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.

Saturday 30 November 2013

Elderberry Wine 2011 - Eleventh Bottle (B5), 23rd-24th November 2013

Claire wanted a proper bottle of elderberry wine on Saturday to recover from Music Club. She played Glazunov's Elegy for viola and piano brilliantly and managed not to get distracted by reaching the high notes and playing them in tune. Because this was a special occasion we drank the wine from my grandfather's delicate, precious glasses that rarely see any action. The wine was fabulous - you can't beat an aged elderberry wine. However, we didn't finish it (unheard of for a Saturday night!) and saved the rest for watching Doctor Who's 50th anniversary episode on Sunday. As often happens, I ended the episode an emotional wreck.

Alexander Glazunov

Tuesday 26 November 2013

Exotic Tinned Fruit - Sixth Bottle (A2), 20th-22nd November 2013

I have just watched a lovely drama about the creation of Doctor Who. 'Adventures in Space and Time' by Mark Gatiss. It was the story of Verity Lambert and William Hartnell, and was tremendously sad, loving and celebratory. This week I am in danger of a Doctor Who overdose, but I think that excusable on the fiftieth anniversary. And for me it is more important than the anniversary of Kennedy's assassination. I never really could get things into proper perspective.

Anyway, I finished this bottle of Exotic Tinned Fruit whilst watching 'Adventures' and it has not been a bad bottle at all. I shouldn't get carried away - it was less than actively delicious, but it was certainly acceptable for a three-night bottle.

Saturday 23 November 2013

Christmas Tutti Fruti - Eleventh Bottle (B2), 16th November 2013

Saturday was a two bottle night. It could be no other. Partly this was because Rachel and Duncan were around. Mostly, though, it was because we had just played an all-Beethoven concert with WYSO in Chapel Allerton. It went exceptionally well, and I got my own applause for the violin concerto. The night had to be rounded off with plenty of alcohol.

I don't really remember the taste of this bottle - and that is not just because I followed it with a horseradish vodka chaser. Dry, red and fizzy is about as close as I can get. But it was a wonderful evening, and I still get a buzz three days later when I think about it.

Wednesday 20 November 2013

Rhubarb Wine - Seventh Bottle (A6), 16th November 2013

Well, I played a blinder tonight. It was our Beethoven concert with WYSO and the violin concerto could not have gone better. I was pretty much note perfect. The soloist stood me up at the end for my own applause, and more than three hours later I am still buzzing about it. Along with Leonora Overture Number 2 and Symphony Number 3, this was a bassoon heavy concert, and my lip was dead by the end. My left hand and wrist went into a cramp spasm during the interval, which was worrying, but recovered quickly.

At home afterwards Claire, Rachel, Duncan and I polished off a bottle of rhubarb wine in no time at all. It was just the thing, but not nearly enough. I have rectified that, however, and am about to collapse into unconciousness.

Monday 18 November 2013

Gooseberry & Elderflower Wine - Fourth Bottle (B5), 6th-13th November 2013

The length of time an open bottle of wine sits in the fridge is generally an indication of its quality. This one managed a week. At least it was not poured down the sink. Claire suggested the addition of a sugar syrup to make it better, and this was partially successful, but only partially. The wine has an overbearing sense of mustiness and little taste of its original ingredients. There are still eight bottles to go.

I opened it after a WYSO rehearsal, where we played through most of Beethoven's violin concerto with our soloist, James Pattinson, who is exceedingly good. The bottle was finished after the following week's rehearsal where we played through all of Beethoven's third symphony. These two pieces are currently on my internal juke box and make it difficult to sleep.

James Pattinson

Sunday 17 November 2013

Crab Apple & Blackcurrant Wine - Final Bottle (6), 11th-12th November 2013

At work, before I went home, I checked Facebook and saw that Claire's status update mentioned how cross she was and that there had better be wine available. I took the hint and offered her a choice of flavours involving blackcurrant. This bottle was the preferred option and seemed to do the trick. I was out at Airedale Symphony Orchestra when Claire opened it, and her Facebook status update that evening referred to "Comedy Exploding Wine". Apparently she had to mop up crab apple & blackcurrant froth twice. Most fizzy bottles only require this to be done the once.

I had a glass on my return and we have finished it tonight. It is unusual to have a bottle over Monday & Tuesday though not unknown. It is a fine bottle of wine: fruity and sharp. I may well make it again one day.

