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.

Wednesday 31 December 2014

Strawberry Wine - Third Bottle (6), 24th December 2014

A Christmas Eve bottle of wine round at 3 The Alders. It felt deserved. Despite the office closing on the 23rd, I had an exceptionally busy morning, trying to get two houses sold before New Year. On the rare occasion I was not on the phone, I was sending e-mails. But I think I may have managed it. The drive up to Newcastle felt like a holiday as a result - and the traffic was far quieter than expected.

The wine was appreciated by all - strawberry is definitely one of the best.

Tuesday 30 December 2014

Xmas Tutti Fruti 2014 - The Making Of ...

I can take or leave Christmas these days. Days off work, spending time with family, feasting and drinking are all good points. Exchange of gifts and having to be in a jolly mood from early December are rubbish. However, for me over recent years, Christmas begins with carrolling around Moortown with the Wrights. It is the only time of the year that I sing in public, and Christmas carols take me back to my childhood. The tunes are simple and evocative, the lyrics are often unintentionally hilarious. Fourth verse of We Three Kings anyone? How about abhoring not the Virgin's womb?

Anyway, after singing heartily in North Leeds on 22nd December, I came home to measure fruit. This year I have 8 lbs 14 oz of ingredients plus 2 satsumas. This is made up of 1¼ oz rosehips, 9 oz sloes, 14¾ oz apples, 1 lb 1 oz gooseberries (mostly green), 10 oz gooseberries (entirely red), 1 lb 14½ oz blackberries, 2 lb 5 oz blackcurrants, 1 lb 1¾ oz elderberries and 4¾ oz rose petals.

I let it all defrost overnight, during which I got exceptionally cross with Aggie for her unearthly mewing, and the next day, which was my last day in the office until 5 January.

On the evening of 23 December I boiled 12 pints water and poured this over the mashed fruit. I added 6 lbs sugar. Claire kept me company in the kitchen, crocheting bladder tumours while I crashed about, mostly dropping things and saying "oops". It has been a lovely evening and we have spent the last half hour finishing the Christmas jigsaw in a vaguely competitive manner.

The Christmas Jigsaw
I put the yeast and a teaspoon and a bit each of nutrient and pectolase on Christmas Eve morning and spent the next few hours working more dilligently than befits one on holiday. The contents of the bucket were given a stir and then left until we came back from Newcastle on Saturday afternoon, when it got another stir.

The mixture fermenting
I put the liquid into its two demijohns on Monday afternoon, 29 December, while suffering from a heavy cold. I made sure that my sneezes and hacking coughs were always directed away from the wine. It is currently an attractive dark purple and the taste I took at the end was encouragingly fruity.

NB - This is my 700th post since I started the blog in April 2011.

NB2 - If you want to see how this wine turned out, click here

Monday 29 December 2014

Christmas Tutti Fruti - Eleventh Bottle (A6), 23rd December 2014

This bottle was opened and drunk mostly so that we can drink the final bottle on Christmas Day. As excuses go for having a bottle of wine, that is one of the worst. In fact, it was a suitable flavour because I spent the evening making Christmas Tutti Fruti 2014. It was a lovely evening too. I am officially on holiday (though unofficially still have to work to get two house sales through before 31 December) and that is always a joy. Claire kept me company as I mashed fruit and boiled water and threw sugar all round the kitchen, drinking this bottle. I have complained in the past that this wine is a bit thin, but I think this bottle was fine. Maybe my mood affects taste.

Sunday 28 December 2014

Blackberry Wine - Seventh Bottle (A4), 21st December 2014

I took this bottle to Ros's for Sunday lunch. At the Lehany's 'Lunch' is a fluid concept. We started eating shortly before six.

This blackberry wine was excellent, but was far from the only bottle drunk in the evening. As a consequence, I have spent all of today (Monday) feeling exhausted and wondering if I am coming down with something. It was a lovely night, though, full of venison casserole, cheese and entertaining conversation.

Saturday 27 December 2014

Crab Apple Wine - Eighth Bottle (C2), 20th December 2014

It must nearly be Christmas: we have started the annual jigsaw puzzle. In past years this has been a gift from Julia. This year it is from Mom. The image is Van Eyck's Madonna with Canon Joris van der Paele, the original of which we saw in Bruges and is an amazing piece of art.

There is something very companionable about working quietly on a jigsaw together, drinking crab apple wine on a Saturday night. Rock and roll, however, it demonstrably is not.

Tuesday 23 December 2014

Rhubarb Wine - Sixth Bottle (A5), 14th-18th December 2014

I have rediscovered my joy of reading. Or possibly I have just read three or four books in a row which I have found gripping, well-written and which deal with important issues. Or maybe I'm getting bored of arsing around on the internet. Anyway, while drinking this bottle mostly on Sunday night I was reading Life after Life by Kate Atkinson, which is delightful with an interesting concept of rebirth and doing things both differently and better. Reading on this occasion, though, was mostly Christmas card displacement therapy. By the time I had finished the bottle, however, the Christmas cards were done. Hoorah. I still have yet to buy a single present. Bah Humbug.

Sunday 21 December 2014

Blackcurrant & Red Gooseberry Wine - Second Bottle (5), 13th December 2014

This bottle was our post-WYSO concert celebratory drink. It wasn't very nice. Too sharp and dry. The fruit is distinctive, though. I may add sugar to the next bottle. Anne was here and claimed she enjoyed her glass, but I suspect politeness.

