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 31 October 2013

Ginger Wine - First Bottle (3), 26th October 2013

I was not absolutely certain how well ginger wine would do at the Wine Party. When I bottled it I thought it little more than passable. However, the wine has matured well and came second out of ten, with an average score of 4.14. Only Helen thought it horrid and awarded it a one. This was balanced by Rachel giving it 5½ out of 5, which I suspect is cheating. She thought it tasted like the alcoholic version of Chinese tea and Lindsay said she could happily drink it by the pint glass. Duncan is a hard man to please, but it was his favourite.

I am very pleased with this wine - it has sufficient ginger to cut through its sweetness and I will make it again.

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

Wednesday 30 October 2013

Blackberry Wine - Fourth Bottle (B6), 26th October 2013.

It was the Wine Party last night and this bottle was the winner. It scored 4.25 out of 5, though Angela cheated by giving it a 6. David gave the comment "Drink every day", and I like to think that this is an order.

It was the first bottle I opened, before any guests arrived, because I noticed the cork was making its own way out. I avoided spilling more than one drop as the wine gushed into its waiting jug, and I had a glass (merely to relieve the pressure, you understand) before pouring it back into the bottle. Lindsay noted later that blackberry wine is really an alcopop.

Tuesday 29 October 2013

Exotic Tinned Fruit - Fifth Bottle (B1), 23rd-24th October 2013

The last bottle of this flavour was so nasty that I have been putting off having another. However, I bit the bullet on Wednesday and put an exotic tinned fruit wine in the fridge before WYSO. I was pleasantly surprised when I opened it - the wine is not disgusting. At worst it is inoffensive. Light and floral and bland.

We drank most of the bottle to The Great British Bake Off final. I had spent the previous 24 hours avoiding all news and being selective with the internet. This policy was successful, which I had not predicted, and it made the programme better for it. And now my Wednesday nights are released from the tyranny of cosy yet addictive television. Hurrah.

Monday 28 October 2013

Blackberry Wine - Third Bottle (C1), 20th October 2013

This is a fabulous bottle of wine - full of pure blackberry flavour and with the added benefit of fizz. It is certainly alcoholic - I have a numb face and am finding it hard to concentrate. The bush tea in front of me is helping.

We drank the wine to a beef, black bean and ale casserole assembled by Claire this morning. I spent the day on my feet in the kitchen making wine, washing up and cooking. Sitting down was a welcome relief. And now I can barely keep my eyes open. Happy Sunday.

Now - I have been asked to provide recipes when mentioning food (hello Jaye). This is a little difficult most the time, because Claire is the one who does the exciting, delicious cooking whereas my own efforts are often little more than functional. However, an approximate recipe for the casserole above is as follows (serves four - or in our case two twice):

Three slices of braising steak
A medium or large onion
400g tin or box of cooked black beans
500 ml of beer
A dollop of a sharp jelly - Claire used redcurrant, but crab apple or similar should do
A clove of garlic (I think)
A bay leaf (probably)
Salt and pepper to taste
If you want, stick in some quartered mushrooms or slices of leek, though I don't think Claire did.

Chop the steak into medium sized cubes (an inch or so dimension) and fry over a high heat for not very long at all, so that the sides are sealed and browned
Slice the onion and fry it with crushed garlic - using the juices from the meat and possibly a little oil.
Put it all in a casserole dish with the beans
Pour over the ale
If you need more liquid to just cover the ingredients, put in some water.
If you are using vegetables/mushrooms bung them in too
Add the salt and pepper (err on the side of caution - and add more later if you need to)
Add the bay leaf
Put in an oven at gas mark 3 and cook for a couple of hours
Inspect and taste - it may be too bitter. If so, add enough jelly until it tastes right.
Put it in the oven again - you are unlikely to over cook it.

Sunday 27 October 2013

Crab Apple Wine 2013 - The Making Of ...

Crab apples in the sunlight
Most years I start by crab apple wine on the cusp of October. This year it is slap bang in the middle. If anything, it is late October - Sunday the 20th. I blame our two week holiday in America, which I timed carefully so that it did not massively interfere with my wine calendar. Leaving the crab apple wine three weeks beyond my normal timing may prove to be a wise move. The apples on our tree are redder and riper, and come off with barely a tug.

Our crab apple tree plus a teazel
I spent around half an hour this morning picking crab apples in intermittent sunshine, collecting 12 pounds. This is probably about a third of what the tree has to offer, and I don't really know what to do with the rest. Possibly Freecycle them. Or make more wine.

For every three apples I picked, one would plummet into the undergrowth. I retrieved a handful, but mostly the casualties were lost forever, and that was frustrating.

