This blog is a record of the wine that I make and drink. Each flavour made and each bottle drunk will appear here. You may come to the conclusion that, on the whole, I should be drinking less.

Friday 30 August 2013

Prune & Parsnip Wine - Eighth Bottle (B5), 24th-25th August 2013

I was all prepared to open a bottle of nasty Gooseberry & Elderflower wine when Claire reminded me that I had just played in a relatively stressful concert and therefore should treat myself to something I might want to drink. I am coming to the end of our August ration, and prune & parsnip was the best of what was left.

The concert was Madeleine's 50th birthday concert, where she had arranged for several friends to play a series of chamber music pieces. I played in a trio and a quintet. The trio was terrifying and I genuinely cannot tell whether it went well or not. The quintet was more fun, though I was shouted at by each member for starting it off about twice the speed than had been rehearsed. I blame the adrenalin, but most of a bottle of prune & parsnip wine helped bring things down.

(This recording is obviously not us, but it is one of the pieces we played)

Thursday 29 August 2013

Orange Wine - Sixth Bottle (A2), 22nd August 2013

Hurrah! The Great British Bake Off is back. For the only evening this week, Claire and I were both in. She spent much of the evening on viola practice and I made wine. And, when all this was done, I cracked open a bottle of orange and we settled down to watch amateur cooks bake cakes.

The Great British Bake Off is a lovely programme: even though it is a competion and someone gets eliminated at the end of every episode, there is no cruelty to it. Claire cried when the hopeless, lovable Toby got knocked out (mostly for making his angel cake with salt, not sugar) and decided she needed to get some sense of perspective. I suspect drinking a bottle of orange wine between us on a Thursday night contributed to the emotion.

Hopeless, lovable Toby

Tuesday 27 August 2013

Crab Apple Wine - Fifth Bottle (C2), 18th August 2013

Sunday involved rather more drinking than was sensible. Rachel & Duncan came round for a prawn curry and a bottle of strawberry wine. However, there was also the last of a bottle of elderberry to finish and my (large) taster glasses of the Christmas Tutti Fruti that I had just bottled. After all of that we emptied this bottle of crab apple too and consequently I have been off the booze since (I am writing this on Wednesday). From what I remember, this was a particularly good crab apple and mixing it with a sparkling elderberry was a winning combination. Still, my impression of much of the night remains a blur - albeit one that is entirely positive. More Renoir than Monet.

More this ...
... than this

Monday 26 August 2013

Strawberry Wine - First Bottle (3), 18th August 2013

I have been saving the first bottle of strawberry wine to share with Rachel and Duncan, seeing as they helped pick the fruit. They came round tonight, bringing prawn crackers, real wine and a box of mangos, and a glorious evening was had by all. My only complaint is that it is a Sunday. My head is spinning in the way it should only do on a Friday.

The wine was fabulous. Really rather special. Strawberry wine is always good, but I think this is one of my best. We polished it off before eating any more than the (home grown) salad starter, so of course I had to open another bottle. This may explain the rollercoaster room that I am currently experiencing.


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

Saturday 24 August 2013

Blackcurrant Wine 2013 - The Making Of ...

Blackcurrants and Stan
 This year has been an amazing one for blackcurrants. I noticed back in May that our three bushes were covered in flowers. Hitherto our blackcurrant harvest has been unimpressive. This year could not be more different. We have already used six and a half pounds and there is probably the same amount again in the freezer. I predict many jars of jam.

Our blackcurrants

I have been picking blackcurrants since late July and there are still some to go. These may be left for the birds, thought I wouldn't want our garden to become a soft fruit restaurant for pigeons.

I started the wine on Sunday, 18th August. Rachel came over with the blackcurrants she had harvested whilst Claire and I were at Rydal, and I supplemented these with those I had picked that day to make the weight up to three pounds. I put them in the bucket and poured over half a pint of boiling water to encourage them to defrost whilst Rachel, Duncan, Claire and I made merry and drank rather too much for a Sunday.

