to see how this wine tasted (and it is worth it) click here

Tuesday 8 January 2013

Prune & Parsnip Wine - First Bottle (B3), 6th January 2013

What a very good bottle of wine. It is an attractive golden colour, clear to the last glass and has a fabulous flavour (which resembles neither parsnip nor prune). I also suspect it is rather strong. On the basis of this bottle I shall make another double batch this year.

We drank this bottle after a lazy and thoroughly satisfying Sunday. Claire made eleven jars of marmalade and a fish pie. I made two loaves of bread and started my pineapple wine. Other than that we have enjoyed being able to stay in the house together, having an entirely ordinary weekend. After the social whirl that was Christmas this is a huge relief. Being idle and antisocial has much to recommend it.


If you want to see instructions on how I made this wine - click here. You will see that at the making stage, this did not promise great things.

Sunday 6 January 2013

Elderberry Wine - Fourth Bottle (B4), 1st-3rd January 2013

This was the first bottle of the year, and I only got two sips. I should point out that this was through choice. The dizziness that began on 27 December continues, though is lessening, and I want to see if avoiding alcohol helps. Obviously I hope it does not, and I have mad a doctor's appointment for Monday morning. My guess is some inner ear infection that is likely to clear up by itself.

Anyway, the two sips I got (one on Tuesday, one on Thursday) revealed a dry elderberry which is rather different from previous years, but pleasing.

Instead of drinking wine I had hot chocolate as compensation and started reading a fabulous book - Gossip from the Forest by Sara Maitland - which examines the history and cultural significance of both forests and fairy tales - each chapter ending with a tale retold.

Saturday 5 January 2013

Blackberry Wine - Eighth Bottle (C6), 30th December 2012

We drank this bottle in York during a family get-together. Rachael and Paul have now moved in, and in the six weeks since I last saw her, Rachael has grown into the shape of a pre-historic fertility carving. The baby is due on 12th January and as Rach is forty, the doctors will not let her go beyond this. All very exciting (at least for someone on the sidelines, 25 miles away).

Chris also made it to the gathering despite initial worries of norovirus, which he now thinks was manky old pasta instead.

For once I drank relatively sensibly and made up for it by eating too much. But until I can shake this continual dizziness I foresee nights of sobriety.

Thursday 3 January 2013

Rhubarb Wine - Eighth Bottle (A3), 29th December 2012

Last night I played both Bridge and Monopoly for the first time in years. David, Amie, Zoe and Owen came over - they had double booked themselves for New Years Eve, and in fact had to shift someone else back to visit us. It is an intricate social life they lead.

So, having a family over, I brought out the board games and the rhubarb wine - an excellent combination. I had forgotten how riotous and long (in a good way) Monopoly can be. We started playing before pudding, and it was only when Claire noticed that it was past eleven and the sorbet had become a sticky pool of liquid that we declared the game a draw. It was a wonderful evening. I have not laughed so much for an age.

Wednesday 2 January 2013

Christmas Tutti Fruti - Second Bottle (A1), 27th December 2012

Due to the previous night's excesses, and my continued dizziness, I had not even a taste from this bottle. I was all for taking it back to Leeds with us, but Claire had other ideas. We were to spend the evening watching the Downton Abbey Christmas special, a programme I have not previously seen. However, Sooz's television had only recorded the first seven minutes. Instead, we watched the first part of Restless, adapted from William Boyd's novel, which I read about four years ago. The period detail was splendid - including the bits in the 1970s - and very nearly distracted attention from the rest of it, which was brilliantly done. I will certainly be watching the second episode. Possibly even with a glass of wine.

Tuesday 1 January 2013

Elderberry Wine - Third Bottle (A3), 26th December 2012

I remember very little of this bottle, save that it was drunk and in my case (at least) this was not a sensible move. We were staying at Andrew's, and he and I had finished the best part of half a litre of whisky mixed with most of a bottle of clove & ginger wine, with only minimal help from Claire and Sooz. Once the elderberry wine was open (and in my defence, I think I only had a glass) (certainly no more than two) one of the Taylors suggested we watch Repo Man. I found it incomprehensible, but suspect this had as much to do with the booze as the film itself. Still, it had pictures flickering on the screen to look at, and was only 88 minutes long.