Saturday 16 November 2013

Elderflower Wine - Fourth Bottle (A3), 10th November 2013

Because I had driven on Saturday night, Claire drove on Sunday and I was able to drink the majority of a bottle of elderflower wine. We were at Richard & Linda's and, as is the norm, were experimented upon. The first course was soup, and two days later I forget its ingredients. Something root vegetabley, possibly. This was the least of the food, but was fine. Next we had Garlic Pie. I was dubious. This just sounds wrong. But in fact it was lovely - and was misnamed. 'Goat's Cheese Flan' would have been more accurate. Then finally, and best of all, was a wonderful apple cheese cake. Delicious. We brought two large pieces home with us - I was too full for thirds - and I have just had a taste to remind myself how wonderful it was.

This was not the actual pie, but it looked like this.

Tuesday 12 November 2013

Blackberry Wine - Fifth Bottle (D4), 9th November 2013

I took this bottle to Jude's house-warming party and drank only a mouthful. The floor consumed more than I. The bottle had spent half an hour in the car, rolling along the back seat with every turn. When a wine starts off with a fizz, this is not the ideal preparation for opening it in someone's new house. Luckily the fountain of red liquid landed on the table, avoiding any food, and a wooden floor. So I did not have to go home in disgrace.

Those who I encouraged to try it enjoyed the wine - particularly Ruben's father who had lots. Alice Nutter said it worked as a shot.

I spent much of the party playing Uno in the quiet room, but plenty of it being properly sociable too.

Ruben - with whom I played Uno in the Quiet Room

Monday 11 November 2013

Spiced Beetroot Wine - Final Bottle (6), 3rd November 2013

There is something very English about cheap fireworks. They blaze for a few seconds at no great height and then go phut, returning to darkness. Bonfires, however, are far more satisfying. They flame and glow and heat a cold autumn night.

Spiced Beetroot wine seemed like the right choice for a bonfire party. It has a warming taste of cloves that goes well with standing around outside in hat, scarf, gloves and five layers of clothing.

Earlier in the day I had helped Julia build the bonfire, and as it was formed by Julia, it was as much Art as a pile of wood for burning. She created a stage in homage to Opera North's production of Beatrice and Benedict, complete with poppies, a flaming arch and a nun on a bicycle. Catherine wheels gave an illusion of movement before fire asserted its authority and the whole thing burnt. It was a memorable evening.

Saturday 9 November 2013

Crab Apple & Strawberry Wine 2013 - The Making Of ...

November is a month beyond ideal for picking crab apples. I have spent this morning, Sunday 3rd November, getting my hands covered in rotten apple pulp as over-ripe crab apples exploded on contact. I'm not great with slime. Anything that oozes over my fingers must be wiped off immediately. Therefore, picking four pounds of crab apples today took about the same amount of time as picking twelve pounds a fortnight ago. I examined the apples before I picked them, often unsuccessfully, and then again afterwards. Even with this attention to detail I am certain some over-ripe fruit has ended up in my wine.

The raw ingredients
Other than bursting crab apples with a mere touch, it was pleasant half hour or so, picking fruit in the sunshine and bluster, while my pound of strawberries sat in a bowl, defrosting. (This wine takes some forward planning - from about July!)

I did not think the strawberries would stand either washing or hulling - they were not the firmest of specimens - so I just put them into the bucket and mashed them, ignoring the bits of straw I could see. I sliced the crab apples with the food processor and put these in, and then covered the fruit with three pounds of sugar. Over this I have poured six and a half pints of boiling water, and the mixture smells more of strawberries than apples.

I added the yeast (a Chablis) and a teaspoon each of nutrient and pectolase after returning from a bonfire party on Sunday night, and then left it until Thursday evening, when I put the liquid into its demijohn. I now have every demijohn I possess in use, which I think is 27, and must get on with bottling some wine. Anyway, crab apple & strawberry wine is baby-girl pink, though I anticipate the colour will fade.

If you want to see how this wine turned out, including a photo of how it looks in its bottles, click here

Friday 8 November 2013

Orange Wine - Eighth Bottle (A4), 2nd November 2013

Sleepy and drunk. Isn't that two of the seven dwarves? Stan is running round the room chasing conkers as I write. And there are fireworks banging away three days early.

It has been a busier Saturday than I had planned. This morning was Emmaus Leeds' tenth birthday, where I bought lots of cake, raffle tickets and Christmas cards - maybe I'll send some this year. This afternoon I drove to Halifax to spend time with Martin.

The orange wine was chosen to accompany fish curry and mightily effective it has been - though two gins and tonic should take some blame. Now I must sleep. It is only 9:38.

Thursday 7 November 2013

Gooseberry Wine - Third Bottle (2), 26th October 2013

The loser. This bottle came tenth out of ten at the Wine Party with an average score of 2.19 out of 5. There was much talk of men's changing rooms and sweat as people tasted this. Lindsay disagreed and thought it more akin to "cat wee". She gave it a zero. Only David liked it.

