This blog is a record of the wine that I make and drink. Each flavour made and each bottle drunk will appear here. You may come to the conclusion that, on the whole, I should be drinking less.

Tuesday 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 

Sunday 7 September 2014

Apple Wine - First Bottle (3), 3rd-5th September 2014

Claire thinks this wine tastes of disinfectant. I think that is unfair. Admittedly, it is not my greatest wine ever, but it doesn't reach into the realms of awful.  This apple wine is dry and without a distinctive apple taste. So its greatest crime is dullness and not disinfectant.

We drank half the bottle after WYSO's first rehearsal of Brahms 4, which is a wonderful symphony and for a first rehearsal was not badly played. I had my last glass on Friday after having spent the day watching England beat India at cricket. This was my first live cricket match and I enjoyed it immensely - as much for the crowd as the game. England supporters dress as traffic cones, the Knights Templar and the entire Star Wars cast. The Indians were just as colourful.

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

Saturday 6 September 2014

Fig Wine - The Making Of ...

My parents' fig tree ...
 Ever since I began making wine I have been watching the fig tree at my parents' house with interest. Every year it has produced a disappointing number of figs. That is until this year, in which we had no winter to speak of and a hot summer. The tree has been abundant with fruit and there was plenty with which to make wine.

My father has been collecting figs since late July and putting them in the freezer. He rang Claire one evening to check if bird-pecked figs would be acceptable. She assured him they would and who am I to argue?
... with abundant fruit
So today, 29th August, I collected 5 lbs 6 oz of figs from York and have brought them back to Leeds to make wine. I do not have a recipe, so have made it up. The number and weight of figs looked plausible, so I have cut them into pieces and put them in my bucket. Despite being mostly green on the outside, figs are surprisingly purple inside and I am reconsidering my choice of yeast accordingly.
Figs: green on the outside ...
I mashed the figs a little, poured over 6 pints of boiling water and added 3 lbs of sugar. On Saturday morning, 30th August, I put in the yeast (a red wine variety) and a teaspoon each of nutrient, pectolase, citric acid and tannin - which is basically every chemical I own.
... but purple inside
I transferred the liquid into its demijohn on Tuesday 2nd September, which is a little earlier than I would normally have done, but this week is proving to be a busy one. Over the last few days I have noticed a thick near-soupy texture to the wine when stirring. Guessing (correctly) that this would make the straining process long and tedious, I began by fishing out the figs with a plastic collander. This saved me some time but the whole sieving experience took longer than I had wanted.

The wine has an unusual colour - dark pink with a hint of brown. It does not have a great taste at the this stage. There is a nutty trace that bodes ill. Still, I can now tick the letter F off my alphabet.
Fig Wine in its demijohn - 4 days after straining. The 'hint of brown' has gone
If you want to see how this wine turned out, click here

Thursday 4 September 2014

Blackberry Wine - Second Bottle (C2), 30th August 2014

This was a cracking bottle of wine - intense blackberry taste, fizzy and light. It reminds me why, when asked, I describe blackberry as my favourite flavour.

We drank this bottle in York, where I am visiting because it is the bramble picking weekend. I took the opportunity to ask my mother to tip a large pan of cold water over my head. Yes, I have succumbed to the Ice Bucket Challenge in support of Motor Neurone Disease. Nominated by my first cousin once removed, Adam, I ummed and ahhed, but decided that the arguments for outweighed those against, and consequently got cold and wet in classic slapstick manner.

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

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Crab Apple & Strawberry Wine - Fifth Bottle (2), 29th August 2014

Claire and I drank this bottle on Friday night to a fabulous courgette curry that she invented, served with home-made rhoti. Though I had not chilled the wine it was still extremely good. Crab apple and strawberry is an excellent combination.

The afternoon had been spent in York. I was playing wind quintets outside the Merchant Adventurers' Hall for Simon's wedding. It was a lovely experience: we played well and occasionally the general public (who were mostly waiting for buses) would lean over the wall and applaud. The first piece was Mendelssohn's wedding march. I handed Simon my bassoon and he got to play his own celebratory music. We were both delighted.