This afternooon, which has been hugely busy - I have been in the kitched for four and a half hours making wine, baking bread and cooking lentil boll - I washed the apples and sliced them using the food processor. These went into the bucket with three pounds of minced sultanas (again using the food processor) and nine pounds of sugar. I boiled 22 pints of water and poured this over the ingredients, giving it all a good stir.

On Monday morning I put in the yeast and two teaspoons each of nutrient and pectolase. The bucket I used has an air trap and has been annoying Claire by belching loudly at frequent intervals. We can hear it from our bedroom.

Anyway, I put this into its three demijohns on Friday night, 25th October. The first stage involved scooping out the apples with a plastic collander, and I am certain this saved an hour or so. From then on it was relatively quick. The wine is browner than in past years, but should clear to a glorious golden yellow.

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

Thursday 24 October 2013

Rhubarb Wine - Sixth Bottle (B3), 18th-19th October 2013

I had misremembered this to be a disappointing batch of rhubarb wine. This bottle, however, was everything rhubarb wine should be: dry, fizzy, pleasing and ever so slightly pink.

I opened it after coming home from the theatre feeling emotionally drained. We had been to see My Generation by Alice Nutter, which was superb. It followed a Leeds family over four decades, exploring their internal politics through external ones. I had to make an effort not to sob audibly during the performance - but there were moments of hilarity too.

Then, I finished the bottle on Saturday after returning from the theatre again, this time open mouthed in horror at Sweeney Todd. It too was excellent and both plays remind me how important live theatre is, and how I do not got enough.

Tuesday 22 October 2013

Crab Apple and Strawberry Wine - First Bottle (1), 16th-17th October 2013

I wanted to open something special. Claire's paper on bladder cancer, the work that kept her busy and excited this summer, has been accepted by Human Genetics  magazine. This is fabulous news and worthy of celebration. Therefore, after WYSO and before The Great British Bake Off, I opened my first bottle of Crab Apple & Strawberry. I had expected this to be wonderful. A proper bottle to toast Claire's success. Instead it was good. Certainly in the top quarter of the wine that I produce, but no more. And that is disappointing. I often find that lowering one's expectations is the secret to being delighted. So the next bottle should be delightful.
If you want to see how I made this wine, click here

Sunday 20 October 2013

Elderberry Wine 2013 - The Making Of ...

When I booked it, I knew that our fortnight's holiday in America would interfere with wine making. It was elderberry that was most affected. The berries were ripe in September, but I had too much to do the week before we left to make wine as well. Forward planning, though, meant that I had two elderberry picking sessions on my walk home from work. Each of these produced not quite two pounds of fruit and some interested passers by. There was just room in the freezer for me to store the berries while we were away.

I was concerned that by mid-October all elderberries would have gone over and I would have to make a single batch. However, when I went to the Stonegate fields on 13th October, there were plenty of perfect ripeness. It was not the best weather for picking, though. I got thoroughly drenched and stayed out less time than I would otherwise. This session produced 2 lbs exactly, making a total of 5 lbs 12 oz, which is 4 oz under the recipe weight for a double batch. That is good enough for me. And stripping the berries in three sessions meant I did not get bored and frustrated.

I put the berries in the bucket and added half a pint of boiling water to help defrost the frozen ones. I gave it all a thorough mashing and poured over another 12 pints of boiling water.

On Monday morning, after a night of jet-lag induced wakefulness, I added the yeast (burgundy), a teaspoon of pectolase and half as much again nutrient. Then on Wednesday evening (after another restless night) I put in 5-and-a-half pounds of sugar.

I put it into its demijohns on Sunday 20th October, a day later than I had intended. There was about a pint too much liquid, though its colour is a pleasing purple. And yes, I recognise that is a non-sequitur.

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

Friday 18 October 2013

Orange Wine - Seventh Bottle (B1), 13th October 2013

Considering I stepped off a plane after 26 hours of travelling yesterday (some of which, admittedly, included visiting a mammoth museum in South Dakota), today has been a surprisingly ordinary Sunday. I listened to Broadcasting House, had a haircut, made wine, made bread and failed to do any bassoon practice. What could be more normal than drinking a bottle of orange wine while eating tuna surprise (the surprise being that the cats didn't get up on the table to have a taste)? The orange wine was clear and crisp as always and half a bottle should stop me worrying about what I might face at work tomorrow after a fortnight away.

Mammoth Bones

Wednesday 16 October 2013

Crab Apple Wine - Seventh Bottle (C6), 12th October 2013

Oh, it is good to be home. We have just returned from two weeks in America, which was fabulous. But after all that travelling and excitement, sitting at home with a glass of wine eating plain food is Just the Thing. My body clock should have been telling me it was not yet noon when I opened this bottle, but in reality it was shortly after six. I am not sure whether this is disgraceful, but it was certainly welcome.

After being on a beer diet for a fortnight, crab apple wine is like the return of an old friend, and this was a tasty, refreshing bottle. As an added bonus, I did not need to put it in the fridge. The house was distinctly chilly when we got back. At least there were no exploding bottles in our absence.