The concert went well - Amy's bassoon concerto was splendid, but I split my G# in the big bassoon moment in the Brahms. Curses.

The evening almost started very badly indeed. Nick, the conductor, got lost when walking from our house to the venue. I went looking for him in a panic, couldn't find him, returned to the church and discovered that he had found his way after all. Phew.

Our conductor is missing ...

Saturday 20 December 2014

Elderflower Wine - Fourth Bottle (B4), 11th-13th December 2014

I started this bottle on Thursday night while watching The Missing  on i-player. It has been a terrific, if bleak, series so far and there is only one episode to go. Claire was out playing string quartets and I know that elderflower is not her favourite flavour.

The second half of the bottle was drunk after our WYSO concert, mostly because my mother found the Blackcurrant & Red Gooseberry far too dry. She pulled a comic face and fell on the Elderflower eagerly. David (Anne's new fellow) helped empty the bottle, and also preferred it.

Tuesday 16 December 2014

Elderberry Wine - Third Bottle (B3), 7th December 2014

Rory came round on Sunday night for a meal. I made sure he wasn't a vegetarian and we fed him a steamed ox-cheek pudding. Claire is so good at cooking and I regularly get reminded of how lucky I am in this regard. She made dessert too - a citrus pudding cooked in its own juices. Lots of stodge, and all of it delicious. The wine was also good - its usual red and deep self. It was a lovely evening, and I think a relief for Rory to escape sharing his building with students who know nothing except how to party into the early hours.

Saturday 13 December 2014

Crab Apple Wine - Seventh Bottle (B5), 6th December 2014 (ish)

This is the second bottle in this batch that I have given away. I must be getting generous in my middle age.

The fence separating our drive from number 16 has been looking past its first flush of youth for several years. Within a week of James and Anna moving out, bit started to fall off - the wood was rotting away. Our new neighbours, Chris and Jo, are more practical than us and less inclined to leave things undone. So they have built a new fence and we have watched. In thanks I paid them half the cost (£50) and gave them this bottle.

The fence in all its glory

Thursday 11 December 2014

Redcurrant Wine - Third Bottle (B3), 5th-6th December 2014

Well, this was a surprise. I opened a bottle of redcurrant on Friday night because there was nothing to celebrate and I have to get rid of the remaining ten bottles somehow. Turns out that this was unexpectedly not nasty. The rank mustiness has gone (pretty much) and this is entirely drinkable. It was not a happy bottle, however. I was sat on the sofa, miserable and cold, and Claire asked me if I was alright. For no reason I started to cry. I wasn't alright at all, but I don't know why. Nothing is wrong in my life. Just a little low, I suppose.

Tuesday 9 December 2014

Prune & Parsnip Wine - Eighth Bottle (A5), 30th November 2014

Today has been a splendid day (apart from a brief trip to Sainsburys). For the first time in an age - probably three to four years - Claire and I went for a Sunday walk, just for the hell of it. We went five and a half miles from Horsforth via Cragg Woods to Rawdon and back, and it was marvellous. Even walking through copious amounts of mud and discovering my boots leaked. There were some ridiculously posh houses along the way - at least one with mad Victorian turrets.

This bottle of Prune & Parsnip was our reward, but also a reward for writing programme notes for the WYSO concert on 13th December. I spent longer than ideal at the computer trying my best not to copy and paste from Wikipedia.

The wine was as good as ever - sweet and rich and golden.

Monday 8 December 2014

Rhubarb & Elderflower Wine - Second Bottle (5), 29th November 2014

I continue to be very pleased with this flavour. The clarity and colour are excellent, and its taste is pleasant and unusual. Elderflower is there but does not dominate and the rhubarb gives it a depth.

We drank most of the bottle while watching Food pornography - Nigel Slater's exploration of cake. There were slow motion shots of egg yolks falling from their shells, flour being invaded by lumps of butter, and batter dripping from its whisk. My saliva glands were working overtime. It was also an entertaining and informative programme, but really I was there for loving shots of cake.

Sunday 7 December 2014

Crab Apple & Strawberry Wine - First Bottle (1), 27th November 2014

Thanksgiving is one of the many reasons that I am pleased to be half American. Any festival that is based around food ticks my boxes. This year it was Richard and Linda's turn to host and Claire's to make the pumpkin pie. My contribution was a bottle of 'Crabapple & Strawberry' - this being the closest to what I imagine cranberry wine would resemble.

There were seven of us round the dinner table: Andrew is visiting from Newcastle, and we were joined by Pippa and Jackie. It was a lovely evening, though I had to battle my falling eyelids. The wine was good - bone dry yet fruity and clear. It deserves its position as a Regular.

How the wine looks in its bottle
If you want to see how this wine was made, click here

Saturday 6 December 2014

Blackberry Wine - Sixth Bottle (C4), 23rd-25th November 2014

It was steak & kidney pudding on Sunday night, and therefore a bottle of red was in order. On my rationing system, and bearing in mind that the Wine Party has skewed things, this was the only red available. It did its job admirably, however, and there was still a glass over when we went to bed. Claire snaffled this on Tuesday night while I was out playing quintets round at Madeleine's. She has not slept well for about a fortnight, but after this glass slept soundly until the morning. I, however, was kept awake by cats and worrying about insurance.

