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 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

Thursday 19 September 2013

Christmas Tutti Fruti - Ninth Bottle (A3), 8th-9th September 2013

This bottle of Christmas Tutti Fruti was rather better than I had remembered this batch to be. It was not as thin and had a richer, fruitier flavour. Perhaps it was the food that brought this out. Claire cooked two fabulous curries, one involving slow cooked lamb and the other with chickpeas and butternut squash, and we ate them with homemade pilau rice. As an added bonus there is still plenty in our fridge as left overs.

Even though it was a Sunday night, where drinking at least a bottle is de rigeur these days, there was still at least a glass left for Monday night. This was Claire's treat as I was out at Airedale Orchestra, struggling with An American in Paris  and Korngold's violin concerto.

Wednesday 18 September 2013

Blackcurrant Wine - Second Bottle (2), 7th-8th September 2013

I opened this bottle after the first Music Club of the season. It is an event that marks the end of summer and always arrives too soon. There was some good music, though. The Bridgewaters are always a pleasure, but the evening's highlight was Dawn singing songs dedicated to joy and sorrow. It was only towards the end of the evening that I began to yearn for a glass of blackcurrant wine and a slice of chocolate beetroot cake.

The wine was its usual sharp, fruity self and is unmistakeably blackcurrant. We did not quite finish the bottle, leaving enough for a taster tonight, after trying small glasses of blackcurrant gin and blackcurrant vodka. The gin wins by an inch.

Monday 16 September 2013

Rhubarb Wine - Fifth Bottle (B4), 4th-6th September 2013

WYSO has begun again, with a triple helping of Beethoven - Leonora Number 2, the violin concerto and his third symphony. Equally as good, we appear to have a double bass - something that WYSO has always lacked. We spent the evening on the symphony, and consequently I had that playing on my internal jukebox for hours on Wednesday night when I should have been asleep.

Once Claire and I got home we cracked open a bottle of rhubarb and, despite the late hour, caught up on The Great British Bake Off. Showing uncharacteristic self-control, we left enough in the bottle for Thursday (which I spent wine-making) and for a glass on Friday. I came home in a very bad mood and the remaining glass went some way to lifting it.

WYSO in uncharacteristic surroundings

Saturday 14 September 2013

Crab Apple Wine - Sixth Bottle (B4), 1st September 2013

The day has been spent making blackberry wine, baking bread and trying to calm Claire down about all the air travel we will be doing shortly. She has a real phobia about flying - and I don't know what I can do. I have suggested that she can always decide not to come to America, but I would hate that. Still, things improved over the course of the evening, and I think the crab apple wine helped. We drank it to the egg, tomato and pepper thing, which is always a winner. Except we had no peppers and an abundance of courgettes, so used those instead. I spent the rest of the evening arseing about on the computer while Claire read.

The wine was its usual crab apple self, thought there is something cloying about this batch. Worth drinking nonetheless.

Thursday 12 September 2013

Blackberry Wine - First Bottle (A6), 31st August 2013

What a splendid evening, and in fact what a splendid day. We have spent it in York, mostly picking blackberries for the 2013 vintage of this wine. I had not expected Keith and family to be here, but they arrived shortly before we left for the cemetery. It has been far, far too long since we have seen them - November last year - and Ellis was initially scared of me. But he was soon showing me his hoola-hooping skills and chatting merrily away.

We all sat around the dining table in the evening, eating a bring-round curry and making lots of noise.

The wine was good - drier than previous years, with a slight fizz and possibly not as alcoholic. But, as I say, the day was splendid.


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

Tuesday 10 September 2013

Elderberry Wine - Third Bottle (B2), 30th August 2013

I wanted to leave this bottle at least until September. Three bottles of elderberry drunk in the last fortnight of August? It is sacrilege. Claire was more sensible. It was clear that the bottle would explode sooner rather than later. Why not share it between ourselves rather than with the carpet as well? So I opened the wine and poured it into the waiting jug where it fizzed and bubbled.

The wine fizzing and bubbling
It was a lazy Friday night where we drank the wine to homemade breadsticks and tapas, to an unseen episode of QI and a couple of episodes of Twenty Twelve. I rang Rachael to find out how she and family are all settling in back at Leicester - chaotically seems to be the answer. Myles is frustrated that currently he can only crawl backwards.

The wine having calmed down a little

Saturday 7 September 2013

Blackberry Wine 2013 - The Making Of ...

