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 31 July 2014

Crab Apple Wine - Second Bottle (B6), 23rd July 2014

We are very nearly on holiday, but perhaps not so close to justify a gin, the remnants of a bottle of Tutti Fruti and the whole of a bottle of crab apple. In my defence Emma was here, so there were three of us. And we had to celebrate the first proper courgette of the season. As usual courgette fortnight will coincide nicely with Rydal week.

The wine was lovely and complemented our meal of fish, fried tomatoes and peppers, griddled courgette, crispy potatoes, white sauce and salad from the garden. It was a good evening.

Monday 28 July 2014

Christmas Tutti Fruti - Seventh Bottle (B5), 22nd-23rd July 2014

Summer is definitely here, and this is the second one in two years. This isn't what an English July is meant to be about. Where are the clouds and, in particular, where is the drizzle? I started Tuesday evening in the garden with a beer, reading a history of the Ordnance Survey. When Claire suggested a bottle of wine, I needed little persuasion and chose Tutti Fruti as a suitable mid-week bottle. In fact I think the wine has improved somewhat and it may be promoted back to being a weekend drink. It had more depth than I remember.

Saturday 26 July 2014

Strawberry Wine - First Bottle (2), 19th July 2014

Yet another fine batch of strawberry wine. It is dry and light, takes well to being chilled and tastes strongly of strawberries. An unqualified success.

I only had one glass from this bottle, and that was on strict instruction to Claire, Christian and Katie that they leave me some on my return from a concert with the Yorkshire Icon Orchestra. Had I not made this request I suspect I would have come back to an empty bottle.

The concert was at least half an hour too long (some might argue that 10 minutes would have been sufficient) but at least I got to play A Policeman's Lot which is always Good Fun. And I got to stay up till midnight drinking mohitos and eating cheese.

Not a happy one (happy one)
If you want to see how this wine was made, click here

Thursday 24 July 2014

Julia's Wine - Gooseberry (?) of Unknown Vintage, 19th July 2014

This bottle had neither flavour nor year marked upon it. I checked that it was still liquid and took it with us to Christian and Katie's in Hebden Bridge. They have a wonderful house, looking north over the town and to a hill with dry stone-walled fields and a Victorian mill. If it wasn't for the commute, I would move to Hebden Bridge in an instant.

We drank a toast to Julia, and the wine was really very good. I think it was gooseberry - it had a similar taste to the first of her's that we opened. Sherry-like. This was my second glass of the evening, at which point I staggered off to play in a concert. It was the sort of concert where a pissed bassoonist could only help.

Hebden Bridge Centre

Monday 21 July 2014

Blackberry Wine - Seventeenth Bottle (C3), 15th July 2014

Perhaps drinking an entire bottle on a Tuesday night is not the best of ideas. But this wine was so good that it was difficult to stop. I can't remember as tasty a blackberry. Claire initially said that I shouldn't open a bottle, but then had a dreadful viola practice so changed her mind. We will both be glad once Friday is over and the Grade 8 becomes a memory.

We drank some of the wine in the garden while Claire planted out what remains of the sad looking tomatoes. I finished my ration while watching a very silly film about killer sheep in New Zealand.

Saturday 19 July 2014

Rhubarb Wine - Third Bottle (B3), 13th July 2014

I do like Rhubarb Wine. It is possibly my favourite white - unless gooseberry goes right (which it very often does not). There is an open, delicate taste to it - and combined with a slight fizz, this makes it a winner.

I made a quiche to go with the wine while Claire was at her final viola lesson before the Grade 8 exam, and - not wishing to blow my own trumpet - I am very good at pastry.

The day as a whole has been one of those lazy Sundays where little is done, but it is all satisfying.

This was not the quiche I made, but has a similar look

Wednesday 16 July 2014

Blackcurrant and Raspberry Wine (mostly) - The Making Of ...

