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 29 May 2014

Rose Petal Wine - First Bottle (A3), 8th May and 24th May 2014

8th May 2014
I left this bottle in the fridge at our holiday cottage in Millbeck, Cumbria. Rachel was very keen that I bring a bottle of Rose Petal to the Lake District, and she planned to drink a glass in the garden on our last night. However, Claire and I have come home a day early to say our goodbyes to Julia, who is dying in hospital. Rose Petal Wine seems less significant.

24th May 2014

Rachel saved this as she thought that it didn't seem right to drink it without us. We drank it in York at my parents', shared between nine. And it is fabulous. It has a fuller taste than my previous version, with just as much rose flavour. Duncan thought it sherry-like, and I will definitely make it again this year.

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

Wednesday 28 May 2014

Rhubarb Wine - Second Bottle (B6), 23rd May 2014

On the basis that we were having a smoked cod chowder tonight, Claire asked for something dry and white. Of my three suggestions she chose rhubarb - despite it being very nearly pink. The chowder was delicious and the wine was alright, in a 'nothing to write home about' kind of way.

The main features of today, though, have been grumpiness and mouth ulcers - with the former being partly caused by the latter. I have mostly been snarling at people at work. (How dare they ask me to do things? Don't they know that I am Busy?) And this leads me to feel stressed, which feeds the ulcers. A viscious cycle, which I hope the wine may break.

Monday 26 May 2014

Crab Apple Wine - Final Bottle (C4), 18th May 2014

And so Goodbye Crab Apple 2012. You have been pretty much the same as every other vintage of crab apple wine since we got the tree. No better, no worse.

I do enjoy crab apple wine - it has a strong cider taste, but remains a wine. We have drunk tonight's bottle to pan-fried tuna with griddled courgettes and aubergines, fried potato chunks and a tomato sauce. All delicious. And there is still pudding to come.

Much of today has been spent in the garden. It has been one of those rare English summer days (despite it still being spring) where we have had continuous sunshine and it has been hot enough to sit bare-chested, reading. My book is a graphic novel for Book Group and I hate it. Not because it is a graphic novel, but because of its subject matter - Jack the Ripper. It is From Hell and is compelling, in a disgusting, ghoulish way.

Sunday 25 May 2014

Strawberry Wine - Final Bottle (5), 17th May 2014

On a beautiful late-spring day, I took this final bottle of strawberry wine over to Richard & Linda's, where we were treated to a Vietnamese meal. Richard was lead cook and everything was an experiment. The home-made spring rolls were delightful - crispy, light, full of flavour - and proved to be the highlight.

The next course was meant to be stir-fried pork, prawns and vegetables in crepes. Linda, Claire and I sat on the comfy chairs while Richard prepared it. After about 45 minutes it was clear that things were not going to plan. We ended up with stir-fry and the crepes ended up in the bin.

Pudding was ice-cream, banana fritters (delicious) and a weird green cake thing made with some sort of leaf. I had seconds of the first two.

Strawberry wine was a good choice - the fruit complemented the meal and it is one of Richard's favourites.

Saturday 24 May 2014

Orange Wine - Third Bottle (A2), 15th-16th May 2014

Orange wine was my reward for going swimming. Before last night I don't think I have swum since 2009. However, I have moved offices so that Work is now 5 miles away, rather than not-quite-four, and that is too far to walk. Unless I make an effort I will now get no exercise whatsoever. Hence going swimming.

It was a better experience than I had feared, but worse would have been tricky. Scott Hall Swimming Baths have become far less scuzzy over the last 5 years, and there isn't quite so much public nudity. I managed either 14 or 16 lengths, and can still move 24 hours later.

In fact today I did walk home, through some exceptionally well-heeled areas of Leeds, and I feel I deserved my share of the orange wine, which was its usual crisp, dry self.

The last time I was anywhere near a swimming pool

Thursday 22 May 2014

Crab Apple Wine - Seventeenth Bottle (A5),11th May 2014

There is a lot to do when someone dies, and doing it helps with the grieving. While you are filling in Probate forms and discussing funeral arrangements, it is all to do with the person you are missing so, so much and therefore includes them in the process. Most importantly within these tasks, Claire and I netted Julia's redcurrants on her allotment. The person who takes over will benefit and I have hope that I might too. It felt like the right and proper thing to do. Claire donned a bee-keeper's uniform and told the bees on the allotment that Julia had died. This, apparently, is what one does.

I opened a bottle of crab apple on Sunday night and it was a good evening, if busy, with cooking, washing up and making Vanilla Wine.