At some point that night, though I now cannot remember precisely when, I mashed the fruit and poured over a boiling syrup made up of three pounds of sugar dissolved in five-and-a-half pints of water. I left it overnight to cool and on Monday morning, setting my alarm 10 minutes early so I could do this and make my sandwiches, I added the yeast and a teaspoon each of pectolase and nutrient.

The liquid was strained into the demijohn on Thursday night, 22 August, while listening to a not-as-dull-as-it-sounds documentary about Gibraltar on Radio 4. Apparently cigarette smuggling is big business there. I left a large gap in the demijohn overnight, keeping some wine back in its own bottle. This was wise as the fermentation was initially aggressive. 24 hours later I have filled the demijohn to its neck and the wine's colour is that of a dark claret.

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

Friday 23 August 2013

Elderberry Wine - First Bottle (B3), 17th-18th August 2013

Circumstances required me to open this bottle a whole month earlier than I would have ordinarily. I had little choice in the matter. The cork was giving every sign of about to shoot out the neck in spectacular fashion. I had a jug to hand as I opened the bottle, and this proved necessary. The wine exploded in firework style and I managed to catch all the liquid. There was much pink foam, fizzing away like a violent chemistry experiment.

The taste of this wine was acceptable, but it is clear this wine needs more time to mature. It is an elderberry alcopop, and I am worried that the other bottles will also have a tendency to detonate. Chances of it maturing are low.


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

Wednesday 21 August 2013

Rhubarb & Elderflower Wine - Second Bottle (1), 12th August 2013

"Rather better than I had anticipated" is a common reaction to my wine.

I took this bottle to the Wands as Paul and family are over from Canada and Helen promised chocolate cake. Because I was driving I only had a small glass, but I made sure I had the first glass so I could manage expectations. Happily, this is a good bottle, and it looks delightful  - pink and bubbly. I think the Wands were genuinely impressed.

It was a lovely evening, and very noisy. Paul and Allie have four rambunctious children. Alexander and Ellie wanted to be around the adults. Adam and Alice did not. Alex is two years older than I was when I met Paul, which is hard to believe. I see a fair amount of Paul in him - not so much in looks, but in humour and interests. Just slightly geeky but with social grace too.

Tuesday 20 August 2013

Dandelion Wine - Final Bottle (4), 11th-13th August 2013

I had expected marvellous things of this bottle, remembering that the last two had been superb. Instead, I got something that was on the good side of drinkable. There was the dandelion herby taste from earlier bottles, which is distinctive without being actively nice. I am pleased that I did not serve this wine at Book Group on Friday, and instead shared it only between Claire and me.

We drank the bottle to our first home grown tomato of the year, which was small and yellow. This is a small, yellow tomato more than we got last year, and I expect many more. Claire's plants are looking healthy and fecund, and we should be eating a tomato glut shortly after courgette week has passed.

Claire's tomato plants
With this post, my blog has come full circle. This batch of dandelion was the first wine that I made after starting the blog, and you can see how I made it by clicking here. If you want to see how each bottle turned out, just click on the label 'Dandelion' below. So, in the 2 years and 4 months that I have been writing this blog, I have provided recipes for fifty batches of wine and thirty separate flavours. There have been 440 posts, of which only a handful are neither about making wine or drinking bottles. Therefore, I reckon that about 370 posts relate to drinking a bottle of wine. As I say at the top of the blog, you may come to the conclusion that I am drinking too much! Cheers.

Sunday 18 August 2013

Elderberry Wine - Tenth Bottle (B1), 10th August 2013

Well, I do make a grand bottle of elderberry wine if I say so myself. This wine was rich, dark and heavy and has made me rather sleepy. To the extent that I shall finish this entry tomorrow. Pathetic, I know.