It is Blackberry time of year again. I have been watching them ripen on my daily walk to work over the past few weeks. Whilst there is about a month of picking left, this weekend straddling August and September was the most convenient for us. Pop was keen to help out but was busy Sunday (our traditional day of picking blackberries), so we went to York Victorian Cemetery on Saturday afternoon, 31st August, with baskets and plastic bags. Keith and family were also visiting, so came along. I didn't see Keith, Jaki or Ellis once we got to the grave yard, but based on the blackberry-coloured smears round Ellis's mouth it looks like he enjoyed himself.

I forgot my camera. This is a photo from a Google search
Before Pop and Kai arrived I struck up conversation with an old man who was also picking blackberries for wine. We met at the grave of Robert Burton (1830-1904), whose fruit was particularly lush, and swapped notes. Other graves providing blackberries included Walter Rymer, Amos Howe Harris, Walter John Underwood and Eliza Jane Dunkley. We will drink a toast to them when the time comes.

Claire picked 6 lbs 4 oz blackberries, I picked 6 lbs 1½ oz (with help from Pop and Kai) and Mom got about 2 lbs. This was plent for the 12 lbs of fruit needed for a triple batch, with a manageable quantity for the freezer.

Blackberries picked by Claire
I started the wine on 1st September. Weighing the fruit is a messy job and produces hands that Lady MacBeth would find distasteful. I did not wash the blackberries, though I picked out the mouldy ones and got rid of as many grubs as I found.
All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand
I crushed the fruit in its bucket and poured over 15 ½ pints of boiling water. Later that evening I added 7 ½ lbs sugar, and the next morning I put in the yeast (burgundy) and two teaspoons each of nutrient and pectolase.

The blackberries before crushing
On Thursday night, later than I had wanted - mostly due to a large pile of washing up - I transferred this all into three demijohns. For some reason blackberry wine takes the longest of any wine at this stage, and Claire had to remind me that I was enjoying myself. I have left a little space at the top of each demijohn as the fermentation is at the assertive stage and I have kept some wine back in a bottle for topping-up purposes.

If you want to see how this wine turned out, click here (and see me get a drenching)
When will we three meet again?

Thursday 5 September 2013

Elderberry Wine - Second Bottle (A1), 27th-28th August 2013

The Aftermath
This bottle exploded in slow motion, though when the end came it arrived quickly and violently. I spotted the cork raising itself from the bottleneck over the weekend, so stood the bottle in my wine-making jug. This way, at least in theory, all wine shooting out would be caught safely and we could drink it. In practice, though, this was only partially successful. Claire was in the room when the explosion happened. The wine gushed about a foot in the air, but when it landed it was still fizzing so much that the jug could not contain it. Most was caught but our carpet has a dark, sticky stain. Brown carpets, however, hide a multitude of sins.

Tuesday 3 September 2013

Spiced Beetroot Wine - Fifth Bottle (2), 25th-28th August 2013

I can barely remember Sunday, which is the day I opened this bottle. I think much of it was spent sat outside, finishing The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks, our latest Book Group book. It is not a jolly affair, and anyone who likes rabbits or small children is discouraged from reading it. Its humour is of the darkest black, but the imagination is breath-taking.

I opened the wine to a spread of curries, all made by Claire and all wonderful - the Mutton Rogan Josh being particularly good. Spiced beetroot is a good wine for Indian food: the spice and sweetness hold their own against all other strong flavours.

We finished the bootle on Wednesday after I had helped Isabella move from a house in Little London to one in Burley - my reward (other than catching up with her life) will be home-made pasta in ten days. I shall take a bottle.

Sunday 1 September 2013

Blackberry Wine - Final Bottle (B6), 26th August 2013

I took this round to Lambert's for a bank holiday meal of Greek food and intense conversation. Unusually for a bank holiday the weather has been glorious all day and walking the two miles to and from Lambert's on a balmy late-summer night was pleasant. Although, the walk back was more of a stagger.

Lambert is an excellent cook. We started with several exciting salads and spreads, and I had to check that these were not the main course so that I could pace myself. These were followed by a cuttlefish stew, full of tentacles and spinach.

Lambert's mother rang mid-course and he left us to the food and wine while he had what sounded like a difficult conversation. But it was in Greek, so we couldn't eavesdrop even if we had wanted to. Instead we drank the blackberry, which was delicious, and, Best Beloved, tried to recall the Just So Stories.