And you may be relieved to hear that I should stop banging on quite so much about Julia over the next few posts. But it has been a traumatic experience which filled every thought.

Julia's redcurrants last year

Saturday 17 May 2014

Vanilla Wine - The Making Of ...

A couple of weeks ago I was idly flicking through CJJ Berry when my eye was caught by 'Vanilla Wine'. I had never noticed this before, and - of course - this is the obvious choice for a wine beginning with 'V'. Yet, looking through the recipe, there is a glaring omission. For a vanilla wine, there is a distinct lack of vanilla. It called for rhubarb (six pounds), lemon (two) and hawthorn blossom (a gallon). This required serious amendment if I was to genuinely tick off the letter V. I decided that 8 pints of hawthorn blossom was ridiculous, so I have used three pints instead, and substituted a vanilla pod for the remainder. Otherwise I have (mostly) kept to CJJ Berry's ingredients and totally ignored his method.

Hawthorn Blossom on its tree
I picked the rhubarb from Julia's allotment on 10th May. This was only two days after she had died, and I found it almost too emotional. I have since been back to net her redcurrants, and that was much better. Anyway, today - Sunday 11th May - I ventured out to Stonegate Fields to pick the hawthorn blossom. Getting three pints took a fair while and having a measuring jug with me proved to be a Good Thing. I wasn't too fussy about stems or, indeed, leaves. Each pint came from a different tree, and I made a token effort only to pick open blossom, tending towards those with pink stamens.

3 Pints of Hawthorn Blossom plus a random bluebell
At home, I chopped the 6 lbs rhubarb into small pieces and put it in the bucket with 3 lbs sugar. I sliced the vanilla pod lengthways down the middle and chucked that in too. The lemons were peeled thinly and then squeezed, with both peel and juice being added.

Rhubarb and Vanilla Pod
I boiled seven pints of water and poured this into the bucket. This all sat for about ninety minutes before I tipped in the hawthorn blossom. I probably should have waited until the water cooled, but I was worried about the flowers shrivelling and turning brown.

Vanilla Wine in its Bucket

The yeast and teaspoons of nutrient and pectolase went in on Monday morning and I put the liquid into its demijohn on Friday evening, 16th May. Seven pints of water was too much. Six would have done. The wine is its usual rhubarb pink. I had a taste, and at this stage it is mostly unpleasant. Let's hope that it matures nicely.

Vanilla Wine in its Demijohn
If you want to see how this wine turned out, click here

Friday 16 May 2014

Julia's Wines - Gooseberry (Unknown Vintage), 10th-11th May 2014

The first bottle out of the box was a litre of gooseberry wine. It is not marked by a year, but judging from the others it will have been early nineties.

Claire took the first sip and I asked her "Drink or down the sink?". It was a definite "Drink" and irritatingly far, far better than my bottle of gooseberry that we had just finished. It was sweeter, more rounded and with a hint of sherry. Remarkably drinkable. If this is any indication of the remaining bottles then I have struck gold. Julia - thank you so much for everything.

A Pyramid of Arts creation - the charity that Julia began

Thursday 15 May 2014

Julia's Wines - an Introduction, 10th May 2014

I am going to dedicate some posts on this blog to Julia's wines.

Once when Julia cooked a Feast - possibly road-kill pheasant - she disappeared into her cellar and brought up a bottle of Dandelion Wine, made at least twenty years earlier. It was the finest home made wine I have ever had. She also brought up a bottle of redcurrant that was foul.

Julia died two days ago. Late this afternoon I ventured into her cellar and have retrieved thirteen bottles of wine. There are many more and, whilst not mentioned in her will, she has bequeathed them to me. I will record each one in this blog.

A Pyramid of Arts Creation, with Julia in the middle distance.

Tuesday 13 May 2014

Gooseberry Wine - First Bottle (6), 8th-10th May 2014

Julia died on Thursday night. Just writing that down makes it a little more real. We came home early from the Lake District to say our goodbyes. In time, my abiding memory will be of Julia-proper rather than ill-and-weak-Julia, struggling for every breath. I weep at inopportune times. At the Sainsbury's check-out wasn't great.

Claire brought me a glass of gooseberry on Thursday night whilst I was in the bath as a suitable wine to mark the occasion. The gooseberries are from Julia's allotment, of course.

I cannot convey the loss.

That's Julia, looking at the camera, singing

Monday 12 May 2014

Gooseberry & Elderflower Wine - Fifth Bottle (A2), 7th May 2014

I brought this bottle to Millbeck as my Comedy Bottle. Irritatingly, it was merely okay. Nick said it was not Absolutely Awful, and spoke of it being too large for a white. There is a musty aftertaste, but it is not as pronounced as I had remembered. And when I added cassis, it was definitely drinkable. 'Drinkable' here does not translate as 'Nice'.

