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.

Tuesday 31 December 2013

Rhubarb & Elderflower Wine - Fourth Bottle (5), 24th-25th December 2013

Most of this bottle was had on a glorious, drunken Christmas Eve. We are in York and on Tuesday night so was Chris. This made for an entertaining, noisy evening full of debate, food, wine and whisky. Perhaps too much of the last. I woke on Christmas morning with a throbbing head. A couple of paracetamol, lots of water and an aborted attempt at walking round York City Walls settled that.

Pop and I finished the bottle late on Christmas afternoon as a tidying up exercise before the meal. The wine was less good that I remember, but entirely passable. It is one of those that gets better the more you drink. Funny that.

The Walls were closed on Christmas Day

Monday 30 December 2013

Blackberry Wine - Eighth Bottle (D1), 24th December 2013

It has been a splendid Christmas Eve. The first part of the day was spent making sure a house sale went through at work. It was touch and go but was ultimately a success. This alone is worthy of celebration.

From late afternoon we have been in York and it has been just lovely spending time with Mom, Pop and Chris. We have chatted about the important and trivial, sat round the dinner table together and have been a family. I have also foisted a bottle of blackberry on everyone and it has been enjoyed. Amongst other drinks. Hic.

A Stonebridge Homes Estate

Saturday 28 December 2013

Crab Apple Wine - Tenth Bottle (C5), 21st-22nd December 2013

Until Christmas our diet will largely consist of vegetable curries. Something plain yet tasty. On Saturday night it was biryani and something made from chickpeas and red lentils. Both were fabulous. Then on Sunday it was a mung bean and brown lentil stew, with a tomato, potato and coconut curry. Delicious.

The crab apple wine accompanied the first and was finished by the second. Claire wanted something not particularly special so that its flavours would not impair or be impaired by the food. Crab apple fitted the bill perfectly.

Where most Claire's curry recipes come from

Friday 27 December 2013

Christmas Tutti Fruti 2013 - The Making Of ...

It is the Sunday before Christmas, 22nd December, and we have lots of travelling ahead of us. Making the Christmas Tutti Fruti today is the best fit with our plans, which involve York, Cambridge and York again.

Scary Gruffalo Slippers
I started wine making at around eleven this morning after returning from our pre-Christmas shop. This was not nearly as ghastly as feared and the highlight was overhearing a young father returning a pair of Gruffalo slippers because his two year old was scared of them. My first job was to clear the freezer of its fruit, to fanfares and celebration from Claire.

Fruits of the Freezer
This year we have 14 different ingredients in 8 lb 13 oz fruit. Running from most to least: blackcurrants (1 lb 12 oz), blackberries (1 lb 1¾ oz), red gooseberries (same), sloes (13½ oz), crab apples (13 oz), rhubarb (same), damsons of three different varieties (12½ oz), elderberries (10 oz), rose petals (4 oz), redcurrants (3¾ oz), blueberries (3½ oz), a clementine - no satsuma this year and this was the closest (2½ oz), green gooseberries (1 oz) and wild strawberries (¾ oz).

Fruit in the bucket whilst frozen
It was all in the bucket by noon and was well on the way to defrosting by half-five, at which point I put in a pint of boiling water to help. I then gave it a good mash, added 6 lbs sugar and poured over a further 11 pints of boiling water. I added the yeast and one teaspoon of pectolase and nutrient on Monday morning, gave it all a stir and then pretty much left it alone while Claire and I went to York for a rowdy and enjoyable Christmas.

Fruit in the bucket whilst not frozen
On Thursday, Boxing Day, I put this into its demijohns. The first stage was dipping a plastic collander into the bucket to fish out the fruit at the top. I did this a few times, each time pressing the fruit with a wooden spoon to extract as much liquid as possible. Then I did the usual jug-sieve-funnel thing, making my right arm ache in the process. I left a gap at the top of each demijohn in case of enthusiastic fermentation keeping back a bottle full of the incipient wine for topping up purposes. In fact, this gap was not needed, and I have poured what I kept back into the demijohns, leaving only a small gap between wine and neck.

