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.

Thursday 28 February 2013

Crab Apple Wine - Sixteenth Bottle (A1), 24th February 2013

Sunday nights are to be cherished. They are the last of the weekend, a time to hold on to a slower pace of life. I avoid my thoughts turning to work - there is plenty of time for that on my Monday morning walk. And crab apple wine, tonight, has helped the relaxation process. Much of it was drunk to our evening meal - a pork and lentil casserole bulked out by elderly vegetables - though I spent some of this bottle on the sofa reading whilst Claire was knitting sea creatures. My book is Capital by John Lanchester and I am enjoying it immensely. It is one of those with many characters not quite colliding with several strands, all of which are gripping.

Tuesday 26 February 2013

Redcurrant Wine - Fifth Bottle (5), 23rd February 2013

Richard liked this bottle. A lot. I don't think I have ever heard him as enthusiastic about any of my wine. And for someone who always says nice things about what I produce, this has two interpretations. The one I favour is that for Richard this flavour is a diamond amongst gems. Alternatively in the past I may have misinterpretted politeness for delight.

Anyway, we spent Saturday evening at Richard & Linda's eating experimental food, of which the goats' cheese risotto was the highlight, and hearing about their forthcoming trip to America to visit Linda's family. We also got to inspect Linda's current work in progress: a life size moose head made from felt.

Sunday 24 February 2013

Strawberry Wine - Fourth Bottle (2), 22nd February 2013

Tonight we have had a feast, mostly involving curry. It is Rachel's 44th birthday, and as Duncan is currently living it up in Boston, she has spent it here. Claire gave her a crocheted petri dish full of crocheted cacti as a present, and I gave her a bottle of strawberry wine. I say 'gave' but 'shared with' would be a more accurate phrase. It was the second bottle of the evening as we had already finished the pink fizz.

Strawberry wine goes surprisingly well with curry - and we had many varieties: fried patra, fish, dall, spinach and lamb together with a number of dips. I have a talented wife. Was it gluttony to finish the evening off with generous helpings of tiramisu?

Saturday 23 February 2013

Crab Apple & Strawberry - Fourth Bottle (2), 19th-21st February 2013

This flavour would not, ordinarily, be a mid-week bottle. However, Claire wanted something nice to open on Tuesday. She had missed out on Monday when Julia took over a Chinese restaurant in Oakwood, partly as a delayed 60th birthday party. I was designated drinker, allowing Claire to drive. So on Tuesday, whilst I was out playing quintets at Madeleine's, Claire opened this bottle.

We each had a glass on Wednesday after a quick yet irritating monthly Sainsbury's shop. This usually puts me in a bad mood, and expectations were fulfilled. The wine helped a little but I still maintain it is too dry.

Claire finished the bottle on Thursday because I had already downed two gins before seven.

Thursday 21 February 2013

Elderberry Wine - Sixth Bottle (B3), 17th February 2013

We had haggis again on Sunday. Combined with mashed potato, onion gravy and cabbage, only the deepest, darkest red wine will do.

I did the cooking because Claire had spent all afternoon at a Music Club committee meeting. She came back irate about the length subjects were talked around with absolutely no decisions being made. I suggested a gin and tonic to make things better, but she plumped (plumbed? both look wrong) for viola practice and a sherry chaser instead. By the time we were eating haggis and drinking elderberry wine, life was a little rosier.

At the end of the evening I was all for leaving some wine in the bottle but Claire thought that a daft idea. I did the manly thing and helped her polish it off whilst finishing The Accidental.

Wednesday 20 February 2013

Rose Petal Wine - Fifth Bottle (5), 16th February 2013

I am besotted. Much of this evening has been spent holding Myles. He has not been entirely delighted at the experience throughout. But on the whole he has wriggled without crying, and I call that a success.

We are, of course, at York and I brought a bottle of rose petal wine with me. It went down well, with everyone agreeing it was both interesting and tasty. Rachael was concerned about its percentage, as she did not want to give Myles a taste for alcohol at five weeks old. This is Responsible Parenting in action. I told her it was probably about 12%, without having any evidence to back this up. And I'm sure that rose petal wine flavoured milk can only be a good thing for babies.