Wednesday 3 December 2014

Orange Wine - Ninth Bottle (A1), 22nd-26th November 2014

Just before I opened this bottle I bottled my 2014 orange wine. This meant I got a direct taste comparison, and I don't think I have done that before. Orange wine that has had a year and a half to mature has a richer, deeper taste than that started only eight months ago. This bottle is moving closer to sherry, but has lost none of its orange flavour.

The abundance of orange wine meant that there was still some left on Wednesday, when we returned from WYSO. Amy played the Weber bassoon concerto and was fabulous. I love this piece - it is so much more fun, and showy, than the Mozart and I await the concert eagerly.

Monday 1 December 2014

Elderberry Wine - Second Bottle (B5), 18th-21st November 2014

Claire continues to suffer from office politics, quite literally, at work. It looks like there is nothing that she can do to avoid being moved into an entirely unsuitable office with her current one being turned into a store cupboard. Hence opening a bottle of elderberry on Tuesday night in an attempt to make things better.

This wine had a metal taste that I did not notice in the previous bottle, but it was dark and rich and good all the same. The second half of the bottle was drunk by Claire on Thursday and Friday whilst I was out playing trios with Pat & Peter, and drinking more beer than was sensible with Matthew respectively.

Sunday 30 November 2014

Gooseberry Wine - Fourth Bottle (5), 15th November 2014

As with the Wine Party last year, gooseberry was the evening's loser. It came twelfth out of twelve with an average score of 2.13 out of 5. I agree with this result - gooseberry was my choice of nastiest. Catherine thought it "like a tart sauvignon blanc with a sock left in it," and Rachel wrote "Hell in a glass". That is literally the most damning review I have had. Lindsay poured hers down the sink. "Like alcoholic punk music" was Matthew's take. Overall not a success. But I think this was one of the best parties I have held.

Me - at the end of the Wine Party

Saturday 29 November 2014

Rose Petal Wine - Sixth Bottle (B5), 15th November 2014

I am genuinely surprised that Rose Petal came second to last place at my Wine Party. And that is by adjusting Lindsay's score of minus five to zero. I personally think this is one of my best, and it was Catherine's favourite. She has excellent taste. Overall its score was 2.39 out of 5. Richard and Rick both commented on its bitterness. Matthew wrote "I feel like I'm drinking something my mum would wear."

By the end of the evening I poured all wine that was left into one bottle, and this was less than half full. I think that suggests a successful party.

Friday 28 November 2014

Peach & Banana Wine - Third Bottle (3), 15th November 2014

For this year's Wine Party I asked guests to choose which wines I served. I had more requests for Peach & Banana than any other. It is ironic, then, that this flavour got most votes for 'Worst'. Despite this, it avoided last place - coming tenth with an average score of 2.4. Lindsay really liked it, commenting that it needed a cocktail umbrella, possibly a sparkler. Other people were less generous: 'Hints of earwax' from Catherine, 'Musty toilet cleaning pineapple chunks' from Rachel, 'Smells of celery' from Katie and 'Just no' from Becky.

Thursday 27 November 2014

Whitecurrant Wine - Third Bottle (2), 15th November 2014

We are getting into the realms of the Distinctly Unpopular. This wine came ninth in the Wine Party, scoring an average of 2.869. Two people declared it their worst. I think that is unfair. However, two people gave it top marks.

This wine party, more than any other, has been marked by a lack of agreement. Rachel described this bottle as 'cheek-sucking drain cleaner', whereas Lindsay wrote 'Liquid Stilton. In a good way', and gave it a 5. Vicky poured hers down the sink, and both Ros and Alex wrote simply "No".

Tuesday 25 November 2014

Blackcurrant Wine - Third Bottle (6), 15th November 2014

This was the first bottle I opened at the Wine Party and I thought one of my better ones. Sadly my guests did not agree. It came eighth out of twelve and its average score only reached 2.893. Rachel thought it was lovely, but only after she had drunk several other flavours. Matthew described it as a short, sharp shock and as the sourest of my wines (but still gave it a 3.5).

We ate well at the party: Claire made a chicken chilli and Boston Baked Beans and I spent an eye watering amount on cheese (about £65). No-one went away hungry.

Monday 24 November 2014

Christmas Tutti Fruti - Tenth Bottle (A4), 15th November 2014

We are now into the realms of the Wine Party's bottom half. Christmas Tutti Fruti came seventh out of twelve, with an average score of 3.286. Katie summed it up with "not awful". Actually, it was better than that - just a little thin and bland.

One of the benefits of the wine party is that I end up with a tidy house. It takes a lot of work getting there, but I enjoy that 15 minutes of stillness before anyone arrives and everything is done. It is a time to relax and pretend that I am the sort of person who can live an ordered existence.

Sunday 23 November 2014

Apple Wine - Second Bottle (1), 15th November 2014

This bottle really split opinions at the Wine Party. Two people scored it a 'One' and two others gave it a 'Five'. I thought this was one the worst, but it came sixth of twelve, getting 3.375 on average. Katie said it tasted of dentist's mouthwash, but several people commented on its freshness. These aren't mutually exclusive, of course. Matthew thought it would be lovely with a ploughman's lunch. Personally I thought it thin, dry and bland. So, a whole range of opinions there.

A Ploughman's Lunch

Saturday 22 November 2014

Blackberry Wine - Fifth Bottle (C5), 15th November 2014

Of all the wines at the Wine Party, this was my favourite. Despite this, it was a mid-ranking wine, coming fifth out of twelve, with an overall score of 3.45. Catherine thought it deep and earthy but without body (which makes it sound like an open grave), whereas Richard specifically commented on its good body.