(It is now tomorrow.) I had a glorious time drinking this. Claire and I were in the kitchen together: she jam making and I making wine and cooking. It was nothing exciting or out of the ordinary, but it was special. This togetherness. Pottering about in hobbit-like fashion.

The meal I cooked was griddled courgettes, grilled lamb chops marinated in olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, oregano and rosemary, and Julia's home grown beans. All delicious and the wine went splendidly with it.

Saturday 17 August 2013

Rhubarb Wine - Fourth Bottle (A2), 9th August 2013

Book Group was held at ours this month and I realised too late that I did not have any real wine in the house. Rhubarb wine is a close approximation so I chilled this in the freezer for 45 minutes and then the fridge. Given a choice between rhubarb and elderberry everyone chose the rhubarb, so between us we polished off the bottle quickly. The comments were generally favourable.

Out book was The Great Gatsby, which I had read in my early twenties and had not enjoyed. It is surprising what a difference two decades makes. This time I loved it - exquisite writing, important subjects of pretence and loss, with elements of mystery. Everyone voted this a 'Hit', with Jon being the most lukewarm. And then three large homemade cakes were brought into the room.

Thursday 15 August 2013

Blackcurrant and Red Gooseberry Wine 2013 - The Making Of ...

Eight days ago I opened my first bottle of blackcurrant and red gooseberry wine. It was really rather lovely - full of sharp, fruity flavour that takes the best from each ingredient. Therefore, when presented with a heavy crop of blackcurrants this year, I decided to do it again.

Both Fruits Together
Our blackcurrant bushes are prolific this summer. Even though we are towards the end of the season I still managed to get nearly two pounds of fruit off them today, 10th August, and there are several pounds in the freezer. Between us, Claire and I are planning another batch of wine, several jars of jam, blackcurrant gin, blackcurrant vodka, sorbet and still plenty left over for Christmas Tutti Fruti.

Red Gooseberries - always the bridesmaid and never the bride
The red gooseberries are doing less well, and I blame the sawfly, which I ignored entirely this year. But there were still enough of them for my arms to get thoroughly scratched and to get the 8 oz needed for this recipe.

I started making the wine this evening whilst also cooking tonight's meal - lamb chops marinated in olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, rosemary and oregano, griddled courgettes, cous-cous and french beans - so had to be careful not to mix the ingredients and processes. I weighed out 2½ lbs blackcurrants (getting some from the freezer) and 8 oz red gooseberries. These were put in the bucket and I mashed them (after pouring over half a pint of boiling water) while heating 5½ pints of water with 3 lbs sugar dissolved.

The ingredients in the bucket before the yeast was added
Once the water had reached boiling point I poured it over the mashed fruit and left it overnight before adding the yeast and a teaspoon each of nutrient and pectolase. I left it for a further four days - till Wednesday 14th August - before sieving out the fruit and putting the liquid into its demijohn. I did this part while listening to Tchaikovsky's Third Symphony on Radio 3. It is not a piece I know at all and, apart from the bombastic and tedious final movement, it is rather good.

The result so far
If you want to see how this wine turned out, click here

Wednesday 14 August 2013

Exotic Tinned Fruit - Fourth Bottle (B6), 7th August 2013

It is a rare occasion that a bottle of my wine ends up down the sink. This was one such occasion. When I put a cork in this bottle several months ago, my piece of string snapped and I left it dangling in the wine (held tightly by the cork) rather than redo the process. This proved to be a mistake. Wine somehow travelled up the string over time, leaving a fifth of the bottle empty. The resulting wine, whilst beautifully clear, was horrid. Really nasty. I could only drink one large glass.

"Let that be a lesson to us," I commented to Claire. She questioned the use of the first person plural. In future it is probably worth spending that extra ten pence on a new cork. Being miserly is not always a Good Thing.

Tuesday 13 August 2013

Gooseberry Wine - Second Bottle (3), 3rd August 2013

We are just back from Rydal but still officially on holiday until 8:30 on Monday morning. Claire, having drunk only beer while we were in the Lakes, wanted something nice, so chose gooseberry wine.

