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 29 December 2015

Christmas Tutti Fruti - First Bottle (A6), 25th-26th December 2015

We started this Tutti Fruti at the end of our Christmas meal. It is a sweet vintage, and too sweet for savoury food. Tasty, though. I can detect many autumn fruits and rose petals.

It has been a sedate Christmas, insofar as that can be true in the company of Taylors. We had a present lottery, and I got 400 post-it notes (quickly swapped for four pencils) and some anti-bacterial handwash. A great deal of thought and expense went into those gifts.

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

Sunday 27 December 2015

Christmas Tutti Fruti - Final Bottle (B3), 25th December 2015

It is our first Christmas in the new house. Having four proper bedrooms and (now) four proper beds, we are hosting Bob, Judith, Andrew & Susanna. It is one of the things that I am most pleased about - having enough space for guests.

This is Judith's first Christmas in 46 years where she has not been doing the cooking. Claire took this role and produced an amazing, colourful Christmas feast. We had confit of duck, roast potatoes, red cabbage, mushy peas, cranberry sauce, nasty evil sprouts (I actually quite like them), four smeet balls, onion gravy and probably more besides. The wine was delicious too: fruity and rich. This vintage will be missed.

Thursday 24 December 2015

Blackcurrant Wine - Ninth Bottle (C4), 19th December 2015

Our carpet has a red wine stain where Chris kicked over his bottle. I was most concerned about the loss of a glass of wine. The carpet is threadbare and stained anyway, and this is another reason to replace it. We shouldn't have opened this bottle, though - it was our third (between three) and seemed like a good idea at the time. Blackcurrant is delicious - Chris said so, so it must be true. Having so much to drink made for a poor night's sleep and a relatively sober Sunday.

Wednesday 23 December 2015

Crab Apple & Strawberry Wine - Final Bottle (6), 19th December 2015

We started drinking once it was dark. At this time of year that means shortly after four. Chris was visiting and he and Claire had just made his bed. Literally. It was a flat-pack, self-assembly sofa bed. Mostly I stood around and watched.

Chris asked for something refreshing and dry. This wine is both of those things and is really rather good. It was a reward for a job well done.

Sunday 20 December 2015

Orange Wine - Ninth Bottle (B4), 15th-16th December 2015

One of the very worst things about Christmas is doing the Christmas shop. A week and a half ago, on a Sunday, Sainsburys was bedlam. Just awful. Therefore we did our main shop on Wednesday night and this was far better (except for the dreadful music piped through the aisles). Still, we deserved some alcohol after this, and there was most of a bottle of orange wine left in the fridge. It was welcome relief, and slipped down nicely as we watched an episode of Mad Men on DVD.

Friday 18 December 2015

Blackberry Wine - Fifth Bottle (A6), 13th December 2015

It has been a long time since Claire and I had a quiet Sunday. But for the first time in months, we didn't have to go anywhere, paint anything or visit the tip with armfuls of junk. We did tidy the attic, but much of that was fun - consolidating personal history and looking through family albums, including letters written in the 1860s from one ancestor to another.

The wine was drunk quietly in front of the stove, as we watched flames dance around logs. Blackberry is a fine winter wine, made for evenings like this.

Thursday 17 December 2015

Crab Apple Wine - Seventh Bottle (B5), 12th December 2015

I have left this bottle in 14 Carr Manor Mount's fridge as a house-warming present for John. When we moved there in 1998 the previous owner, Jean, had left us a bottle of wine and it was just a really nice gesture. Crab apple wine was the natural choice - it having been made from the apples of the tree in the garden. I hope John drinks. Of more practical benefit, we have also left him a cooker, the fridge-freezer, a washing machine, two useful pans and the remnants of several tins of paint. Actually,  maybe that last one will sit in the attic for eternity.

Wednesday 16 December 2015

Prune & Parsnip Wine - Eighth Bottle (B5), 11th-12th December 2015

Claire opened this bottle while I was galavanting at the Work Christmas Do. It was in the Sky Lounge on the 13th floor of Double Tree Hilton, with floor to ceiling windows. The view across night-time Leeds was a carpet of points of light. But what most occupied my mind was our house-sale. John's solicitors sent the money on Friday morning, specifying the correct bank details, and the money has yet to arrive. A six figure sum is out there somewhere, floating in the ether. Though I have released keys anyway, we technically still own 14 Carr Manor Mount, and every time I think about possible consequences my stomach lurches.