The wine in its demijohns
If you want to see how this wine turned out, click here

Thursday 26 December 2013

Exotic Tinned Fruit - Seventh Bottle (A5), 18th-20th December 2013

We are in the last fortnight of the year and this means dark nights, hard work and too much alcohol. I am struggling at work to hit my targets - it will only be just a fail, but a fail nonetheless - and consequently am both busy and grumpy. Therefore, I drank a good deal of this bottle on Wednesday while rewatching Sherlock on i-player. We finished it off on Friday and I made up the alcohol gaps with a few stiff G & Ts. Friday night was nice, though, sat in front of the fire catching up with Claire and our respective weeks, listening to David Sedaris and eating a bring-round curry.

The wine was fine - maybe a little chemically with an aftertaste of bland - but it fulfilled its function.

Tuesday 24 December 2013

Prune & Parsnip Wine - Final Bottle (A3), 13th-17th December 2013

Claire chose this bottle of wine as something to drink whilst I was at my Work Christmas Party. This was held at 'The Pit', a subterranean bar down a side street full of loud music and young people. Not really my scene then - a bottle of prune & parsnip may have been preferable. In fact, it was more fun than I had feared and I left after only having a little more booze than was sensible.

I managed a glass of prune & parsnip on Monday night after a particularly disasterous Airedale rehearsal, whilst addressing Christmas cards. That particular chore is done and a glass of wine was suitable reward.

Thursday 19 December 2013

Blackberry Wine - Seventh Bottle (B3), 8th December 2013

Despite setting the weekend aside to write Christmas cards, I still haven't done any. I foresee that this year will be exactly the same as the last. Instead, I spent much of the weekend, including most of this bottle, reading The Mulberry Empire by Philip Hensher. It is an excellent book - telling the story of the first Afghan war in 1839 (I may have the year wrong). The author concentrates on small moments and character, paradoxically creating a bigger sweep than he would have otherwise. And he retains a fairy tale element. Terrific, compulsive stuff.

Claire spent the weekend feeling washed out and ill, but was well enough to help finish this bottle. I have been the dutiful husband - and this is not just because it is the Work Christmas Party on Friday this coming week.

Alexander Burns - the 'hero' of the book

Sunday 15 December 2013

Orange Wine - Ninth Bottle (B3), 7th December 2013

Today was set aside for writing Christmas cards. I have written a grand total of zero. Maybe tomorrow will be better. It is such a daunting task. Last year I couldn't face it at all, and ended up sending none. It is not as if today has been a hive of activity. I have shopped, cooked, napped and read - The Mulberry Empire by Philip Hensher, which is excellent.

Orange wine has accompanied the cooking and eating - a vegetarian shepherd's pie, which for the first time ever I have made without checking Delia's instructions. And jolly nice it was too.

Claire has done even less than I today, but she has the excuse of being properly ill - bunged up with cold and shivery. I cannot afford to catch it.

Tuesday 10 December 2013

Elderflower Wine - Fifth Bottle (B6), 5th-6th December 2013

I had an unexpectedly free Thursday evening because Madeleine's quintet was cancelled, so I spent most of it drinking wine instead. Claire and I ate by candlelight, not for romantic reasons but because one of the living room light bulbs exploded in dramatic fashion on Wednesday evening and we haven't worked out how to remove the remainder from its socket. But a glass or two of elderflower win in candlelight is rather lovely.

By Friday night there was only one glass each left in the bottle, so we filled up on whisky macs as a suitable alternative.

Monday 9 December 2013

Crab Apple Wine - Ninth Bottle (A6), 1st December 2013

This was our Sunday night bottle, drunk to a leftover-turkey chilli and rice. We now have leftover leftovers in the fridge, and this could go on ad finitum.

Sunday had two cultural aspects. In the afternoon, we went to see 'Gravity' in the cinema. My mother had raved about how breath-taking it was, and it was certainly a fantastic spectacle. Boiled down, though, it was no more sophisticated than watching a steam train approaching a heroine tied to the tracks. The thing that took my breath away was the price. £21.40 for two tickets. Blimey.