Mount Hood, overlooking Portland - a place we saw.

Sunday 13 October 2013

Blackcurrant & Red Gooseberry Wine - Second Bottle (2), 27th September 2013

It is the night before we travel to America and consequently it has been one of packing and checking and generally feeling hassled. A bottle of wine has helped. It is half past nine, and there is still plenty to do, including setting my alarm for 3:30. I predict little sleep, and my toes will tingle the way they do when I am excited.

Earlier today I thought I might have appendicitis - at work I had severe abdominal pains and was getting ready to cancel the entire trip. It turned out to be lots of trapped wind - [and the rest of the sentence has been removed for grounds of taste]. I wouldn't be writing that down without having drunk half a bottle of wine. And what a particularly good bottle it was. Fruity and delicious.

Saturday 12 October 2013

Elderflower Wine - Third Bottle (A5), 25th-26th September 2013

I have discovered that Claire does not much like elderflower wine. All these years I have been making double quantities, spending hours upon hours of stripping the flowers form their stalks, and Claire thinks the wine is less than merely okay. Whereas I think it is 'Quite Nice'. Whilst I am unlikely to demote it from a regular, I may change it to a single batch wine.

I opened the bottle on Wednesday night, after narrowly escaping having to attend the Yorkshire Property Awards (phew!). Instead we watched The Great British Bake Off and went to bed too late. We finished the wine tonight after I had bottled and sampled my orange wine. Consequently my cheeks have turned numb and the room is not as stable as it might otherwise be.

Monday 7 October 2013

Prune & Parsnip Wine - Ninth Bottle (B6), 21st-22nd September 2013

I left Claire alone with this bottle on Saturday. There was a Proms concert at Glusburn in which I was playing, requiring me to leave the house at not-yet-one, and I was out until nearly 11:30. Though I complain about Proms concerts, the audience reaction makes them all worthwhile. There was  enthusiastic applause and cheering after nearly every piece, and we had a terrific soprano soloist - Sarah Fox - who has sung with the Berlin Philharmonic.

Anyway, when I got home, three quarters of the bottle had gone and Claire was in a very happy mood. The final glasses were drunk by my parents tonight, who have been round with tales of their 50th anniversary of meeting, which they celebrated on the Marrakech Express. We ate lots of curry and spent a good deal of the conversation talking about our forthcoming trip to Chadron.

The building in which we played

Saturday 5 October 2013

Elderberry Wine - Fourth Bottle (A4), 22nd September 2013

This bottle was yet another controlled explosion. Claire defused it by leaving it in the fridge for 24 hours before taking out the cork, and in doing so lost no wine at all. We saved it for Sunday night to share with my parents, who came round for home cooked curry and to share tales of North Africa. Pop was driving, so only had a sip. Mom, Claire and I drank the rest and showed great self control in sticking at the one bottle.

The curry was fabulous and the elderberry wine good, if too young to really be drinking now. However, we had little choice in the matter.

The Marrakech Express - where my parents celebrated 50 years

Friday 4 October 2013

Christmas Tutti Fruti - Tenth Bottle (A4), 20th September 2013

I heard this bottle go 'Pop' at about two in the morning. It did not wake me up. I was already awake, lying in the back bedroom, comfort reading William Carries On while fretting about Alan Titchmarsh. (See 'Clove & Ginger Bottle 2' for the whole sorry story.) Stan looked askance at the noise and I took it as my sign to try sleeping.

Later in the morning, at a reasonable hour, I inspected my bottles and found this one without its cork, so our Friday night bottle was decided upon. I have had a sober week, what with the infected wisdom tooth and antibiotics, but I did not let this stop me from finishing the bottle with Claire. The wine was on the thin side, but perfectably acceptable. It helped the elderberry stripping process and was a decent accompaniment to 'Hot Tomatoey Garlicky Chicken', which works just as well as 'Hot Tomatoey Garlicky Prawns'.

Thursday 3 October 2013

Clove & Ginger Wine - Second Bottle (1), 18th September 2013

Well, this wine won't win any prizes for 'Most Alcoholic Home Brew'. Claire and I drank the entire bottle in an hour, late on Wednesday night, and neither of us felt like we had drunk as much as a glass of wine. I picked clove & ginger partly because I had forgotten to put an elderflower in the fridge, but also because cloves are meant to be good for toothache. Despite having been on antibiotics for 48 hours, my tooth still hurts. As does my self-respect. Yesterday I was given the chance to appear on The Alan Titchmarsh Show to discuss wine making. But it was for today, in London. And I turned it down for being too short notice. I am kicking myself. I could have gone. I should have gone. The opportunity is unlikely to return. Why am I so cautious, unwilling to break out of my routines?