None of that is about the wine, however. I managed a glass and a half in front of the stove on Saturday and enjoyed it.

The Sky Lounge during the day

Tuesday 15 December 2015

Christmas Tutti Fruti Wine - Eleventh Bottle (B6), 5th December 2015

Third bottles are often regrettable when there are four of you drinking, and this was no exception. Delicious - a really good red and I think it is the rose petals that do it - but regrettable. Too much of a good thing is still too much. It was a lovely night, though. Rachel & Duncan came over and we shared a roast chicken. The evening remains a bit of a blur, however. I can't understand why.

Monday 14 December 2015

Rhubarb Wine - Final Bottle (A4), 5th December 2015

It was fitting that having had a bottle of rhubarb wine as our last bottle at our old house, our first bottle of home made wine at the new house should also be rhubarb. Different vintages, of course, and in fact our genuine first bottle was a velvety smooth red from Washington State.

Rachel and Duncan arrived with a chicken to roast in our new oven. Claire attended to this whilst I concentrated on the wine. I think we had finished the bottle before the chicken was out and carved, but we had to toast the house properly. It already feels like Home. The place is in chaos, there are boxes and books everywhere, I rarely get the right cupboard when looking for things in the kitchen. But it is ours, and we have already made our mark.


Friday 11 December 2015

Rhubarb Wine - Sixth Bottle (A3), 1st December 2015

So, tonight is our last night at 14 Carr Manor Mount. We have lived here since April 1998 and it is therefore (just) the house at which I have lived the longest. I was going to open a real bottle of red, but Claire argued convincingly that a bottle made from garden ingredients would be more appropriate. And it is a good bottle - resembling real white.

The evening has been oddly normal, despite being surrounded by boxes and empty book cases. I have played on the computer, cleared up cat sick and am about to do the dishes. That is the way it should be.

Thank you House. You have been fantastic.

Thursday 10 December 2015

Elderberry Wine - Second Bottle (A6), 27th-29th November 2015

This was our final Thanksgiving bottle, opened on the Friday when we were entertaining Sooz, Andrew, Rachel & Duncan. To be honest, good as the wine was (and it is a fine vintage of elderberry wine, full of rich and dark flavours) it was a bottle too far. We drank half of it and I then spent a teetotal Saturday. This Saturday mostly involved the WYSO winter concert with Tchaikovsky's scary Fourth Symphony. My lip survived and I was moderately pleased with my solos.

Claire and I finished the bottle on Sunday after a day clearing the attic - a long job made all the less tedious by Rachel & Duncan forming an industrious chain.

A small proportion of the attic to clear

Wednesday 9 December 2015

Rose Petal Wine - Sixth Bottle (A3), 27th November 2015

Rachel and Duncan came for Thanksgiving II, which meant a bottle of rose petal wine was virtually obligatory. It is Rachel's favourite, and its sweet, perfumed taste went particularly well with the sweet potato, mashed with chilli and lime.

Earlier in the day the House came on in leaps and bounds. The kitchen is now fitted (though there is no electricity yet) and Andrew and I laid carpets. Both of these transform the place. Rather than looking like a building site, it now looks like a home. This is a good thing because we will be living there in less than a week.

Tuesday 8 December 2015

Blackcurrant Wine - Eighth Bottle (A1), 26th-27th November 2015

I opened this for our final bottle of Thanksgiving, and we finished it during Thanksgiving II. This year I bought a fairly small turkey (5.2 kg) and it did for two meals - thirteen hungry adults, of whom only one was a vegetarian. The leftovers are scant but not non-existent. I certainly enjoyed the blackcurrant wine (perhaps a little too much - I drank nothing alcoholic on Saturday) but I did not gauge anyone else's reaction. This suggests they enjoyed it.