I am always surprised at how different opinions are about the same drink. Lindsay hated it: "Vimto is not nice and nor is this". But she hated Rose Petal more, and that is another of my favourites. Very odd.

Friday 21 November 2014

Strawberry Wine - Second Bottle (4), 15th November 2014

This bottle was fourth out of twelve at 2014's Wine Party, getting a respectable 3.55 out of 5. Only one person thought it was poor, saying it was too sweet. Otherwise people liked it. Rachel was most eloquent, writing "Smells of summer - fruity alcoholic fruit juice".

It was an excellent party. There were 18 of us and I think everyone had a good time. I certainly did. The last guest to leave was Matthew, who went about half midnight and, unusually for me, I was not desperate to get to bed.

Thursday 20 November 2014

Cherry Wine - Second Bottle (1), 15th November 2014

Of the wines I made and presented at the Wine Party, this came top with an average of 3.63 out of 5. It was third overall, though; not that I am bitter. Catherine thought it was let down by its aroma but Katie said its smell was reminiscent of buttercup syrup (which I have never heard of). Lindsay, Anthony and Matthew all noted its medicinal qualities. Two people hated it: Alex wrote "You have poisoned my girlfriend" and someone (I suspect Vicky - said girlfriend) commented "brought on wrinkles". I can't please everyone.

Monday 17 November 2014

Julia's Wine - Redcurrant 1994 - 15th November 2014

There were only two wines served at my wine party that achieved a higher score than 4 (out of 5). I did not make either of them. Julia's Redcurrant came second with 4.108, and I imagine she would have been delighted. Her wine did not taste much of its base fruit and, as I imagine happens with all aged country wines, appears to have turned into sherry. It was lovely, though, and the guests agreed. Those that got a taste. Ros, Alex and Vicky confessed that they were responsible for this being the first empty bottle of the evening.

Sunday 16 November 2014

Colin Shreeve's Rhubarb Wine (1987) - 15th November 2014

It was the Wine Party last night. One of the guests - Becky, a colleague of Claire's - brought her parents. Her father, a farmer's son from Norfolk, used to make wine and came with a bottle of 'Rhubarb 1987'. He was nervous about presenting it but needen't have been. It won the competition hands down. Three guests voted it their favourite, and its average score was a whopping 4.425 out of 5. My nose wasn't put out of joint. No, not at all.

The wine as delicious and had retained a deep pink colour. It tasted more like sherry than anything, and shows that aging wine may be the way forward. If only I had even the slightest bit of patience.

Friday 14 November 2014

Rhubarb Wine 2012 - Final Bottle (A1), 12th-13th November 2014

I put this bottle in the fridge shortly before Claire told me that we needed something nice to drink. She is not a huge fan of rhubarb and I offered to swap it, but she was in such a bad mood that she told me it was "fine" and I daredn't argue. The bureaucrats at Claire's work are insisting that she moves from an office that she likes, and no-one else much wants (for reasons of its thinness and pentagonal shape) into one that has very little light, not enough sockets, no shelving and a 1970s carpet full of oranges and browns. Claire has no say in this and feels like she is being treated as a piece of furniture.

I think two glasses of rhubarb wine helped - it was fizzy and cold and sweet, and we drank it to an episode of QI after a Brahms rehearsal.

Sunday 9 November 2014

Crab Apple Wine - Sixth Bottle (C1), 8th November 2014

I'm really cross - and over something so trivial as well. I have just watched the final episode of the current series of Doctor Who, and it was poor. After last week's superb episode, I feel cheated. And they killed a recurring character, who I liked, for no reason whatsoever. Unforgivable. So this bottle of wine (the first of my own for over a week) has not been a happy experience. The meal it accompanied, though, was delicious - three different curries and Surprising Rice. And the day as a whole has been good - mostly rehearsing Mozart's Requiem for tomorrow's concert. My biggest failure has been to start the first movement double speed, bringing the whole thing to a crashing halt. I must remember not to do this tomorrow.

Thursday 6 November 2014

Orange Wine - Eighth Bottle (B5), 31st October 2014

It is not yet ten o'clock and I am massively sleepy. This bottle was pretty much empty by eight. We drank most of it to a particularly colourful and tasty 'the Sick and the Weak' Friday night meal: brown lentils and sea bass that had been in the freezer for quite some time, fried polenta cakes, cabbage and a tomato sauce with searingly hot chillies. After this we watched the first episode of Life Story - a David Attenborough documentary. Claire thought it manipulative and false, and could not forgive tis anthropomorphising. I understand her arguments, but can can you possibly not love something with baby meercats, barnacle geese and lion cubs playing?

Sunday 2 November 2014

Ginger Wine - Fourth Bottle (6), 29th-30th October 2014

Whilst definitely gingery, this wine has something about it that is cloying. It is drinkable, certainly, but not one of my best. What I have discovered, however, is that it is improved substantially by even a drop of cheap whisky. That adds a sharpness and definition that is otherwise missing.

On Thursday Claire demanded a glass as soon as she walked through the door. Her day had involved lots of brain power and she needed something restorative. We then went to the theatre to see Northern Broadside's production of She Stoops to Conquer, which was excellent. Broad comedy with superb physical humour, and just gorgeous to look at.

On my return I drained the bottle - adding just a dash of Sainsbury's Own Bland Basics Whisky.