Whilst we were away the garden has become a land of plenty so our meal was entirely home grown, apart from the eggs. We had a fritatta with broad beans, runner beans and all sorts of herbs, a green salad and the first courgette of the season, griddled and drenched in lemon. Actually, the lemon didn't come from our garden either. Global warming hasn't got that far yet. The gooseberry wine went well with all of this - sharp, dry and alcoholic. What's not to like?

Monday 12 August 2013

Cherry Wine - The Making Of ...

Cherry Wine was never on my list of 'To Dos'. I could not imagine getting enough cherries. Anyone I know with a cherry tree complains that when the fruit is ripe a whirlwind of feathers descend and the birds steal every cherry. However, the summer of 2013 will be spoken of with reverence for years to come as the period of bountiful soft fruit.

Mom rang on Saturday to say that Susan Craig had picked twenty pounds of cherries from her tree and did not want to see them go to waste. I checked my recipe books and found three cherry wine recipes. Two of these required the cherries to be stoned, but one did not and therefore the choice was made. It requires six pounds of fruit, and stoning this amount would have been tedious in the extreme. Removing the stalks was bad enough.

Only some of the cherries Susan brought round
The cherries that Susan brought round were ripe and on the verge of going over. I weighed out six pounds, leaving the remainder (two-and-a-half pounds) for cherry brandy and jam. These were washed and I crushed them with a potato masher in the bucket. I had not expected as much juice as they produced and in retrospect I think I have added too much water. C J J Berry's  recipe called for eight pints, but I boiled six and a half instead and poured this over the mashed cherries. This was all done on Sunday, 4th August.

Cherries in my bucket
On Tuesday evening, 6th August, I strained the liquid into my biggest pan, throwing out the cherry flesh, skin and stones, and brought this to the boil with the lid off. When it reached violent bubbles I poured the liquid over three pounds of sugar - which is a pound less than dictated by C J J Berry. Four pounds of sugar would be ridiculous. I put in the sachet of yeast and a teaspoon each of nutrient, citric acid and pectolase the following morning.

Having added the yeast on Wednesday morning
 In my preparations for putting this into its demijohn on Sunday, 11th August, I broke a brown glass demijohn, which caused much cursing. After sterilising it, I added boiling water and heard an unmistakable crack. This is irritating. I am running out of demijohns - they are all full - and only have one unbroken brown one left, currently housing rhubarb wine. Anyway, as suspected, I could have done with at least a pint and a half less water for this flavour, but the colour is a wonderful cherry red.

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

Sunday 11 August 2013

Gooseberry & Elderflower - Second Bottle (B4), 2nd August 2013 (ish)

This bottle was the booby prize for the 'Last Night at Rydal Quiz'. I saw this as a perfect opportunity to offload some of this wine, without having to drink any myself. The team that came last included Imogen, a cellist who had not been to Rydal before and who has made wine in the past. Therefore she took the bottle, not realising how awful it is likely to be. At breakfast this morning I warned her of the ghastly aftertaste, and I am pleased I did, because she had been looking forward to opening the wine. Imogen now has plans to pass it onto someone else. I wonder who the unfortunate victim will be.

Saturday 10 August 2013

Blackcurrant & Red Gooseberry Wine - First Bottle (1), 2nd August 2013

Really very tasty indeed. But also fizzy. I opened this bottle for our last night at Rydal, and had to be quick with the pour as I saw bubbles travelling up the bottle neck. Very few drops escaped and I was helped by Sally's waiting glass. The taste is sharp and fruity. It is just as light as blackcurrant proper but there is possibly more depth to it. I would have to taste them together to decide.

The evening I drank this was Very Silly Indeed. It involved having to create a two minute opera on the theme of Beyoncé. I was assigned the role of 'Flying Horse' and was required to sing the bass part to Ride of the Valkyries, while a vicar sang the soprano part falsetto. A bottle of wine could only help.