Monday 7 December 2015

Dandelion Wine - Second Bottle (6), 26th November 2015

What could possibly say 'Thanksgiving' more than a bottle of homemade Dandelion Wine? This was our first bottle of the evening after a round of whisky macs, and everyone thought it a 'Hit'. It is very reminiscent of sherry, though sherry with a touch of vegetable, and I was told that even Claire's grandmother might have approved. It being Thanksgiving we had a couple of Americans over - Linda and Rory, plus Richard (of course), Andrew and Sooz. It was a lovely evening with too much food and lots of good conversation. And Linda's pumpkin pie was the best I think she has ever done.

Friday 4 December 2015

Orange Wine - Eighth Bottle (A3), 25th November 2015

I committed an act of moral repugnancy while drinking this bottle of orange wine. I wrote Christmas cards. In November. This is against all that I know to be good and true. Hence finishing a bottle of wine on a Wednesday night (and that I am now on holiday for a few days). Claire forced me into it - the Christmas cards, not the wine - arguing that we had to send cards early to let people know our new address. It just feels so wrong. Still, at least they are done - and I was able to drink orange wine in the process, so perhaps it isn't all bad.

Thursday 3 December 2015

Exotic Tinned Fruit - Final Bottle, 23rd-24th November 2015

I had remembered this flavour as being somewhat nasty with a chemical aftertaste. It was therefore a surprise to discover that leaving the wine for over three and a half years from making made it more than palatable. This has reached the realms of "rather good", and it is a shame that there are no more bottles left.

I was on holiday when this was opened, just for a day. I spent it painting a ceiling. I can think of better ways to spend a day off. But the move date approaches (rapidly) and the more ceilings painted, the better.

Tuesday 1 December 2015

Blackcurrant Wine - Seventh Bottle (A2), 21st-22nd November 2015

It is rare that I go to a concert in which I am not playing, but that was the case on Saturday night. Chris, the clarinettist in Tony's quintet, was the soloist in Mozart's Clarinet Concerto with Harrogate Phil, and three-quarters of the remaining quintet were there to cheer him on. I felt properly nervous as Chris played but, of course, he was brilliant. At the end of long semiquaver passages he visibly gasped for air as a diver might coming up from ocean depths.

On our return I opened up a bottle of blackcurrant, and it was lovely with its alcoholic Ribena taste. We finished it on Sunday after I had spent most the day up a ladder painting an acre of ceiling.

Sunday 29 November 2015

Gooseberry & Elderflower Wine - Final Bottle (B3), 18th-19th November 2015

I think it has taken all twelve bottle and three years, but finally I thought this flavour was quite good. It fizzed on opening and had a dry & refreshing taste. Any mustiness was subtle (but not quite unnoticeable). The answer to horrible wine must be to leave it for several years before opening.

We started the wine on Wednesday night after WYSO (Mozart's 24th Piano Concerto - wonderful) and before Claire began her experiment to cure insomnia (basically don't try to go to sleep and when you do, sleep in a different bed to your husband). We finished it on Thusday, when Claire was feeling refreshed from a proper night's rest and I had been kept awake by Aggie wriggling, washing and scratching.

Tuesday 24 November 2015

Blackberry Wine - Fourth Bottle (C6), 14th-15th November 2015

Concerts and floods were the dominant themes for this bottle.

I opened the blackberry wine after coming home from Music Club, where Bill, Theresa and I had played a suite by Swan Hennesy. We only played moderately well and I was cross with Bill for getting a beat ahead and then missing a repeat. Still, the blackberry wine opened with a 'pop' and sparkled.

We finished the bottle on Sunday after returning from ASO's concert in Ilkley, which was Elgar's tedious Second Symphony. Getting to Ilkley was a challenge. The Wharfe had burst its banks and we had to approach Ilkley over the moor. Rose'y couldn't get there at all so the concert was made all the more interesting by a first bassoon sight-reading his part.

Monday 23 November 2015

Crab Apple Wine - Sixth Bottle (C3), 13th November 2015

I shouldn't really have finished this bottle. It was a Friday night and I had drunk very little through the (rather stressful) week. But we started the evening with a glass of rhubarb wine and then Claire had no more than a couple of glasses from this bottle. It wasn't even as if I particularly wanted the rest - but I justified empying it on the basis that there was 'only' a glass and a half left.