The cats woke me up irritatingly early this morning, Sunday 6th July. Stanley wanted food, and on his second time of asking, forty minutes before the alarm was due to go off, I carried him downstairs and shut him in the front room. Then Aggie started making a fuss. I swore heartily at her but Claire woke and pointed out there was something wrong. Aggie was dragging her leg, but with no noticeable injury. We wonder if she has had a stroke - she is at least 17 - and we will monitor her over the next few days. Now it comes down to it, I realise I am quite fond of Aggie, despite her being the worse of cats.
Anyway, one of my tasks this morning was to clear Julia's freezer of fruit. She had helpfully organised it so that fruit was at the top, vegetables in the middle and meat on the bottom shelf. Except beetroot seemed to be classified as 'fruit'. I checked with Claire to make sure they weren't plums. In total I came away with 4 lbs 2 oz of blackcurrants, 1 lb 2oz raspberries, 12 ½ oz of a blackberry and apple mix and a bag of redcurrants, which Claire is turning into jelly but allowing me ½ oz for the wine.

We then went to Julia's allotment to return her key - another significant moment in saying 'farewell' - and I took a small handfull of whitecurrants (¼ oz) to add to the mix. I calculate that this comes to 6 lbs 1¼ oz fruit - which is enough for a double batch.

The fruit had defrosted by Sunday evening, so I crushed it in its bucket, added 6lbs of sugar and 12 pints of boiling water. The next morning I added the yeast, two teaspoons of nutrient and one of pectolase.

On Saturday morning, 12th July, the wine went into its two demijohns. Ordinarily I would have done this a day or two earlier, but my evenings have been taken up with a less-dreadful-than-expected concert and Book Group. The wine is still bubbling away, though, and is very dark pink in colour, with what looks like a massive sediment forming. Aggie appears to have recovered, so my thoughts of a final visit to the vets were premature.

If you want to see how this wine turned out (and it was very good!), click here.

Tuesday 15 July 2014

Orange Wine - Fifth Bottle (A4), 10th-12th July 2014

I only had one glass from this bottle, but on the strength of that I think this is one of the best orange wines that I have made. It is less brutal in its citric flavour than some batches have been.

I grabbed the glass with relief on return from my concert at a beer festival with The Yorkshire Icon Orchestra. There was a fair sized audience (including a colleague that lives nearby who I had purposively not informed about this) and I am pleased that they all had plenty of beer.

Audience gathering at Pontefract Castle

The bottle was finished by Claire on Saturday while I was at the Pontefract Proms concert with WYSO. This was a much happier experience and we had an audience of 1,300. I had a microphone dangling down the funnel of my bassoon, which meant my wrong notes were heard by over a thousand.

Monday 14 July 2014

Blackcurrant & Red Gooseberry Wine - Final Bottle (6), 6th July 2014

I have found a new source of blackcurrants. Lindsay has a bush in her garden, and her neighbour has what appears to be a blackcurrant plantation. I was encouraged to come round and pick fruit, so took this final bottle of Blackcurrant & Gooseberry with me to aid the process.

I was merrily picking blackcurrants when I heard a shriek from the kitchen. The bottle had obviously exploded. Dylan, Lindsay's 7-year-old, told me not to worry as "Mum is always shrieking". Lindsay poured four glasses of wine - we were joined by Anthony and the neighbour (also called Claire) and all agreed how good it was. Claire (as in my wife) didn't have any because we had then to drive to Julia's to feed Soots. Knowing that blackcurrant is her favourite flavour, I fully appreciate the sacrifice that she made.

Lindsay, Dylan and Claire picking blackcurrants

Sunday 13 July 2014

Strawberry Wine 2014 - The Making Of ...

