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 28 June 2014

Lovely Greens - 'A is for Apple'

I am delighted that Tanya of Lovely Greens has asked me to do a second guest blog post on her wonderful website (which you can go to if you click here). Last year she ran a series of guest posts on a 'Homesteading' theme. I felt a bit of a fraud to be shoe-horned into that series, as what I do is hardly homesteading, but being the media tart that I am, jumped in with both feet. The article (which you can read here) proved popular, and the hits on my page jumped exponentially. So, therefore, when Tanya asked again at the end of April, I had no hesitation but to give her a firm 'Yes'.

My theme this year is 'an alphabet of wine'. Those of you who read regularly (a handful at most!) will know that I am trying to make a wine with its main ingredient being from every letter of the alphabet. Over the last 12 months I have ticked off the letters W, L and V. I mentioned this aim in my last Lovely Greens post, and that is what got most response, so I decided to do a follow-up. Once the article is published (Sunday 29 June) I will post a link to it here. Although it might be quite late - I'm playing in a concert in Ilkley that day. Nielsen's Fourth Symphony - The Inextinguishable - which to me sounds like a headache set to music. But then I'm a nineteenth century kind of guy, so far as musical tastes are concerned.

To any new readers - welcome. This blog is essentially my diary with a few instructions on how to make wine, and tasting notes thrown in. I live a fairly unextraordinary life in Leeds, West Yorkshire, and you will find that my main concerns tend to be food, family, friends, music and books. Roughly in that order. This blog is most useful for seeing how I made wine, and then finding out whether the flavours have worked or not. Click on the label 'making wine' to find my recipes and methods. Generally I will put a link at the bottom of a 'making wine' entry to the first bottle of that flavour - so you can see whether it was a success (step forward Rose Petal 2013) or a failure (yes, I'm looking at you, Redcurrant 2013). I started this blog in April 2011, and since then I must have made over 50 batches of wine, and probably about 30 different flavours. Basically, have a browse.

To any existing readers - thank you. It is a great pleasure to know that some people are interested in an unexceptional, though (I like to think) very human, person. And do check out Lovely Greens. Tanya writes on many topics, with beautiful photographs, always in an interesting manner.


Wednesday 25 June 2014

Julia's Wines - Cider 2013 (?), 18th-19th June 2014

It was Julia's birthday on Wednesday and therefore obligatory to have one of her wines. I picked an unlabelled bottle, which must have been made recently, judging by the amount of dust it wasn't covered in, and put it in the fridge. Turned out to be cider, and pretty vinegary at that. Claire didn't drink her glass, but Emma and I finished ours. Its most positive attribute was its clarity. On the whole a 'miss'.

Tuesday 24 June 2014

Elderberry 2010 - Final Bottle (C2), 14th June 2014

I considered my birthday to be a special enough occasion to open this final bottle of elderberry wine. It was delicious - smoother than any elderberry I have drunk before, with a complex, earthy taste. Leaving it to mature is the way forward.

The day as a whole has been excellent. I got a grand haul of presents, including the first 3 series of Cabin Pressure on CD, and spent the afternoon driving round Harrogate and environs inspecting artists' studios. There was some beautiful work and Claire has her eyes on a particular potter - Steph Black.

At home we drank champagne in the garden with Rachel & Duncan (the cork shot into a rhubarb patch) and then ate a fabulous Balkan meal. Claire cooked an Albanian chicken and lemon soup, Bulgarian potato dumplings, Turkish lamb-stuffed tomatoes, a Romanian mushroom, cream & cheese dish (heart attack in a casserole), Yugoslavian rose-water jelly and Turkish date balls.

As I say, an excellent birthday.

Monday 23 June 2014

Redcurrant Wine - First Bottle (A6), 13th-15th June 2014

This wine is a delightful colour. It is a deep pink with a near metallic shine and it is entirely clear.

When I start a new flavour by praising its appearance, this is often a prelude to disparaging its taste. Redcurrant 2013 is just on the right side of drinkable, and that is disappointing. The initial taste is fine - sharp and sweetish - without being interesting. There is a delayed aftertaste of mustiness - though the delay is several seconds. Therefore, if you drink it quickly enough, you can store up a concentrated flavour of dead moth until the very end. I think I prefer to take my mustiness in stages. Not a great success.

If you want to see how I made this wine (!) click here

Sunday 22 June 2014

Elderflower Wine 2014 - The Making Of ...

For the first time in many, many years I am making just a single batch of elderflower wine. Claire confessed some time ago that this was some way from being her favourite flavour. It is an irritating wine to make, so I am happy to cut it down to six bottles.

Chris visited today, Sunday 15th June, and I thought it would be a nice brotherly thing to do, to go out collecting elderflowers together. He was having none of it, though, and was quite happy to spend his time here drinking coffee and eating bratwurst instead. He had a point. After yesterday's summer sunshine, today was overcast and rainy. My shoes and jeans were sodden by the time I had finished picking. I couldn't have left this wine any later, though. The elderflowers in Stonegate Fields, which are usually late to flower, were on the verge of going over. I tried to avoid the flower-heads which had a creamy brown tinge and concentrated instead on those that were a greeny-yellow. Even with this tactic, I came away with too many flowers. I needed a pint and probably picked a pint and a half. The additional ended up on the compost heap.