The wine was a very ordinary Crab Apple and Friday night was a very ordinary end-of-week night. So, nothing to laugh at at all.

Friday 20 November 2015

Rhubarb Wine - Fifth Bottle (B6), 12th-13th November 2015

Dan Benn, our wonderful bathroom fitter, gave me strict instructions to give Claire lots of wine on Thursday night. The latest thing to go wrong with the House is the bathroom - the bath, the sink pedestal and the radiator have all had to be returned to the supplier for being substandard (scratches and cracks mostly). Claire is not finding this easy and is also hugely busy at work. So this bottle was wine as medication and it helped. I detected a slight cheese taste, however.

Monday 16 November 2015

Prune & Parsnip - Seventh Bottle (B6), 7th-8th November 2015

One bottle is never enough when we have visitors, so our second bottle of the evening was Prune & Parsnip. Judith had made a marble chocolate cake and of the many available options, we thought this flavour would go the best. The unusual thing about the evening was that there was still half a bottle left at the end of it. The remainder helped our Sunday evening after another day of solid decorating for Claire. She is looking exhausted and is not sleeping properly. We will never move house again!

Sunday 15 November 2015

Blackcurrant & Raspberry Wine - Third Bottle (B5), 7th November 2015

Claire had the idea that we should drink this wine with people who knew Julia. Bob and Judith were here this weekend, and whilst Judith never met her, Bob spend a number of Rydals in Julia's company.

The Aged Ps were here to help with the House, so Claire set the septuagenarians to work, stripping paint off skirting boards and painting undercoats onto walls. Judith brought the evening meal with her - casseroled pork - and the wine went well with it. It is a fabulous bottle, full of rich fruit flavours.

Thursday 12 November 2015

Apple Wine - Fourth Bottle (5), 5th-8th November 2015

This wine has improved on its keeping. The apple flavour is more pronounced and it has acquired a thickness of taste lacking in previous bottles. There are elements of a strong scrumpy, and that is unsurprising.

It was opened on a Thursday before Claire went to her string quartet. She had a headache that had lasted for more than a day and felt that a restorative glass of wine (or two) might be the answer. On Friday night I slurped greedily at Claire's glass, but could do no more as it was Book Group and I was driving (The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot: I loved it). We finished the remains on Sunday.

Monday 9 November 2015

Christmas Tutti Fruti - Tenth Bottle (A2), 1st November 2015

Slow cookers are excellent. Claire put some strips of braising steak, bits of kidney, some mushrooms, chopped onion, a clove of crushed garlic, a bayleaf and enough water to cover in one before nine in the morning. We then spent a full day gardening and decorating at the House (the kitchen is the colour of putty), came back and - hey presto - a delicious stew. This called for a bottle of red and we hadn't drunk Christmas Tutti Fruti for a while. It is a tasty wine - verging on the "could this be made from grapes?". There is something more complex about it than single fruit wines: a depth of flavour.

Friday 6 November 2015

Blackcurrant Wine - Sixth Bottle (B4), 29th - 31st October 2015

What a lot I managed to fit in whilst this bottle of wine was open. I chose it on Thursday because Katie was here for a WYSO committee meeting, and these are her blackcurrants. She said the wine tasted like that she had made, which is probably a Good Thing. But I opened it to celebrate exchanging contracts for selling 14 Carr Manor Mount - we complete on 11th December. Then on Friday Bridget was here and we had a wonderful evening catching up (it has been two years since I last saw her) and eating curry. I had my final glass on Saturday night after coming back from The Grand, where we saw Kiss Me Kate done by Opera North. It was terrific, and I feel that my Shakespeare has been entirely Brushed Up.

Thursday 5 November 2015

Elderflower - Second Bottle (1), 27th- 28th October 2015

Let There Be Light. The House now has working electricity. I flick a switch and lights go on. This is new and miraculous, and I can't tell you how excited I am about it. Despite this, I had a bit of a wobble on Wednesday night about the whole House thing and I am unsure why. Perhaps it is the massive crack our bathroom fitter unearthed in our bathroom wall, meaning the wall needs rebuilding. At least the elderflower wine helped in a small way - and several days later I am more relaxed about the crack.