The day has been typical for the Lake District in one respect - it has tipped it down constantly. Mostly I have spent it indoors - most entertainingly in the Puzzle Museum in Keswick, which had optical illusions aplenty - some of which made me laugh with delight. Thoroughly recommended.

One of the Puzzle Museum's illusions

Sunday 11 May 2014

Elderflower Wine - Ninth Bottle (B1), 6th May 2014

Rachel promised us a gentle six mile walk around Derwent Water. She lied. Instead we got a ten mile hike with plenty of climb and descent. This is after a day of hard walking when my knees very nearly packed up entirely. Still, having done another long walk means we can reward ourselves with alcohol.

One of tonight's bottles was this elderflower, and everyone thought it was a good bottle. It is semi-sweet, floral and refreshing. We drank it with a dish of fish and tomato sauce (not ketchup!) prepared by Nick, which was delicious.

So far this holiday I have yet to open an unpopular bottle of wine. This hit rate cannot last.

Saturday 10 May 2014

Rhubarb Wine - First Bottle (B1), 5th May 2014

This bottle was the reward for a long and difficult walk. We did a circular route starting from Buttermere, taking in Scale Force, Red Pike, High Stile and something else besides. It was a beautiful and varied walk, and on the whole 'Up' was not a problem. 'Down', however, was a different matter entirely, and I have a bruise on my right buttock to show for it. Hence the rhubarb wine being a reward. It is its usual reliable self - pink tinge, fresh white wine taste, lovely.

Photo-bomb on the top of Red Pike
If you want to see how I made this wine, click here.

Friday 9 May 2014

Crab Apple & Strawberry Wine - Fourth Bottle (4), 4th May 2014

This bottle was universally popular, and quite right too. It is semi-sweet, a glorious pink colour and has a distinct, fruity taste.

The ascent of Catbells

We are in a cottage in the Lake District with Rachel, Duncan, Nick and Ann, and of the three bottles of mine opened so far (all of which have been good), this has been the best received. It came at the end of a day where we climbed Catbells, and walked by Derwent Water. The summit of Catbells was monumentally windy. I struggled to stay upright. But there is a joyous feeling at the top of a hill being hit by a gale. I loved every second.

The top of Catbells

Thursday 8 May 2014

Blackberry Wine - Fifteenth Bottle (A2), 3rd May 2014

I climbed Skiddaw today. All 934 metres of it. There was a massively steep bit close to the top, and I worry about how stiff I shall feel tomorrow. Each step was painful, and any steeper would have required grapple hooks and ropes. It all means that I have earned a bottle of blackberry wine, and another three bottles besides - shared between six of us. Not only that. but I cooked as well. A Beef Burginione (or however you spell it). The gravy was fabulous, and blackberry wine was a suitable accompaniment. I'm now firmly on the bush tea, however.

Skiddaw under cloud from Catbells

Wednesday 7 May 2014

Blackcurrant & Red Gooseberry - Fifth Bottle (3), 2nd May 2014

We are in Millbeck in Cumbria, staying in a cottage with Rachel, Duncan, Ann and Nick, and I have brought seven bottles of my wine along, of which this was the first. It was one of many bottles finished on a wonderful, laughter-filled evening. Duncan caused me to weep with hilarity and now (the following morning) I cannot remember why. It was a good night.

This bottle of wine was excellent - really tasty, full of fruit with a beneficial fizz. Everyone liked it, and they were not merely being polite.

The people with whom I am sharing a cottage

Tuesday 6 May 2014

Rhubarb Wine 2014 - The Making Of ...

Until now, Rhubarb has always been my May wine. The winter this year, though, was incredibly mild. We had no snow and only a couple of frosts. Therefore everything is early and I find myself making Rhubarb Wine in April. Late April, admittedly, but April nevertheless.

On Saturday, 26th April, Claire and I visited Julia's allotment to pick parsley, dig up parsnips, plant garlic and collect rhubarb. This was all on instruction from Julia, who is finding it frustrating in the extreme that she is too ill to do any of this herself. She hopes that the current invalidity is temporary, and we must hope along with her.

I plucked rhubarb while Claire planted garlic, and got a couple of butch green stalks before changing tactics and going for the pinker stuff. At home I weighed what I had collected - four and a half pounds - and got the remaining pound-and-a-half from our garden. Our rhubarb is doing remarkably well. It must be all the horse poo that Claire put on it in March.