I have been watching the weather forecast carefully this week, knowing that Sunday morning, 6th July, was really my only opportunity to pick strawberries. Saturday would have been useless. All roads to Wharfedale Grange Farm were closed because of the Tour de France. And next weekend is both busy and on the verge of being too late.
Wharfedale Grange's wares
All week the forecast has been predicting heavy downpours. Even this morning the woman on the radio talked darkly of showers in Yorkshire. It has been sunny all day, and I got to wear my Hat while picking.
Sunny all day and me in my Hat (after picking)
The Pick Your Own was relatively quiet, and they had strawberries in abundance. I had no trouble at all in picking a basket full of lucious fruit. This was hunter-gathering at its easiest. I needed 4 lbs of fruit and I came away with nearly five. One pound is in the freezer awaiting 'Strawberry and Crab Apple', so I have just less than 4 lbs strawberries in this wine. I have also added ten or so tiny wild strawberries from our garden.

While boiling four pints of water, I mashed the strawberries and added 3 lbs sugar. The boiling water went in and the bucket then sat for 24 hours.

Strawberries before mashing (obviously)
Strawberry wine's most tedious stage came next. On Monday evening I sieved the liquid into a demijohn, putting the pulp in a pan. I covered the pulp with two pints of cold water and let it sit for around half an hour. I then drained this into the (cleaned and sterilised) bucket, throwing out the pulp, and poured the liquid in the demijohn into the bucket. This all took far too long. I added the yeast (which is champagne variety because I have run out of everything else) and a teaspoon each of tannin, pectolase and nutrient.

On Thursday evening, immediately after work and before the Yorkshire Icon Orchestra concert (which I was dreading) I put the wine into its demijohn. This was a rapid job, and the colour is as red as I have seen it.

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

Saturday 12 July 2014

Elderflower Wine - First Bottle (A6), 5th July 2014

Elderflower wine is remarkably consistent. This bottle is as fine as all previous batches. It has a refreshing, distinctive taste, and is definitely one to serve cold in summer months.

Today's most notable activity (apart from giving up on One Hundred Years of Solitude - I managed about fifty) was witnessing the Tour de France. This year it started in Leeds and travelled up Scott Hall Road - seven minutes walk away. Despite having little interest in cycling, it would have been churlish to miss it. We arrived at ten, stood at the roadside with many other people, watched the occasional car and motor bike go past, clapped if they honked horns or sounded sirens, and found the whole thing dull. Call this a parade? There was not a hint of a float or fancy dress.

Not a hint of a float or fancy dress
Then, after an hour, a large pack of cyclists went past in less than ten seconds (most of which I spent fiddling with a camera), and we went home, underwhelmed.
Lots of cyclists
If you want to see how I made this wine, click here.

Tuesday 8 July 2014

Whitecurrant Wine - First Bottle (4), 4th July 2014

Claire chose Whitecurrant to go with our 'Fourth of July' meal. We dined on Boston Baked Beans, Potato Salad and Fried Chicken. I associate the last two of these with my Grandmother and Fourths of July spent in Nebraska. We then watched Planes, Trains & Automobiles as a suitably American movie, and it was thoroughly satisfying and effectively sentimental.

The wine is rather good. After my first sip, I counted to five and there was no musty aftertaste. It is dry and sharp, and there is at least a hint of real wine to it. Should I ever find another source of whitecurrants I shall certainly make it again.

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

Sunday 6 July 2014

Crab Apple Wine - First Bottle (A4), 2nd-3rd July 2014

This bottle was a Tale of Two Orchestras. Wednesday night was WYSO and for the first time this term I came away thinking that we were playing well. Which is a Good Thing. Our concert is in just over a week at Pontefract Castle.

Thursday, I came home from the Yorkshire Icon Orchestra in desperate need for alcohol of any description. It was diabolical. Tuning, speed, tone, everything. All awful. And I have said 'yes' to two concerts with them over the next 21 days.

Happily the Crab Apple wine was a reliable as ever - a full bodied, sharp white with a distinct apple taste. It is my House White.

The Pontefract Castle Concert - come along!
If you want to see how this flavour was made, click here

Saturday 5 July 2014

Rose Petal Wine 2014 - The Making Of ...

Following the success of Rose Petal 2013, this flavour has been promoted to 'double batch regular'. Therefore both I and my parents have been collecting rose petals from our respective gardens. Much to Claire's shame, I have also taken petals from strangers' gardens too. Actually it was only one; when going round the North Yorkshire Open Studios, an artist's husband was tending a rose bush which had pink flowers and a glorious smell. I asked and he was only too happy to help - so we have some of Kim Coley's roses in the mix.