I am genuinely surprised. Four years ago, gooseberry wine won the wine party. It shows how different the wine can be between years. An alternative explanation, and one I prefer, is that the gooseberry wine has remained the same and all my other bottles have improved to the level of 'Awesome'. Yes, that must be it.

Wednesday 6 November 2013

Celery Wine - Third Bottle (2), 26th October 2013

Well, this wine proved controversial at the Wine Party. Duncan scored it -8 out of 5 and wrote "The consistent awfulness of this concoction never fails to disappoint". Claire scored it "minus all the points that everyone else gives it," and wrote "HORRIBLE YUK" in big letters. I adjusted their scores to zero. Helen, however, thought it was lovely and gave it top marks.

With adjusted scoring, celery wine did not come last. It was ninth with an average score of 2.28 (though if you take Duncan at face value, it was last with 1.39). When I tried it I thought the first taste unpleasant, but in fact it got better them more I drank. Which is often the case.

Tuesday 5 November 2013

Crab Apple Wine - Eighth Bottle (B5), 26th October 2013

This bottle was unloved, but nobody hated it either. It came eighth out of ten at the Wine Party, with an average score of 2.93. Of all the bottles opened last night, I think this was my personal least favourite. I generally like crab apple wine, but this came across as thin and a bit sour. Mind you, I was in no real position to judge at that point in the evening. I remember looking at my watch at quarter past nine thinking that it would be wise to slow down. Ignoring my inner voice, I galloped away and felt absolutely shocking this morning. I can't remember a worse hangover in recent years and at six o'clock this evening I am still a little headachey. Next year I will pace myself. Definitely.

Monday 4 November 2013

Rhubarb & Elderflower Wine - Third Bottle (2), 26th October 2013

"No no no no no". One out of five.

I had expected Rhubarb & Elderflower to do rather better at the wine party. Lindsay did not like it one bit. She was the only one, though. Angela gave it a five. It came seventh out of ten with an average score of 3.36. Before the party I would have predicted a top three placement. Maybe I had not chilled it enough. There was no room in the fridge and the weather was unseasonably warm, so leaving it outside all day was ineffective. It was one of the many finished bottles, though. Of the twelve people at the party we had three drivers, and between us we finished the equivalent of at least eight bottles. It was all rather jolly.

Sunday 3 November 2013

Prune & Parsnip Wine - Tenth Bottle (B1), 26th October 2013

We are now getting into the realms of bottles that did badly at the Wine Party. This flavour came sixth out of ten, scoring 3.5 out of 5. It had the smallest range of scores for any wine served - no-one giving it lower than a 3, no-one giving it higher than a 4. Philip labelled it a sweet and sour sherry, which makes it sound like it should be served by Chinese takeaways up and down the country. Lindsay commented 'inoffensive', which sums it up.

The party itself was marvellous. We had ten guests, so twelve in total, and I had worried that this would be too few. But, as last year, I was proved wrong and it meant there was often one conversation going round the room in which everyone took part. And we drank more wine, far more, than has been known previously.

Saturday 2 November 2013

Strawberry Wine - Second Bottle (4), 26th October 2013

Wine parties are always a huge amount of effort. I spent all Saturday cleaning and tidying. All those jobs that have needed doing for a year or more get done. So, I dusted, I cleared the drive of weeds and moss, I washed the stairs and I even vacuumed the ceiling of its cobwebs. This on top of the general tidying that gets done about once a month. I do live in squalor. It is all worth it, though. The party was excellent.

Surprisingly, strawberry wine was fifth out of ten, with an average score of 3.83. Rachel said it was "really, really lovely" and Angela wrote "A hint of summer afternoon on the night when summer officially ends" but others were less keen. Claire, again, thinks it tastes of hot plastic

Friday 1 November 2013

Blackcurrant Wine - Third Bottle (4), 26th October 2013

Of my wines at the Wine Party, blackcurrant came third with an average score of 3.89. However, it was pipped to the bronze medal by David's orange wine, which got 3.93. I had not met David before the party, but he is a fellow wine-maker and a friend of Helen's. He wrote a review of my book on Amazon, and therefore automatically qualified for an invitation.

The orange wine was excellent - less assertive than mine, even though he followed my recipe.

Anyway, the blackcurrant wine got mixed reviews, starting with 'meh' from Nick. Virtually everyone wrote on their score cards that it tasted like an alcoholic ribena. And, as Rachel says, what's not to like?