Saturday 16 February 2013

Christmas Tutti Fruti - Third Bottle (A6), 15th February 2013

Tonight I have discovered that Claire and I hold chopsticks differently. I go for the 'thumb and two fingers' approach, whereas Claire uses her entire hand. I like to think that my method is the more authentic. Claire, however, can also do chopsticks left handed, whereas in my left hand they are simply sticks.

We have been drinking this bottle of Christmas Tutti Fruti to a meal of corn flour and pepper covered stir-fry pork in a broth of mushroons and noodles and I am currently wondering if there is any pudding (there isn't). The wine is alright - drinkable and fizzy, to the extent that it maintains a frothy head which is aesthetically a bit wrong - but it is on the bland and dry side.

Friday 15 February 2013

Orange Wine - Final Bottle (A2), 10th-13th February 2013

It is a rare Sunday night that we allow a bottle to go unfinished, but that was this bottle's fate. Maybe we are getting old and sensible. It accompanied a rather splendid fish pie, which I cooked whilst Claire was out rehearsing Ludlow and Team, and orange wine always goes well with fish. Then the bottle sat in the fridge until Wednesday.

I was moderately surprised that Claire did not take the opportunity to finish the wine on Tuesday whilst I was out for a beer and curry night with Darren and Nigel. Instead we each had a glass the following evening on a day that was only made remarkable by a heavy snow fall. I am writing this on Thursday, and the snow has all gone, but it caused traffic chaos on Wednesday evening. It took my colleagues two to three hours to get home. It took me five minutes longer than usual. Walking has its benefits.

Wednesday 13 February 2013

Crab Apple Wine - Fifteenth Bottle (A5), 9th February 2013

I have just watched a nasty little film; Black Death starring Sean Bean. It is set in England in 1348, and I was hoping for a plague drama with an emphasis on pestilence. Instead, despite a promising first twenty minutes, what we got was vaguely supernatural hokum with definite goodies and baddies, and a large dollop of cruelty thrown in. Still, it passed the time and the crab apple wine slipped down nicely. To the extent that my cheeks are currently numb.

It has been a rare lazy Saturday where I haven't really done anything. I am getting through this month's Book Group book - The Accidental by Ali Smith. It is the second time I have read it, and it is excellent. The teenage boy's voice is particularly convincing - a brilliant portrayal of the depths of self-hatred and despair.

Sunday 10 February 2013

Prune & Parsnip - Second Bottle (A2), 8th February 2013

This bottle was not quite as good as the last. There is something just a little pointed about it. Drinkable, certainly, but not quite delicious.

I chose prune & parsnip tonight because I have spent much of the evening putting 2013's vintage into its demijohns. Despite having finished this process almost an hour ago, I still feel sticky.

[Claire has just announced that she will be the one upstairs eating all the chocolates, so I had better finish this off quick.]

Our meal was haggis with a medley of vegetables past their first flush of youth. I don't know why I used to be squeamish about haggis - it is a fabulous dish, full of meaty goodness. Also known as "sheep's lungs".

Saturday 9 February 2013

Prune & Parsnip Wine 2013 - The Making Of ...

The raw ingredients
On the strength of one bottle of Prune & Parsnip 2012, this flavour has been promoted to an annual. This could be a mistake, if I take "Gooseberry & Elderflower" as an example. The single batch of that which I made in 2011 was wonderful. I have just bottled 2012's vintage and it is a disaster. Knowing what I did wrong would be useful.

I was in two minds about starting this wine today, 3rd February, because it has been a busy afternoon. Claire and I spent it with WYSO at Wakefield Girls' School, where the heating was firmly switched to 'Off', playing Beethoven's violin concerto to sixth formers. This is my favourite of violin concertos, amongst stiff competition, mostly because it has such a good bassoon part. And the highlight of the afternoon was discovering Sarah is pregnant - due date 14th September, which is the day she had already booked to get married. One day she will see this as an anecdote, and as a reason to cancel a wedding it is one of the best. She has yet to tell her family.

Anyway, once home and having done the washing up, I chopped up four pounds (ish - I didn't measure very carefully) of parsnips into small pieces and put them into our largest pan. These were covered with seven pints of water and put on the hob to boil. I chopped just over a pound of prunes and put these in my bucket with six pounds of sugar.