The crack in the wall

Wednesday 4 November 2015

Orange Wine - Seventh Bottle (B2), 25th October 2015

I had the morning off decorating to play bassoon quartets in Kirk Deighton. One of the highlights was the Captain Pugwash theme - short, fast and catchy. But thereafter it was back to painting - and this was mostly the kitchen ceiling. My reward was half a bottle of orange wine drunk to left-over curry from Friday, which was searingly hot. Orange wine is quite good in these situations. The sharp and dominant citrus flavour recalibrates the taste buds.

Sunday 1 November 2015

Crab Apple Wine - Fifth Bottle (A2), 24th October 2015

After a solid day of painting the new kitchen (albeit with watered down matt emulsion, creating a depressingly patchy effect), Claire and I went round to Rachel's for a meal. I took a bottle of crab apple with me, which we had after the gin and the champagne. We were fed babaganouche (and I'm not sure if that is how to spell it or how many words it is - but it was mostly aubergine and garlic) followed by a Mediterranean chicken teggine. Mostly, though, we were there to adore Duncan's new kittens - a tabby and a rag-doll. Just lovely.

Saturday 31 October 2015

Elderberry Wine - Eleventh Bottle (A1), 23rd-25th October 2015

I arrived at the House on Friday evening to collect Claire, only to find a paintbrush in my hand and instructions to paint the dining room wall. We left after 6:30, ordering a take-out curry as we went, and reached for a bottle of elderberry when we got home. The wine was fabulous - sweet and smooth, and a perfect antidote to a Friday night. There was still a small glass each on Sunday night - finished after another day of painting. It was deja-vu all over again.

Thursday 29 October 2015

Redcurrant Wine - Ninth Bottle (B5), 21st-22nd October 2015

No mice were harmed in the making of this wine. Despite previous bottles, this wine was entirely unmusty and free from its dead mouse flavour. Glorious colour too! I opened it after WYSO, where I was much happier with my playing (despite starting the first movement of Tchaik 4 on an A natural!). It is amazing what difference practice makes.

Thursday's glass and a bit was drunk while Claire and I were cooking together - baked trout, white sauce and an unfeasable amount of vegetables - and trying not to get in each other's way. It was a good evening.

A mouse in its coffin

Tuesday 27 October 2015

Blackcurrant Wine - Fifth Bottle (C3), 18th October 2015

We deserved a good bottle of wine on Sunday night, and this batch of blackcurrant is one of the best. A thick fruity taste that packs a punch. Claire and I had spent a full day at the House mostly decorating. Our landing, hall and stairwell are white washed (if you ignore the ceiling) and one of our bedroom walls is a dark, dangerous red. This is going to be a long process, but the House is rapidly becoming ours.

Saturday 24 October 2015

Crab Apple & Strawberry Wine - First Bottle (4), 17th October 2015

Claire thinks that Crab Apple & Strawberry is better than wine made from its individual components. I disagree, but will graciously accept that this is an excellent wine. It is dry and rich with clear strawberry flavours that never overpower. And the colour is splendid.

I did not mean to finish the bottle but somehow it emptied as I watched the first episode of the second series of The Returned/Les Revenants. I don't think I'll bother with the rest. The first series was spooky, original and unnerving, but things can only be original once.

In other news, I ordered curtain poles and tiles for the House. And Rachael & Myles visited. The House gets my sister's stamp of approval and Myles spent most of his time running around and playing with the cat flap.

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

Friday 23 October 2015

Blackberry Wine - Third Bottle (C4), 16th October 2015

Claire and I showed the height of moderation by only drinking one bottle between us on Friday night. We both felt we could manage more but made do with bush tea, Pringles and chocolate instead. This is the epitome of a healthy lifestyle.

The blackberry wine was finished by 8 o'clock, and I was a little disappointed with it. It was too dry and had less of a blackberry taste than usual. We then watched the final episode of Madmen's first series, which was excellent. Only another 6 series of 13 episodes each to go, then.

No mention of Pringles, chocolate or blackberry wine here.

