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.

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.