Friday 31 October 2014

Prune & Parsnip - Seventh Bottle (B4), 25th October 2014

Claire writes:

"This was drunk by Fatso, Suez, The Old Trout and me round at 3 The Alders while Ben was Rydal Committeeing round at Nick P's. Can't think of much to say about the wine in that it tasted like Prune & Parsnip usually does. Mother was dubious about the prospect but found the actuality reasonably agreeable.

"Topics discussed included various ways of graphically representing the variation in the periodicity of clock ticks and the forces underlying the same. Also the best cheeses for encouraging bears* and hiding horses** "


Thursday 30 October 2014

Peach & Banana Wine - Second Bottle (1), 25th October 2014

I took this bottle to Newcastle for a Rydal committee meeting at Nick Pears' house. This was mostly because Claire finds Peach & Banana disgusting, and the Rydal meeting presented an opportunity to have a bottle without her. She was there at the opening, though, and when Nick asked me to give him a 'slug' she said he might find that preferable. In fact, the drinkers - Jayne, Sabine, Matt Byrne and Nick - all thought the wine entirely drinkable. Not necessarily delicious (and curiously tasting not at all of peach and only a little of banana) but acceptable.

It proved to be a good and drunken night - we averaged on more than a bottle of wine each.

Monday 27 October 2014

Crab Apple & Strawberry Wine 2014 - The Making Of ...

This is my November wine. Yes, I know that technically it is still October (the 19th to be precise) but Crab Apple & Strawberry is now my regular November brew. The apples, though, are starting to go over and leaving it another fortnight might be too late. So I spent some of yesterday afternoon standing on a garden chair picking apples for both this wine and Claire's crab apple & chilli jelly. She has already made crab apple and roast garlic jelly (click here for the recipe - it is in the comments section) - which is either genius or insane. We try it tonight.*

When I got up this morning I took the strawberries out of the freezer, and by the early afternoon they had all defrosted. My time in between was partially spent making a lemon drizzle cake for tonight's meal with Richard and Linda. It is a total disaster. The middle has sunk and if I had set out to create a brick in cake form I could not have done any better. I am really quite upset about it and I have to present it tonight as pudding.

A brick in cake form
Ingredients in the bucket
Anyway, I mashed the pound of strawberries in the bucket and then washed and sliced the 4 lbs crab apples and put them in too. This was covered in 3 lbs sugar and 6½ pints of boiling water. I then made a fish pie and needed both chocolate and gin to restore any sort of good mood I might have had before.

Next morning I added the yeast and a teaspoon each of pectolase and nutrient, and then left the wine until Friday 24th October. On getting home from work I transferred the liquid into its demijohn. As with crab apple proper, I fished out as many of the sliced crab apples as I could with a collander and then used the 'measuring jug, sieve and funnel' technique.

I thought that after having left the liquid for five days the yeast activity would have died down a little and so filled the demijohn to its top. It became apparent as I was racking my blackberry wine that my assumption was wrong. There was a whole load of froth trying to escape through the air trap. One emergency job with a sterilised teaspoon and turkey baster later I managed to control the situation, and the wine is looking splendid.

*After having tried it, I can assert it is both genius and insane.

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

Sunday 26 October 2014

Whitecurrant Wine - Second Bottle (5), 19th October 2014

I am very impressed with this wine. It is dry and has distinct similarity to wine made from grapes. I served it to Richard and Linda (well, to Richard, because Linda doesn't drink) on Sunday night when they came round for a meal. Unusually, Claire did most the tidying and I did most the cooking. It is true that Claire's course was more ambitious than either of mine - raised pies filled with chestnut, stilton and mushrooms served with a crab apple & roast garlic jelly. But I did a damn fine fish pie and a lemon drizzle cake that bore more than a passing resemblance to a house brick.

Lemon Drizzle Cake and definitely not a house brick

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Blackberry Wine - Fourth Bottle (C3), 17th October 2014

I haven't had any alcohol since Monday and today is Friday. This is distinctly unusual, but I think I made up for it tonight with a stiff gin and the lion's share of this bottle. It has been a busy, noisy day, though. After a lengthy period of having little to do at work, today was frantic with section 106 agreements, facility letters, contracts to exchange and sales packs to prepare. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and felt that I had earned a drink after my not-quite five mile walk home.

This wine is fabulous - fruity, light and full of blackberry flavour. It has been a good Friday.

Sunday 19 October 2014

Christmas Tutti Fruti - Ninth Bottle (B3), 13th October 2014

Even though it is a Monday, we are still on holiday and therefore drinking a bottle of wine is allowed. In fact, it is almost obligatory. We have spent the day returning from Harpenden in the rain. Happily this has involved sitting on a train rather than driving. There was a long wait at Kings Cross staring at the departure board, which was a little dull. Otherwise I have enjoyed the day off and it was lovely seeing the cousins.

We drank the wine to leftovers and then Doctor Who, where Peter Capaldi seems to be channeling Tom Baker. It was a relatively good bottle, if murky in the final glass. And now I'm drinking bush tea with a cat upon my lap, pleased that I am home.

Saturday 18 October 2014

Elderberry Wine - First Bottle (B2), 12th October 2014

Claire and I stayed with Matt & Anne in Harpenden this weekend and some of Sunday was spent wandering round St Alban's Abbey. What I loved most about this cathedral were the decorated Norman arches and the thirteenth-century wall paintings. However, the highlight of the visit was Sunday evening when all the Hertfordshire cousins, Brian and Janet descended for a meal. It was a raucous, laughter-filled evening and among the bottles emptied was this elderberry. I am very pleased with it; there is no metal to its taste and it is not too sweet. It has a fruity, dark flavour and is a promising vintage.

