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.

Monday 29 July 2013

Orange Wine - Fifth Bottle (A3), 21st July 2013

Orange was our lazy Sunday night bottle of wine. The day was spent firstly in York, mostly playing with Myles and eating Big Breakfast, and secondly in Leeds, mostly making excitingly flavoured wine. We were meant to book our flights to America, but by the time we had eaten and drunk, we decided that could wait till Wednesday. Claire and I are great procrastinators, but we really need to pull our fingers out on this one.

The orange wine is one of the best batches I have made of this flavour and went well with 'Spicy, Garlicky, Tomatoey Prawns' - which is one of those dishes which is both a staple and a treat.

Saturday 27 July 2013

Rose Petal Wine 2013 - The Making Of ...

Ordinarily I get to December and worry that I have made too much wine. This year that thought has struck in July. I did not intend to make a double batch of Rose Petal Wine. It just sort of happened.

My father had strict instructions to collect withering petals and freeze them while Mom was in Nebraska. Meanwhile, I harvested roses from our garden - mostly white, but two blooms from the red. We both overperformed and each collected enough for a single batch. It would have been a tragedy to see all these petals go onto the compost heap, so I have made a double.

I collected the York rose petals today, 21st July, having spent some of the weekend there before Rachael, Paul and Myles move to Leicester. Have I mentioned how adorable Myles is? He is now 6 months old, and gurgles away happily.

Anyway, back home I measured eight pints of petals and put them in my bucket. I covered these with 2 litres of grape juice, 5 pounds of sugar and eleven pints of boiling water. Thanks to Joanne, who left me a comment on an earlier post, I have found proper white grape juice at Aldi. Rejoice.

The recipe calls for two lemons, but I didn't have any, so I squeezed the juice of two oranges instead and added that.

On Monday morning I added the yeast, two teaspoons of nutrient and a teaspoon each of pectolase and tannin. This all sat around smelling lovely for five days, until I put it into its demijohns on Friday 26th July. I'm sure it smells no less fragrant, but the airlock means I cannot tell. The recipe could have used another pint of water. However, I did spill a bit, as the wine bounced off the rose petals collecting in my sieve. I love the colour, which is a dark, dusky pink.

If you want to see how the first bottle of this wine tasted, click here

Thursday 25 July 2013

Crab Apple Wine - Fourth Bottle (B1), 20th July 2013

I may be distracted whilst writing this entry. I am playing Scrabble against my mother and Claire, and have just had my hopes of playing the word 'Hoodwink' dashed. Instead, I had to be satisfied with 'Who', allowing Claire 'Comb' on the triple word score and 48 points. Bah!

We are in York, visiting for the last time before Rachael moves back to Leicester, this time accompanied by Paul and Myles. I brought a bottle of crab apple wine to mark the occasion and everyone claimed to enjoy it.

Quick aside - I am currently losing, and there are no letters left in the bag. I am stuck with the K and the Z, and suspect this is all about to go horribly wrong. Still, it has been a lovely evening, some of which I spent feeding Myles liquidised carrot and rice. Most of it went into his mouth. I am not sure how much he swallowed.

Wednesday 24 July 2013

Blackcurrant Wine - First Bottle (1), 17th July 2013

This blackcurrant wine has a sharp, acidic, fruity taste. It is dry and light and tastes strongly of its base fruit. Claire thinks it is wonderful - an alcoholic Ribena - whereas I think it is merely very good.

Unusually we have drunk the whole bottle on a Wednesday night, but since the WYSO concert was on Saturday (a glorious experience, where we had an enthusiastic audience of 1,190 waving flags, dancing the can-can and drinking lots of bubbly) there has not been an orchestra to attend. Instead I have spent the evening cooking sausages and delighting in the fact that we get instant hot water now that we have had our ancient boiler replaced.


If you want to see how I made this wine, click here. I have recently been getting lots of people searching for 'black currant wine' and finding my blog. Welcome to you all!

Monday 22 July 2013

Elderflower Wine - Final Bottle (A4), 15th July 2013

Our last bottle of Elderflower 2011 was drunk at Richard & Linda's. Claire drove, so I drank a goodly portion. Linda doesn't drink and Richard is really only one rung off teetotal. But I had spent a busy day wine-making and feeling hot, so half a bottle of elderflower wine was Just the Thing.