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

Thursday 8 August 2013

Elderflower Wine - Third Bottle (A4), 1st August 2013

The Barn in which the Rydal Orchestra plays.
This was a Rydal bottle of wine. The holiday is approaching its end and possibly that is a Good Thing. I am having a marvellous time but it is exhausting playing five hours of classical music a day, eating three hearty meals, going for a walk (sometimes, though not today, involving a strenuous up) and being sociable all the time. Great for a week, but I couldn't keep it going much longer.

I shared this bottle of elderflower around, but was not quite so pushy with it as previous Rydal bottles. Everyone who tried it liked it, I think, though Matt suggested there was some bitterness to it, and Bob mentioned something about 'high harmonics' which I did not fully understand. But it is now past midnight and I must go to sleep.

Wednesday 7 August 2013

Blackberry Wine - Seventeenth Bottle (B1), 30th July 2013

Today has officially been an Excellent Day. We are in Rydal, nearly half way through the week, and I have completed my cycle of Beethoven symphonies. I played my first (which was also his first) in either 1984 or 1985, and I have played my ninth (which is his second) today, at least 28 years later. Not only that, I have also played Brahms' second and climbed Loughrigg in the sunshine.

A view from Loughrigg
A bottle of blackberry wine is the right one to mark the occasion - it is my favourite home made wine, and this bottle reinforced my opinion. Light and fizzy and fruity.

I shared it with several of those around me and all were sufficiently impressed (I think). Kirsty earned her glass for buying me a blackcurrant icecream earlier in the day. We both felt we had done well out of the deal.

Sunday 4 August 2013

Prune & Parsnip - Seventh Bottle (A6), 28th July 2013

We are staying at Rydal Hall in the Lake District for our annual orchestra holiday and I have brought five bottles of wine with me. Prune & Parsnip was the first and I encouraged many musicians to have a taste. The overall feedback I got was "Far better than we had feared" and most people were postively enthusiastic. Matt and Sally independently compared it to the taste of Christmas. It definitely has a sherry taste, and I drank much of the bottle myself (which is too much sherry for one person).

Rydal Hall - My room was middle row, 7th from the left

The musical highlight of the day was Dvorak's Eighth Symphony which I have decided is my favourite of his. Each movement is galoptious, though I now wonder if I have invented that word.

Friday 2 August 2013

Whitecurrant Wine - The Making Of ...

Whitecurrants are misnamed. Beigecurrants would be the more accurate description. But I am pleased that this misnomer exists, because it means I get to tick the letter 'W' off my alphabet of wine. When Julia mentioned her whitecurrant bushes looked promising this year, my ears pricked up for this reason. On hearing that they needed netting to defeat the birds, I drove to her allotment as quickly as residential speed limits would allow. Then I made space in a busy Saturday, 20th July, to go and pick them.

Whitecurrants are more difficult to pick that their red siblings. The bushes are lower, which involved crouching and sitting and getting badly stung by nettles. Several hours later my hands were still throbbing. The fruit grows in strings, hanging below the branches and, as with redcurrants, I picked the fruit on their stems, and made no effort to remove the greenery.

I came away from the allotment with 2 lbs 15¼ oz of whitecurrants. The recipe calls for 3 lbs, and I looked on my harvesting as 'Efficient' rather than 'Three Quarters of an Ounce Short'.

I washed the currants on Sunday 21st July, put them in their bucket and crushed them. I dissolved 2 lbs 12oz sugar in six pints of water, brought this to the boil and poured it over the fruit. On Monday morning I added the yeast and a teaspoon each of nutrient and pectolase.

I sieved out the currants on Friday 26th July and put the liquid into its demijohn. The amount of water was spot on. This, I think, is the palest wine I have made. I hope this does not translate into a dull flavour.

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