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

Friday 17 October 2014

Rose Petal Wine - Fifth Bottle (A5), 9th October 2014

My Texan half first cousin once removed, Annie, is visiting York on her way home from a farm in Sweden, so I took the opportunity to spend Thursday evening with her and have a splendid meal cooked by my mother thrown in. As I see Annie so rarely - I think this was only the third or fourth time - I took a bottle of Rose Petal as one of my very best. It is a fabulous colour and has a dry, full taste. I can't remember Annie's adjective of choice, but it was unambiguously positive.

Tuesday 14 October 2014

Crab Apple Wine 2014 - The Making Of ...

Echoes of summer
I think our crab apple tree is infected or infested. Or both. Many of the apples are scabby. Others have gone rotten in pairs and are stuck together, suggesting they are home to some sort of grub. I noticed this last year, but this year is worse. Like Aunty Mim, I suspect its days are numbered. And it is only 15 years old. Still, it continues to produce an abundance of fruit, and picking 12 lbs of apples for 18 bottles of wine on Sunday 5th October proved no problem.

Look closely, and you can see some rotten crab apples
It was a lovely, sunny day - that early October sort of day where the last echoes of summer are sounding. Perfect for collecting apples in a bowl. Under Claire's guidance and balancing precariously on a plastic garden chair, I sawed off a branch of the tree which was shooting upwards, away from the canopy. This was mostly to maintain the tree's shape, but had the added benefit of an extra pound of bright red apples I would otherwise have missed.

Apples I would otherwise have missed
Because we were spending the weekend of 11th-12th October in Harpenden with my cousins, I only picked the apples on Sunday. I started the wine properly on Tuesday 7th October. This year, by accident, I used the 'grating' function on our food processor rather than the 'slice'. I suspect it will make no difference.

Grating 12 lbs of apples took less than an hour. I added 9 lbs sugar and 3 lbs minced sultanas, again taking advantage of the food processor for mincing purposes. Next I boiled 22 pints of water, poured this over and stirred. There isn't much room left in my bucket.

I added the yeast and 2 teaspoons each of nutrient and pectolase on Wednesday morning, 8th October.
Not much room left in the bucket

It took almost exactly an hour to get the liquid into its three demijohns and my first method was to use the plastic collander as a scoop, which worked well. I did all this on Monday 13th October, after having returned from a wonderful weekend with my cousins. I had about a pint, maybe more, of left-over wine at the end, which I have poured down the sink. The wine in the demijohns is mostly orange with a pinkish hue.

Monday 13 October 2014

Elderflower Wine - Third Bottle (B1), 8th October 2014

Perhaps drinking an entire bottle on a Wednesday is not the best of ideas. However, it was the Great British Bake Off final. For each previous episode we have had half a bottle between us. This time, though, I would argue it was a special occasion. And I thoroughly enjoyed the show. It had the right mixture of tension and loveliness, and Nancy was a worthy winner.

Earlier in the evening we played the Weber bassoon concerto at WYSO with Amy - who is a far better soloist than I. If she wasn't such a delightful person I would have spent the evening in bitter envy.

Friday 10 October 2014

Gooseberry Wine - Third Bottle (1), 5th October 2014

It was trout for tea so we needed a dry, sharp white and this was a dry and sharp as they come. In fact the first taste was also musty, but oddly that taste took a back seat as the bottle emptied.

I had spent the day doing not very much - picking crab apples in the sunshine mostly. Claire was more inventive - experimenting with gingerbread for a work competition. The biscuit springs didn't work, so I got to eat the results. Damn shame. And Claire suspects sabotage.

I drank much of the wine while watching Doctor Who; an episode involving the Moon hatching. I thought it the best so far of a disappointing series. Claire hated it. But she is a scientist.

Claire's Gingerbread Scientists

Thursday 9 October 2014

Crab Apple Wine - Fifth Bottle (C3), 4th October 2014

I gave this bottle away, which is a rare event. However, the recipient had bought my book, has taken up wine making and had cooked us a fabulous chicken casserole so it would have been rude not to. The occasion was the break between rehearsal and concert of Brahms 4, and Amanda - who lives close to Ackworth - took us back to hers to meet her husband, Charles. He has several demijohns of elderberry dotted around and is almost as enthusiastic about the process as I am. I hope he enjoys this bottle.

(The concert went well, and as I left I gave the contra-player an acid little remark of "See, I can play the bassoon". This did not make me feel any better.)

Sunday 5 October 2014

Rhubarb Wine - Fifth Bottle (A6), 1st-2nd October 2014

Between starting and finishing this wine, I read the final few chapters of this month's Book Group book - Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield. It was an easy read and will not be universally popular, but I enjoyed it. Partly a ghost story, partly a treatise on Victorian business, it was mostly a tale of a man obsessed. There was no clever twist, and I think that was a strength.

We drank most of the wine to the Bake Off semi-final, in which I was sorry to see Chetna go, and then finished it to swordfish steaks tonight with shallow fried potato slices (also known as 'chips') and griddled courgettes. I have been doing lots of the cooking as of late in an effort to win 'Most Improved Husband 2014'.