It was a lovely evening. I had not seen Richard and Linda since they came back from Minnesota, and that was a month ago. They had a wonderful time and I got the impression that Linda found her parents in better health than she was expecting. Her father was eighty while they were there, and it meant a lot to Linda to join him for that.

Richard cooked a wonderful meal for us. The absolute highlight was a savoury cake made with pistachios, goats' cheese and prunes. It sounds like it shouldn't have worked, but I had two slices and brought another two home with me.

Sunday 21 July 2013

Strawberry Wine 2013 - The Making Of ...


It is 14th July and this is the latest I have made strawberry wine. All fruit is late this year, but I was concerned that I may have missed out on the Pick Your Own Strawberries. My worries were not entirely unjustified. I arrived at Wharfedale Grange and was told there were 'Plenty' in the furthest field. 'Some' would have been a more accurate description.

Wharfedale Grange Pick Your Own
In past years I have been relatively fussy with my fruit, picking those at ideal ripeness and trying for the larger berries. This year I took anything I could get. Not quite fully red? A dark maroon? Tiny strawberries akin to wild alpine versions? All went into my basket. I didn't even draw the line at 'nibbled by insects', though I did reject 'crushed underfoot'.

I came away with five and a half pounds of fruit, and this took ages. Claire had given me up for dead. At home I weighed out four pounds of strawberries and washed them. For the first time ever I decided not to hull them. I am sure the greenery won't kill me. I crushed the strawberries in the bucket and covered them with four pints of boiling water and three pounds of sugar. 

On Monday night, 15th July, after a meal of cold salads, I strained the liquid into a demijohn, keeping the pulp in our largest pan. I poured two pints of cold water over the pulp and let it stand while I racked my Dandelion and washed and resterilised the bucket. I then strained the liquid from the pulp into the bucket, throwing the pulp away, and poured the liquid in the demijohn back into the bucket. I added a sachet of yeast (Burgundy) and a teaspoon each of tannin, pectolase and nutrient. This all took far longer than it should.

However, putting the wine into the demijohn on Thursday 18th July was rapid work. It is much paler than usual - a light terracotta orange rather than a deep pink. At least it is bubbling away with vigour.

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

Saturday 20 July 2013

Redcurrant Wine 2013 - The Making Of ...

Several weeks ago I helped Julia net her redcurrants. She thought they looked promising but knew that without a net they would serve only as bird food. This was a wise thing to do. The redcurrants are abundant.

Ruby clusters
I made arrangements to meet Julia on the allotment this morning, Sunday 14th July. It being fabulous weather - we are getting a proper summer, the first we have had for years - I forsook my beloved Broadcasting House and turned up with Claire at 9:30. Despite the early hour it was already hot and we needed suncream.

The picking was easy. Redcurrants hung off the bush in ruby clusters. I stood in one place and filled a container and then a bag. There was no effort involved. If I thought I was coming to the end of a spot, I only needed to look at a slightly different angle, and a whole new redcurrant seam would be revealed.

I had only intended to make a single batch of wine, but we came away with enough for a double, enough for recurrant jelly and a few more besides. Claire weighed out six pounds while I was out picking strawberries. On my return I washed them and put them in the bucket, without stripping the fruit from their stalks. Crushing the redcurrants took very little time. I boiled twelve pints of water with five-and-a-half pounds of sugar dissolved in it (but in two stages) and poured this over the mix.
Six pounds of redcurrants (and some camomile)

On Monday morning I added the yeast and a teaspoon each of pectolase and nutrient. Ordinarily wine takes 24 hours or more to show signs of fermentation. Not in this weather. It is bubbling away happily 12 hours later.

I sieved out the fruit, putting the wine into its demijohns on Thursday 18th July. This was a quicker process than I had feared, and it needed to be. Tonight has been a busy evening - what with rescuing Claire from a house that would not lock and doing a spot of emergency tidying. The wine's colour is a fabulous magenta.
If you want to see how this wine turned out, click here.

Wednesday 17 July 2013

Peapod Wine - Fifth Bottle (4), 10th-11th July 2013

I had hoped that Peapod Wine might "Do a Dandelion" - starting off indifferent and bland when young, but maturing into something rather special two years after making. My hopes have been dashed against the rocks of experience. Peapod wine remains indifferent and bland with a faint trace of vegetable.