After having bottled and corked 12 bottles of wine (see above), I drained the parsnips into the bucket, discarding the vegetable (actually, some of it is in the freezer). I worry that I did not boil it for long enough. The pieces of parsnip were soft, but still tasted distinctly of parsnip. I then boiled another seven pints of water and poured this into the bucket too. This was all left overnight and on Monday morning, 4th February, I put in the yeast and nutrient, amylase and pectolase (approximately one teaspoon of each). The amylase is now finished, but had a 'Best Before Date' of September 2007.

I put the liquid into its two demijohns on Friday evening, 8th February. It is fermenting aggressively, and therefore probably just as well that I could have added an extra pint and a half of water in the initial stages.
Aggressive Fermentation
If you want to see how this wine turned out (and it was good), click here

Friday 8 February 2013

A Brief Intermission

Two recent bottles drunk will not be appearing in this blog. For each of them I have received bad or disturbing news involving someone dear to me, and whilst I have written about these in my diary, it would be crass and unfair to put them in a public forum.

This has made me evaluate what the two versions of my diary are for - the one I handwrite, and this blog. The blog started life as a way solely to publicise my book, but has turned into more than that. I watch my statistics obsessively, and have very much enjoyed making cyber acquaintance with several readers - you know who you are. There is a small community of unconnected readers. And lots of people who want to know how to make Quince Wine. My entries are (on the whole) purposively light and puddle-shallow. That isn't to say that when I experience something upsetting I will not write about it. Witness the job shenanigans in 2011. However, if (and this has not happened) a friend is diagnosed with a terminal disease, it would be unfair of me to write "Cyril told me that he is dying whilst I was drinking this wine". (NB I do not know a Cyril.) The blog is an exercise in narcissism. I like to think that people are entertained by the minutae of my unextraordinary life.

The written diary has a different, more pompous, purpose. In this I would write about Cyril's impending demise, because that would matter to me. And whilst not entirely private, only a very few people have access to my written diary. The pompous bit is that I hope that the diary will exist after I do not, and will be a record of one man's life in the early twenty-first century. For this reason, the upsetting, disturbing details are as valid (and possibly moreso) than the details of what I happened to eat with a bottle of gooseberry wine.

So, are there other reasons I am writing my diary? Who is the audience? I used to think that my travel diaries would entertain my grandchildren, but one needs children for that and it has been clear for nearly nine years now that 'children' was never going to be within my own life story. And that is fine. So, I do not know for whom I am writing my hand-written diaries. Some unknown person in the future, whose identity I would love to know. But I shall haunt whoever throws my diaries away.

Tuesday 5 February 2013

Quince Wine - Third Bottle (6), 2nd-5th February 2013

Claire described this bottle, "Like a lady of negotiable virtue and affection. Tart." It is definitely one that needs a hefty dose of sugar solution before drinking. Once applied, quince wine is actually rather good. There is a pleasant floral taste, though clarity leaves much to be desired.

The bottle was opened after an orchestral evening at Music Club. These evenings are generally the lowlight of the season and Saturday was no exception. We played Schubert's Tragic Symphony which, under the circumstances, was aptly named, and both audience and orchestra winced through the performance.

Sunday 3 February 2013

Celery Wine - First Bottle (1), 1st February 2013

I decided that February's Book Group would be the right opportunity for my first bottle of Celery Wine. Particularly as Claire was otherwise engaged and had bribed me with ginger shortbread to reduce our stocks in this flavour. I insisted that everyone have a small taste, and the reactions ranged from "I'll not have any more," to "Ooh, I quite like that". Helen even had a second glass, and at the end of the evening I left her with the half-bottle remaining.

It tasted like a spirit - strong, a little herby and with no distinct celery flavour. So, not the comedy nastiness for which I had hoped and feared in equal measure.

The book was A Month in the Country by J L Carr, which was delightful and universally enjoyed.


If you want to see how I made this wine - click here.  It is currently my sixth most viewed page.

Friday 1 February 2013

Gooseberry Wine - Fifth Bottle (3), 27th January 2013

Gooseberry wine goes badly with galoptious chocolate mousse, but is otherwise a splendid bottle.

We had an unexpected invite to share a Sunday roast with Ros, John and Alex, collecting Julia in a taxi on the way. I wanted to take one of my good wines, so chose this, unsure what the roast would be. It turned out to be lamb, so I drank real red for that. However, there were another three courses, and gooseberry wine accompanies both cheese and Eve's pudding (which I had never heard of before) rather well. It was a lovely way to spend a Sunday night.