In the evening I lay on the chaiselong and finished A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, which I loved. The surface story is page-turning, but it is also a clever exploration of time, of now, of self.


NB This is my 500th blog post since I started in April 2011 (which doesn't sound that long ago - what a lot of wine!). Thank you to those who have read intermittently over that period, and welcome to those who stop by just the once. My most popular post has been 'Blackcurrant Wine - The Making Of ...' (which overtook 'Quince Wine - The Making Of ...' earlier this year), and the blog has been at its most popular during this summer - mainly thanks to Lovely Greens. Here is to the next 500. Cheers.

Sunday 8 December 2013

Blackberry Wine - Sixth Bottle (A4), 29th-30th November 2013

By the end of the evening, Duncan was calling for more wine. Between the seven of us, we had already had bottles of raspberry, real, and crab apple & strawberry, half a bottle of blackcurrant & gooseberry, and various whisky macs or gins and tonics. So I fished out a bottle of blackberry and also took the opportunity to put the kettle on.

Only half of this bottle was drunk on Friday, so Claire and I finished it on Saturday when we had the house to ourselves. It is lovely having lots of guests and eating feasts, but it is also nice when everyone has gone.

Friday 6 December 2013

Strawberry & Crab Apple Wine - Second Bottle (5), 29th November 2013

There was no room in our fridge, what with all the Thanksgiving food bursting from it, so I left this bottle outside to cool. This method worked, it being late November, and the wine was chilled, sparkling, dry and delicious. It was shared between seven of us, gathered for Thanksgiving II (very much the same as Thanksgiving I but with cold turkey and no vegetarian alternative). It would have been eight but Sooz was upstairs in bed, feverish.

Earlier in the day we been to York - mostly to see Rachael and Myles, who were visiting from Leicester. Myles is on the verge of toddlerdom and is a happy baby. Except when Claire had a hold, when there were screams and real tears.

Not Myles - but there are similarities

Wednesday 4 December 2013

Blackcurrant & Red Gooseberry Wine - Third Bottle (5), 28th-29th November 2013

This bottle spanned Thanksgiving I and Thanksgiving II. Claire decided that because she only cooks a turkey once every two years, she should get a large one and have two dinner parties. Did I say large? I mean enormous. It is currently Sunday morning, and (not counting soup, to which you can add four) the turkey has provided 14 hungry people with plenty of meat. And there is still loads to go.

The blackcurrant & gooseberry was as good as ever, but didn't form part of the meals. It was post on Thursday and pre on Friday. Of the flavours Rory tried (including an 18 year-old bottle of Raspberry, courtesy of Julia) I think this was his favourite.

Monday 2 December 2013

Strawberry Wine - Third Bottle (1), 28th November 2013

This was our Thanksgiving bottle. More accurately, it was one of our Thanksgiving bottles, but the only one which started the night full and ended it empty.

It was our year to host and we had Richard, Linda, Andrew and Sooz as guests. The turkey was ostrich size and we ate rather less than half. This is a Good Thing as we are having Thanksgiving 2 tonight with eight diners.

The meal as a whole was both traditional and delicious, and Richard and Linda brought the pumpkin pies. Strawberry wine seemed to go down nicely. It certainly went down and I barely remember it. The combination of a huge meal, a couple of whisky macs and a stressful time at work meant I fell asleep at ten and left everyone else to it.

Sunday 1 December 2013

Prune & Parsnip - Eleventh Bottle (A5), 27th-29th November 2013

Most of this bottle was drunk in Wednesday night after WYSO. We have just started a new programme, the main piece of which is Franck's Symphony in D minor. It is a dense, soupy piece where the bassoons take a back seat and mostly double each other. Still, it can't all be Beethoven's violin concerto.

Claire and I drank our wine in the kitchen, chatting about her possible redundancy. This is all worrying and frustrating - particularly because she has just had three papers published (click on the link for one of them). The wine helps things a little, and it is a good bottle. More rounded than the last one.

Cesar Franck