I chopped the rhubarb into small pieces and put it in the bucket. In a change to previous years (only because I did not read the instructions carefully) I added 6 lbs sugar immediately - rather than 24 hours later - and covered it with fourteen and a half pints of boiling water. I can't imagine the early addition of sugar will make any difference. The yeast and teaspoon-and-a-half of nutrient went in on Sunday morning.

On Thursday 1st May (a day on which I moved offices from central Leeds to Horsforth, thus cutting my commuting time from 52 minutes walking to 15 minutes driving) I put all the liquid into its two demijohns, sieving out and discarding the rhubarb. This took me less time than I had feared - about 30 minutes. As usual, the colour is a pleasing pastel pink.

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

Prune & Parsnip Wine - Fourth Bottle (B6), 30th April - 1st May 2014

Claire is not going to play in WYSO for much of this term because she is concentrating on her Grade 8. Therefore, whilst I was out on Wednesday, Claire opened this bottle and I had a glass and a half on my return. It passed the time while I washed up and chatted.

We finished the bottle on Thursday and we are now on holiday, about to spend a week in the Lake District with Rachel, Duncan, Nick & Ann. This is likely to be an alcoholic seven days with a bit of walking thrown in. Fingers crossed that the weather improves.

Monday 5 May 2014

Christmas Tutti Fruti - Fifth Bottle (A1), 27th-28th April 2014

I have just returned from a tedious Airedale rehearsal to find this bottle empty. That there was less than a glass left in it before I went excuses this somewhat. We drank most the bottle on Sunday. I needed the wine as a de-grumping agent. It was my turn to cook, and I got flustered making a pork, cashew nut and lime stir-fry. I like my cooking slow, where I feel in control, rather than having several things to do at once and all of them to be done quickly. Still, it all worked, was delicious and the wine returned me to my human setting. It is an adequate bottle but a little bit thin.

Sunday 4 May 2014

Exotic Tinned Fruit Wine - Tenth Bottle (B3), 26th-27th April 2014

I had expected this bottle to be nasty, but we had yet to have a bottle of it in April so I put it in the fridge for Saturday night. In fact it was rather better than expected - entirely drinkable with no distinguishing features. We drank it to a mushroom and gnocchi bake followed by a rhubarb trifle with lots of Croft Original Sherry. Claire's grandmother would have approved.

Rhubarb was a feature of the day - I started making 2014's Rhubarb Wine, which means there is a large bucket in the middle of the kitchen creating a tripping hazard.

Saturday 3 May 2014

Blackberry Wine - Fourteenth Bottle (B1), 25th April 2014

Blackberry wine is always a Good Bottle, but this wine has been fabulous. The taste is pure bramble. Whenever anyone asks what is my favourite wine, I tell them that it is blackberry, and this bottle justifies it. There should be some special occasion, but in fact it is a very ordinary Friday night. I have spent much of it chatting companionably with Claire - and that is always lovely. Friday evenings are a time to reflect on the week gone by and to wash it away with the blur that is summoned by a bottle of wine. But now I am at the 'go to bed' or 'be sociable' cusp, and I think 'sleep' is taking the upper hand.

Crab Apple Wine - Sixteenth Bottle (B3), 22nd - 25th April 2014

There is very little to say about this bottle of wine, and I shall try to say it in approximately 250 words.

I was out on Tuesday night, mostly playing Haydn, when it was opened, and then Claire was out on Wednesday night playing through her Grade 8 pieces. We were both out on Thursday - me at a WYSO committee meeting (where I seem to have taken on more duties. Damn and, indeed, Blast), Claire at a string quartet. And we have both been in tonight. Somewhere within all this we have managed to finish a bottle of crab apple, and it has been as unremarkable yet tasty as ever. A dependable bottle of wine that could be compared to a magnolia paint.

Thursday 1 May 2014

Peapod Wine - Final Bottle (5), 21st-22nd April 2014

I was prepared to pour this bottle down the sink. It has been nine months since we last had any and I remember that bottle being nasty. I put a bottle of crab apple in the fridge by way of back up. It is with genuine delight, therefore, that I can report this wine has improved massively with age. Should I ever make peapod wine again, which, frankly, is unlikely, storing it for nearly three years is the way forward. It was still a little sweet but had a hint of German Rheisling (he said, pretentiously).

We drank most the bottle on Easter Monday - which really is the scrapings of the Easter barrel. A glass was left in the bottle for Claire whilst I was out playing quintets in Ilkley. She finished it before I set off and opened the crab apple.