On Friday night Rachael and Myles were in York (Paul is off climbing Ben Nevis) so I took the opportunity to collect a large bag of frozen petals. It was a lovely evening - Myles is steadier on his feet and has learnt the art of conversation. No vocabulary, of course, but he babbles in the pattern of speech and I found it difficult not to laugh.

I started the wine on Sunday morning, 29th June, whilst listening to Broadcasting House. It has 8 pints of rose petals - a variety of pinks, whites and darkest reds - two oranges, 5 lbs 4 oz sugar, 11½ pints of boiling water and two litres of juice. Both litres should have been white grape, but only one was. The other was 'white grape and peach juice drink' as Aldis had run out of the former.

When I poured the water over the flowers the house was filled with an exquisite fragrance.

Back from an Airedale concert - Nielsen's 4th, which until the performance I found tedious - I added a sachet of yeast, two teaspoons of nutrient and a teaspoon each of pectolase and tannin.

This is what fermenting rose petals look like
I put this into its two demijohns on Thursday night, 3rd July, after a particularly tedious orchestra rehearsal with 'The White Rose Orchestra'. Suitably named for this flavour, but I hope the wine tastes significantly better than the orchestra sounded. I used a collander to scoop out the petals and thereafter getting the liquid into its demijohn was rapid work. Still, I did not get to bed until after eleven.

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

Friday 4 July 2014

Blackcurrant Wine - Final Bottle (5), 29th-30th June 2014

Claire wanted something reddish to drink on Sunday night with her mushy peas and haggis. I was out playing a concert in Ilkley and fished a bottle of blackcurrant before I went. On my return I gulped down a glass with some fervour, still high from the concert, but recognised it would be sensible to leave the rest.

We have finished the bottle tonight, Monday, while eating obligatory salad from the garden and 'Surprising Rice' (inspired by Cabin Pressure). The surprise was its searing heat and the crunch of cinnamon sticks.

Claire suggested we go for a stroll afterwards in the evening sunlight. Twenty minutes later we found ourselves in a bar drinking beer. It was lovely. Claire and I spend surprisingly little time with just each other doing something that is not domestic. And tomorrow we will have been married 16 years.

Thursday 3 July 2014

Elderflower Wine - Tenth Bottle (B2), 29th June 2014(ish)

This is the second bottle of elderflower I have given away. Mary was the grateful recipient, and it was given in thanks for having me around for a meal in between a rehearsal and concert in Ilkely. She has recently acquired an allotment, so providing a bottle was not an entirely selfless act. The elderflower is in her fridge and I drank a bellini instead. The assembled guests wondered whether this was wise  before a concert, and the answer proved to be 'yes'.

We played Wagner's Rienzi Overture, Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto and Nielsen's 4th Symphony. I had not been keen on the programme, but in performance finally, finally the symphony made sense. It was exhilerating and that was unexpected. Sleep did not arrive easily on Sunday night.

Carl Nielsen

Wednesday 2 July 2014

Redcurrant Wine - Second Bottle (B1), 25th-28th June 2014

Cornelia Gruntfuttock - Claire's Facebook alter-ego - updated her status on Wednesday evening to read:

"I have just opened a bottle of redcurrant wine. It looks beautiful and jewel-like, crystal clear and dark reddish pink. It tastes of rancid old trainers and I am going to pour it down the sink and have whisky instead."

She got 16 'Likes'.

Tuesday 1 July 2014

Rose Petal Wine - Second Bottle (B4), 21st June 2014

Not as good as the last bottle. We drank it in Newcastle with Judith on the night before Sam and Hannah's wedding. It had the distinctive rose petal taste, but was drier and somehow more cloying than the previous bottle. Still drinkable, though.

Sam and Hannah's wedding, the following day, was fabulous. I danced late into the night, and that is very rare indeed.