We drank some of the bottle after WYSO, where I am beginning to feel encouraged about Saturday's concert, and had the rest on Thursday night mostly while watching Absolutely Fabulous. I suspect it will be some time before we drink the final bottle.

Sunday 14 July 2013

Crab Apple & Strawberry - Final Bottle (6), 6th July 2013

As is traditional for the hottest day of the year, I spent much of it driving along a motorway. We were on our way to see Catherine in Leamington Spa and by Sheffield I cracked in a moment of weakness. I turned the air conditioning on. This only improved things marginally and I spent the journey worrying that the heat and the constant vibration would cause my final bottle of Crab Apple & Stawberry to explode.

It survived the trip, but when I opened it later in the evening I covered Catherine's kitchen in pink wine. About a third of the bottle was lost. Still, as we had been drinking mojitos since five, this was possibly not a Bad Thing.

We had a lovely evening, sitting outside eating barbequed food, catching up with Catherine, who I have not seen for three years. When Britain does 'Summer', which happens rarely, it does it marvellously. Sitting outside on a warm evening is just a joy.

Saturday 13 July 2013

Gooseberry Wine - First Bottle (4), 5th July 2013

After the frankly terrible 'Gooseberry and Elderflower 2012', it is a relief to report that 'Gooseberry 2012' is really rather good. It has a sharp, dry taste and the gooseberry flavour is distinctive.

Claire got home late after an extremely busy day at work sequencing the DNA of bladder cancer, and I gave her the choice of this or blackcurrant (which is ordinarily her favourite). With the weather being properly hot and having a plate of home grown salad, chilled gooseberry was the preferred option.

I spent much of the bottle clearing the kitchen in preparation for putting the elderflower into its demijohns, and then performing the said task. So another Friday night of living on the edge.
A somewhat poor photo of our sald from the garden

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

Wednesday 10 July 2013

Christmas Tutti Fruti - Eighth Bottle (B1), 3rd-4th July 2013

Pomp and Circumstance March Number One is a dreadful piece of music. Particularly when played badly. It has no subtlety and there is nothing interesting or exciting about it. Perhaps it is a metaphor for this wine, which is firmly in the 'okay' category. So scratch that. Pomp and Circumstance is definitely worse than 'okay'. WYSO has to play it for the Pontefract Castle concert, but we do so under protest.

Our Wednesday night glass was Christmas Tutti Fruti because this was voted 'most likely to explode'. I noticed the cork creeping out of the bottle on Monday so carried it carefully to the fridge. We finished the bottle on Thursday, some of which I spent watching The Returned, an intriguing French drama involving the dead coming back to life.

NB - This video is not WYSO. We are much better than that!

Monday 8 July 2013

Rhubarb Wine - Third Bottle (A3), 30th June 2013

Rhubarb was the natural choice tonight. We have spent the late afternoon and early evening at Amy and Darren's, installing their wedding present. This was a rhubarb cutting from Claire's grandmother's plant, in a large ceramic pot. Claire did the installing and I stood around in the kitchen drinking tea: a fair division of labour.

Amy had invited two other friends round - Rachel and Nick. Nick is also a homebrewer and brought along his elderflower cider. We each tried the other's and made (genuine) complimentary noises. Both drinks were delicious and it is a pity I was driving.

Between the six of us we ate vast quantities of cheese, potato and meat. Salad was there for decoration and we finished the evening with chocolate fudge cake and cream. I shan't be measuring my cholesterol any time soon.

Sunday 7 July 2013

Elderflower Wine 2013 - The Making Of ...

This is the latest I have ever started elderflower wine. It is the last day of June and elder trees are only just in abundant flower. As today threatened (and proved) to be a busy day, I ventured out to the nearby fields at around half past ten to pick elderflowers. I was probably only gone twenty minutes before returning with a bagfull. And this proved to be too many.
A Bag of Elderflowers
Earlier in the week I had experimented with freezing elderflowers to see if this would make stripping them any easier. It did, a little, but the flowers rapidly turned an unattractive brown, so I ditched that as an idea. Yesterday Julia recommended using scissors, and this is the method I chose, hoping it would make the process quicker. My hopes were realised - but barely. And by the end of my session collecting two pints of blossom I became increasingly cavalier about how much stem fell into the measuring jug. Life is sometimes too short to worry about these things.