Stripping the flowers took less than an hour and I got rid of as many bugs as I found (which was lots). I put the flowers in the bucket with 2½ lbs sugar, 1 litre of white grape juice, 6 pints of unboiled tap water, a teaspoon each of tannin and pectolase, and a B1 vitamin tablet and a camden tablet, both crushed.

I put the yeast and a teaspoon of nutrient in on Monday morning, stirred it twice a day and then put the liquid into its demijohn Friday early evening, 20th June. The last stage took about five minutes, if you ignore all the sterilising malarky. The wine is a yellowy biege.

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

Saturday 21 June 2014

Blackberry Wine - First Bottle (B), 10th-13th June 2014

This bottle was chosen in spectacular fashion by St Ithamar, whose feast day it was on Tuesday. If I were superstitious or religious, I would say it was a miracle. Within ten minutes of me opening a nasty bottle of wine to celebrate St Ithamar, this one shot its cork and spewed wine all over.

We have drunk this bottle slowly, and tonight had a glass in the garden, inspecting our rose (which is fabulous) and gooseberries (less so). Summer evenings are fabulous and too few. Too many 'fabulouses' there. Why do I get stuck on words? Clumsy.

Our Roses (plus a foxglove)

Thursday 19 June 2014

Gooseberry & Elderflower Wine - Sixth Bottle (A4), 10th-13th June 2014

It was the Feast Day of St Ithamar on Tuesday. I cooked a spicy tomato and cod dish by way of veneration and opened a bottle of Gooseberry & Elderflower wine. Admittedly, this is a long way from one of my best wines. It is on the 'just drinkable' spectrum, and not a wise choice for a wine to pay homage to a saint. Within five minutes of me opening it, a bottle of blackberry exploded. The cork shot into the air and wine volcanoed out. Obviously Ithamar was displeased, and pointedly chose something rather better and more fitting to his celebration. We still had an open bottle of gooseberry & elderflower, however, and have drunk it slowly throughout the week. Its musty taste seems to have lessened as the wine has aged.

A Window at Rochester Cathedral
Recipe for the Spicy Cod and Tomato Dish

1 onion - chopped fine
1 clove garlic - crushed
1 chilli, taking out as many seeds as you want, chopped fine
a few strands of saffron
4 large tomatoes chopped roughly
1 cod fillet
half a teaspoon of sugar
a teaspoon of vinegar (flavoured with herbs if possible)
salt and pepper to taste


Fry the onion, garlic and chilli in olive oil until soft
Add the tomatoes
Soak the saffron in a little boiling water for about five minutes, and throw it in
Once the tomatoes have disintegrated a little, add the cod in flaked pieces
Keep cooking for probably until the fish is done (maybe 20 minutes)
Add the sugar, vinegar, salt and pepper
Serve on cous-cous flavoured with salted lemons or artichoke hearts or whatever you want, really.

Tuesday 17 June 2014

Blackberry Wine - Sixteenth Bottle (D6), 8th June 2014

York Unitarian Chapel
Less popular than Celery Wine. Surely some mistake?

I took this bottle to York on strict instruction from my mother. It was her turn to take a sermon at the Unitarian Chapel and the title was 'Water into Wine'. This bottle was an example of a good wine and was a counterbalance to Celery. Except it all went a bit wrong. People enthused about the Celery and on the whole were silent about this. It was a bit dry and maybe too thin. Best laid plans and all that.

York Unitarian Chapel - Interior

Sunday 15 June 2014

Celery Wine - Fourth Bottle (4), 8th June 2014

It has been an odd weekend, starting on Friday with Julia's funeral; a colourful, emotional affair complete with brightly decoraterd cardboard coffin and Faure's Requiem. Then today I heard my mother give a sermon at York Unitarian Chapel about choice, temperance and creativity. She illustrated this with reading from my book and afterwards there was wine tasting in the vestry (or the Unitarian equivalent). One of my two wines was Celery - it was an example of creativity gone wrong and an opportunity to get rid of a bottle. However, I actually thought this Quite Good and several people said they preferred it to the blackberry, with its sweeter, sharper taste. As I say, it has been an odd weekend.

In the Unitarian Vestry

Saturday 14 June 2014

Rhubarb & Elderflower - First Bottle (2), 7th June 2014

Well, I am very pleased with this. My last batch of rhubarb & elderflower was good. This is better. This pink is more pronounced, the taste is sweeter. The only aspect which does not measure up is the clarity, which is slightly cloudy. I can live with that. This wine, properly chilled, slips down very nicely indeed. I brought it to York with me where tomorrow Mom is giving a sermon at the Unitarian Chapel, and that will involve some of my wine. Not as any sort of sacrament, I trust. Tonight, though, involved Scrabble. Best word? Darling

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

Tuesday 10 June 2014

Julia's Wine - Gooseberry 1996, 3rd-4th June 2014

We opened another of Julia's bottles on Tuesday after doing a 'top to bottom' inventory of her house with Ros, Emma and Alex. This was to check if there was anything else we wanted. I came away with a book about ferns, a Tom Lehrer CD and twelve more bottles of wine.