Thursday 2 October 2014

Blackberry Wine - Twentieth Bottle (A1), 28th September 2014

Brahms 4 is such a lovely symphony. I spent this morning playing it in Ackworth with a superb scratch orchestra. There is little better than sitting in the midst of an orchestra playing music you love and playing it well. I look forward to next week's concert.

We drank this bottle mostly before eating. Claire made steak & kidney pasties as a follow up to last week's pudding and we ate them with mushy peas and gravy. The remainder of the wine went well, though was not as full-bodied as the elderberry the week before.

Figs in honey and custard was not a successful dessert, and that was unexpected.

Ackworth School - where Brahms 4 will be performed

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Orange Wine - Seventh Bottle (B4), 27th September 2014

I have spent much of today in a bad mood. This is because I have learnt that the bassoonist against whom I hold a grudge the size of South Dakota is playing contra in Brahms 4 next weekend. It is a whole week away and already I am tense. I wish I were a better, less highly strung person. Never mind. Otherwise the day has been extremely quiet. I finished a rubbish book (What Men Say by Joan Smith) and eaten many mussels. The orange wine went well with the latter, and they were followed by a Thai curry with sticky rice, courgettes from the garden and eddoes. Eddoes are a strange, slimy vegetable, but one I quite like. And the wine has been effective. Hic.

Tuesday 30 September 2014

Blackcurrant Wine - Second Bottle (2), 26th September 2014

I came home from town on Friday evening, having had three bottles of beer, to find that Claire had started on the blackcurrant wine. Which is obviously fair enough. Despite mixing beer and wine never being a great idea, I poured myself a glass as soon as I got in, and we spent a pleasant while in the kitchen as Claire cooked curry. Having lower expectation of the wine this time, it was better than the previous bottle. Light & fruity. I finished my share of the bottle while watching Marvellous, a biopic starring Toby Jones. It was on the right side of sentimental and was, indeed, marvellous.

Monday 29 September 2014

Crab Apple Wine - Fourth Bottle (A5), 24th-25th September 2014

This was a classic mid-week bottle, where nothing remarkable happened, other than Claire finding a mummified mouse in her handbag. We assume that the cats brought it in some time ago.

I opened the bottle on Wednesday to drink infront of The Great British Bake Off, which continues to be lovely, and then finished it on Thursday. The wine was its usual reliable self - apple-y and a little fizzy - and there is not much more to say on the matter. So I won't.

Saturday 27 September 2014

Elderberry Wine 2011 - Final Bottle (B2), 21st September 2014

Claire asked me to open the best bottle of red that I had. This elderberry was the natural choice. She had cooked a steak & kidney pudding, and the process took the entire weekend. Hence needing something rather special. The food was excellent. I can never again protest that I do not like kidney. It was a meaty, succulent dish full of rich flavours and stodge. The wine was a perfect accompaniment. My first taste was metallic, but thereafter it was superb: rich and deep and distinctly alcoholic. This has rounded off a fabulous day, which started with bassoon quartets in Wetherby and has had elderberry picking, a lazy afternoon and Doctor Who thrown in. And Claire has just served dessert. Can life get much better?

Thursday 25 September 2014

Gooseberry & Elderflower Wine - Seventh Bottle (A3), 17th-20th September 2014

My attempts to be witty can sometimes get me into trouble. On Wednesday evening, at WYSO, we were rehearsing the orchestral part to Weber's bassoon concerto. Amy isn't coming to do the solo part until October and Nick asked if I wanted to fill in. In a mock disappointed tone, I said that I didn't have the music. The librarian leapt to her feet and presented it to me - so I spent the night busking my way through a concerto. And I loved it. It was all very approximate; and impressionist painting of a concerto; but I came away feeling that I had left a job well done. I have been smiling about it for days. After that, a bottle of nasty wine could only disappoint.

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Rose Petal Wine - Fourth Bottle (A4), 14th September 2014

I wanted to take something nice to Ros's and chose Rose Petal as a likely contender. Ros had invited us for Sunday lunch. When I checked my diary and found I was busy in the early afternoon, Ros explained that Sunday Lunch in the Lehany household meant a good while after six in the evening.

Claire and I walked over, through Gledhow Valley Wood, and were greeted by a couple of generous gins. The roast lamb was delicious too. I, of course, ate and drank too much, but had a lovely evening in which we narrowed the shortlist of trees to dedicate to Julia. The wine was fine, if not excellent, and I noticed that Alex only had one glass.

A potential tree for Julia - popular with bees and pyramid in shape

Sunday 21 September 2014

Elderberry Wine 2014 - The Making Of ...

Elderberries near Castle Howard
I have picked my elderberries in stages this year. The first lot were picked in Hookstone Forest near Harrogate on a sunny Sunday afternoon while Claire was at a wool festival. After some searching, I found a tree laden with fruit and picked well over a pound in about 15 minutes.

The next lot were picked on the verge of a track leading to the Yorkshire Arboretum. We were there to choose a tree for Julia in commemoration of a life lived well. I guessed, correctly, that there would be no elders in the Arboretum, on account of their prolific thuggishness, but was keen to involve Julia in this wine. There was only one suitable elder even leading up to it. While I was picking berries a Castle Howard gardener came through a gate and told me I needed the land-owner's permission for foraging. We then had a conversation about elder trees in general and elderberry wine in particular, and he allowed me to continue with barely a harumph.