I left the flowers for five hours while Claire and I went to Amy and Darren's to instal a rhubarb plant and eat our own body weight in cheese. On our return I put the flowers into my bucket and added five pounds of sugar, 12 pints of cold water, 2 litres of 'Grape & Peach Juice Drink' - I find it impossible to source unbuggered-about-with white grape juice -, two teaspoons of tannin, one teaspoon of pectolase and two each of crushed camden and vitamin B1 tablets. The camden tablets have a best before date of 2000. I added the yeast and two teaspoons of nutrient the following morning.

Apart from stirring the wine twice a day, I left it until Friday 5th July, at which point I sieved out the flowers, with the liquid going into its two demijohns. This was done while listening to a moving Radio 4 Play, Strike for a Kingdom, about poverty, class and murder in 1926 Wales. Learning my lesson from yesterday's gooseberry, I have left a little room between the liquid and the demijohn's neck to allow for excessive fermentation, and I have kept back some nascent wine for topping up.
I think I need to mow the lawn
If you want to see how this wine turned out, click here.

Friday 5 July 2013

Gooseberry Wine 2013 - The Making Of ...

I arrived home last night, 28th June, to the message that Julia's whitecurrants were in urgent need of netting and the gooseberries were ready to be plucked. Now, I am particularly keen on preserving the whitecurrants as they will tick off another letter from my wine alphabet project, so I arrived at Julia's allotment at just after ten this morning. It was a fine day and after a quick inspection of her plot, including a brand new high-tech been hive and a plum tree laden with more fruit than it knows what to do with, I set to work on the gooseberry bush.

There were plenty of berries, but most were not yet ripe. I concentrated on the largest fruits and this involved practically crawling underneath the bush. Nearly twelve hours later my arms look as if I have been tormenting Aggie when she is in a ferocious mood. However, the scars are worth it. I came away with exactly six pounds of gooseberries and safe in the knowledge that the whitecurrants were securely netted.

At home I weighed and washed the fruit and intended to spend the afternoon picking elderflowers. Instead, I got otherwise distracted and decided the elderflowers could wait a day.

Washing the fruit
In the evening, after cooking a particularly delicious pork, cashew nut and lime stir-fry and bottling my blackberry wine, I sliced the gooseberries using the food processor. This was a much faster and less painful process than trying to crush them with a potato masher, which has been my method in previous years. I have added 3 lbs of sugar and 6 pints of boiling water. This is a simpler, quicker method than directed by C J J Berry and I suspect just as effective. I put the yeast and a teaspoon each of nutrient and pectolase into the mix the following morning.

I sieved the liquid into its demijohn on Thursday night, 4th July. It is an opaque phlegm-coloured mix, and I predict a relatively large sediment. I have filled the demijohn to its neck and this may prove to be a mistake.
The space between the liquid and the neck shows how much wine bubbled out

Wednesday 3 July 2013

Christmas Tutti Fruti - Seventh Bottle (B6), 27th-28th June 2013

Claire writes: As a rare treat, I am in charge of the wine diary. I have had a week off work and this bottle has accompanied Thursday and Friday evenings. I have been callously abandoned on both of these evenings and have spent the time ALONE with this bottle and a couple of episodes of Precision presented by Marcus de Soutoy. Both wine and Precision are OK - neither more nor less. So there.

Ben writes:  I had three sips from this bottle, though Claire might describe them as gulps.

Monday 1 July 2013

Gooseberry & Elderflower - First Bottle (B6), 25th-26th June 2013

Claire's Facebook Status Update currently reads: "The new batch of gooseberry and elderflower wine has a peculiar delayed-action nastiness. It looks stunning (golden, crystal clear and sparkling) and tastes perfectly innocuous for the first ten seconds. Then the full sweaty, mousey nastiness grabs you by the back of the tongue and whirls your tonsils around". Eight people, including three of my cousins, have 'Liked' this. We managed to finish it, though today, the day after, I have had a constant headache. Still, only another eleven bottles to go.


If you want to read how I made this wine, click here. The 2011 batch was delicious. I don't know what happened!.