It was quite depressing seeing all this stuff. There was so much that Julia collected over the years to put to use on a day that never arrived.

Anyway, this bottle of gooseberry was not as good as the last but still perfectly drinkable with a taste of sherry. I wonder what will be next out of the box.

Some of Julia's wines (with authentic dust from her cellar)

Sunday 8 June 2014

Elderberry Wine - Ninth Bottle (A3), 1st June 2014

We have been given a slow-cooker by Claire's colleague, Becky, and tonight we have tried it out for the first time. Claire has made an ox-cheek stew and it was fabulous. Full of thick, rich flavour. It needed a heavy red, and elderberry fits that description better than any other home-made wines. This bottle fizzed but did not explode on opening and has slipped down very nicely indeed.

It has been a lovely end to a glorious day. I spent this morning with Sooz, promenading along the front at Whitley Bay, enjoying the sunshine, eating an icecream and talking about all sorts - though mostly Radio 4 related. And coming home is always welcome.

Where I bought my icecream

Saturday 7 June 2014

Orange Wine - Fourth Bottle (B3), 29th-30th May 2014

Orange wine and swimming seem to be inexorably linked. I came back from my second swimming session (20 lengths this time - I am making progress) to find an open bottle of orange wine. And very good it was too - this is a particularly fine batch of orange.

Claire finished what was left on Friday while I was up in Newcastle for Sam's stag-do. This is only the second stag event I have been on, and was far more my cup of tea. The first was twenty years ago and ended up in a Birmingham strip-club. This one involved a long walk in the Cheviots, aided by brilliant sunshine, then beer and curry on Newcastle Quayside. It was a lovely day and made the better by it not ending with someone tied naked to a lamp post.

This did not happen

Friday 6 June 2014

Exotic Tinned Fruit - Eleventh Bottle (A6), 27th-28th May 2014

Ros came over for a meal last night and brought a bottle of real wine - made from grapes! - with her. That was our first bottle of the evening (after an abortive attempt to drink one of Julia's, which had set) and we moved onto Exotic Tinned Fruit once critical faculties were diminished.

Ros brought a new graphic novel for me to read, on the basis that I hated From Hell so much. This one is a work of art and comes in a large cardboard box. It is called Building Stories and is by Chris Ware. There are many, many books and pages and fold-out bits of cardboard that can be read in any order. It is innovative, and exciting just for that innovation, and I spent tonight and the last glass of wine reading my first segment. And truly enjoying it.

Wednesday 4 June 2014

Julia's Wines - Strawberry 1994 - 27th May 2014

Ros came over for a meal tonight, partly to discuss Julia's funeral and partly to have a meal. I thought it would be a suitable occasion for one of Julia's wines so plucked strawberry from the box.

This was remarkably unsuccessful. It hardly poured at all, and what did come from the neck was solid. What I have is a bottle of rancid strawberry jelly and I'm not sure quite how to dispose of it.

Notice how the wine pours

Tuesday 3 June 2014

Christmas Tutti Fruti - Sixth Bottle (A5), 26th May 2014

It has been the last of the Spring Bank Holidays today and I spent much of it cleaning windows. Cue George Formby.
This is not a task I enjoy and certainly not one I do with any frequency. I think the last time was more than two years ago and the only reason I did it today was that we returned from York yesterday to find a large amount of birdshit splattered against our kitchen window. The upstairs windows haven't been washed since we moved in - and that was 16 years ago. Many will view our lifestyle with horror.

Anyway, it being a bank holiday Monday, and therefore effectively a Sunday (and we didn't have anything to drink at all yesterday) I opened a bottle of Tutti Fruti. It has a thin, dry taste and is not one of my finest vintages. This didn't stop us finishing the bottle, however.

Sunday 1 June 2014

Pineapple Wine - Third Bottle (6), 24th May 2014

We had a Lab Day Out in York today. Various members of Claire's lab, their partners and children spent the early afternoon in the Railway Museum, the late afternoon at Heworth Green eating rhubarb pie, and the evening at Alistair Droop's troughing fish & chips and drinking pineapple wine.

I enjoyed the Railway Museum more than I have in the past, and spent most my time comparing and contrasting the Royal Carriages. Edward VII won hands down on elegance and style.

The pineapple wine was far better received than I had expected, though Duncan made shuddering grimaces when trying it. There was an unexpected smell of chocolate to the wine and it had a strong tropical fruit taste. Aeryn (who is 8) declared it the best alcohol she has ever tasted, but I was assured by anxious parents that she had little with which to make the comparison.

Interior of Edward VII's train