My final set of elderberries came from trees close to home, mostly on the way to Meanwood. Stonegate Fields had too few, and I suspect this is my fault for over-picking elderflowers, but I found some good trees near Potternewton Lane.

With all my picking I ended up with 5 lbs 14 oz berries, and I judged this to be enough. Stripping them was made bearable by Radio 4 and the Dum Tee Dum podcast, and I eventually removed the juices staining my hands. (NB - If you click the link, and fast forward to 43:46, you will hear me ring in, and then a huge discussion of home-made wine. It is officially very funny. And then I appear right at the end at 57:00 - ish)

My stained left hand
I crushed the berries on Sunday afternoon, 14th September, in a two hour slot I had after playing a trio with Madeleine in St Edmund's Church and before going to Ros's for a roast. In this time I also made a chilli, washed up and bottled my lemon & lime wine, which was some going. I added 5 lbs sugar and 12 pints of boiling water to the crushed elderberries. On Monday morning I put in the yeast and a teaspoon each of nutrient and pectolase.

Elderberry Wine and Fuschias - a still life (with foot)
I didn't have an opportunity until Saturday morning, 20th September, to put this into its demijohns. It was an early morning job: I sieved out the elderberries, filling two demijohns while listening to the Today programme, which was dominated by discussions of Scotland's 'No to Devolution' vote. I think I'm pleased with the decision, but I fear the political games that David Cameron will now play. Anyway, the elderberry wine is in its demijohns, bubbling away, and as ever is pleasingly purple.
Pleasingly Purple

Thursday 18 September 2014

Blackberry Wine - Third Bottle (A5), 12th-13th September 2014

I was on a Work Night Out on Friday, so Claire (who fancied something red) opened this bottle. My evening was spent in 'The Roxy'; classy name and equally classy establishment. I was hit by a wall of noise when I went in and just wanted to turn round and walk out again. Things improved, marginally, when we were shown to a private room where I played pool and table tennis and drank more beer than was sensible.

We finished this bottle on Saturday after the first Music Club of the season where Pat, Peter and I performed adequately, but the highlight was Dawn singing songs of dream and sleep.

Monday 15 September 2014

Prune & Parsnip Wine - Sixth Bottle (B2), 10th-11th September 2014

Prune & Parsnip is a good bottle anyway, but I think it is at its best when cold. The chill counterbalances its heavy sherry taste.

I stuck this bottle in the fridge on Wednesday evening before a Brahms rehearsal at WYSO and we opened it to watch The Great British Bake Off  on our return. This meant a late night, and late nights are beginning to catch up with me. This is the second week in a row when I have been out every week-day night; mostly playing the bassoon. Checking my diary I see that I am out every night next week as well. At least three of those are with Claire - otherwise she might forget what I look like.

Anyway, we didn't finish the bottle on Wednesday, but I drank enough to give me a thumping headache for much of Thursday. The last couple of glasses were drunk on Thursday after I came back from Pat & Peter's and the final rehearsal before a Music Club performance on Saturday.

Sunday 14 September 2014

Elderflower Wine - Second Bottle (A2), 7th-10th September 2014

On Sunday Claire dragged me to the British Wool Festival in Harrogate. Rather than spend the £8 entrance fee to look at coloured yarn, I spent my time outside in Hookstone Forest foraging for berries. I need more blackberries for the freezer, and elderberries are mostly ripe. It was a lovely way to spend Sunday midday and did not involve overpriced wool, though Claire came out with stacks of the stuff.

In the evening we drank most of a bottle of elderflower wine to curries made from lamb and potatoes.

Tuesday 9 September 2014

Blackberry Wine 2014 - The Making Of ...

In the dying days of August summer has returned. Much of the month has been cool and damp, and the central heating has been on more than once. However, this weekend has seen bright, hot sunshine and skies of a late-summer blue. This made picking blackberries a delight. As ever for blackberry wine, Claire and I are in York and we ventured into the Victorian Cemetery on Sunday morning, 31st August, armed with baskets and bags. We set our watches at 11 and arranged to meet back at the car at quarter past noon.

Initially picking was slow; the blackberries were small and we were obviously not the first to gather fruit. Once I left the main paths, however, and started climbing into bramble patches and balancing on grave stones, collecting berries became faster and more satisfying. At 12:15 Claire and I met, compared our spoils and departed for another half hour's foraging. In the end I came away with 7 lbs exactly and Claire picked nearly six.

Graves to mention are Walter Rymer, John Carr, Ada Jane Duckitt, Alexander and Isabella Nortman Druthett, and Florence Charlton.

Blackberries and sugar
Back in Leeds, I measured 12 lbs of blackberries (having finally worked out that I can weigh fruit in larger containers than the scale pan, making this a quicker, less sticky process) crushed these in my bucket, threw in 7½ lbs of sugar and poured over 15½ pints of boiling water. On Monday morning I added the yeast (a red wine yeast) and 2 teaspoons each of pectolase and nutrient.

Blackberries fermenting
I left this in its bucket until Saturday, 6th September, stirring occasionally. Then on Saturday, which has been a quiet day in which I finished an excellent book about conscientious objectors in the First World War (We Will Not Fight by Will Ellsworth-Jones) and watched the drizzle from indoors, I put the wine into its three demijohns. As with Fig Wine, I began by dredging the fruit with a collander and then switched to the 'sieve over a funnel' technique. There was some spillage and I could have added another half pint of water at the beginning. But it is now fermenting away in its demijohns and is its usual attractive dark red colour.

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