Tuesday 20 October 2015

Prune & Parsnip 2013 - Final Bottle (A2), 13th-15th October 2015

I do not think I have had a better bottle of Prune & Parsnip. This wine was as smooth as polished glass and the taste was delightful. Leaving it to mature for two and a half years from creation has, I think, made a difference. There was no special occasion to mark its opening; this just happened to be the first bottle of Prune & Parsnip that I found.

On Wednesday night I felt I needed a glass. I thought I had played Tchaikovsky 4 particularly badly - or at least the first movement of it. The notes do not lie easily under the fingers and I still treat the marked rhythm as an approximate guide, leading to a messy performance. Oh well.

Saturday 17 October 2015

Rose Petal Wine - Fifth Bottle (B3), 10th October 2015

I have drunk too much tonight. But this is my reaction when Claire is upset. Today at the House we discovered that the front door doesn't open fully (and having owned it three months, this shows quite how Yorkshire we are) and a patch of rotten floorboards in the toilet. Claire panicked and immediately declared this 'Dry Rot', saying vast amounts of floor would have to be removed. In fact, it looks more likely that this was caused by a leaking shower, but Claire is still low. At least the rose petal wine is delicious - sweet and floral. And it has put Claire into a slightly better mood.

This is how far our front door opens.

Wednesday 14 October 2015

Crab Apple Wine - Fourth Bottle (A1), 7th-10th October 2015

Walking through the door after WYSO, my first task was to open a bottle of crab apple wine. The second was to watch The Great British Bake Off  Final whilst drinking a little too much for a Wednesday night. I am delighted that Nadiya won. Not only was she lovely, and a deserving winner, but she is from North Leeds and civic loyalty demands that I support her.

We then left the bottle unfinished until Saturday night and in between times I went to London (always a treat), ate a vast amount in a Greek restaurant and dreamt that someone had stolen all my wine. It was one of those realistic dreams where I had to wake myself up to remember that this was vastly unlikely. Crab apple wine is tasty but low on the list of 'Things to Steal'.

Saturday 10 October 2015

Elderberry Wine 2015 - The Making Of ...

Sunday 27th September was a day of Autumn mists and mellow fruitfulness. We woke to thick grey fog covering Leeds and set off for Ackworth. Claire had a string orchestra rehearsal at the Quaker School and suggested that I come along, use the time to pick elderberries and join her for a pub lunch afterwards. Mostly, though, I think she wanted me as her chauffeur.

The fog clung to the M62, through Pontefract and was only beginning to lift at Ackworth. On arrival I set off with my plastic bags and wandered around the perimeter of the school's football pitch. This was well stocked with trees and some of them were elders. The dew left behind by the mist picked out hundreds of spiders' webs, each bejeweled and breath-like. I apologised to the spiders as I destroyed their nets to pick fruit.

After the sports ground I bumbled around, sometimes on public footpaths, sometimes not. The only place that rivalled the school for elder trees was the graveyard of St Cuthbert's Church. By the end of the morning I had moved onto blackberries, which are still in abundance.

This is what 6 lbs of elderberries looks like.
I needed 6 lbs of elderberries for a double batch and I came away with 6 lbs 3 oz. One heavy plastic bag constitutes about four and a half pounds. Stripping them took two hours, during which time I entertained myself by listening to Radio 4 programmes that I had missed. This period was marked by the vast number of spiders that I had also gathered making an appearance. Don't tell Claire: I allowed most of them to escape into our living room. The earwigs, however, were evicted.

I crushed the berries in the bucket with a potato masher, added 5 lbs 4 oz sugar and poured over 12 pints of boiling water. On Monday morning I added the yeast and a teaspoon each of pectolase and nutrient. I left this until Saturday 3rd October before putting the wine into its demijohns. This was a rapid job once I had fished most the fruit out with a collander. The amount of water I used was perfect. Its colour is one that I would like to use when painting the new house.

Friday 9 October 2015

Blackberry Wine - Second Bottle (B3), 4th October 2015

Opening a bottle with lunch is not a common occurrence. But three things converged: Catherine was visiting, Claire is feeling overwhelmed by the House, and we had a lamb & dumpling casserole. Blackberry wine went very nicely with the last of these, helped with the middle one and celebrated the first. I only had a glass because my tasks for the afternoon included 'Driving to the Station'.

Claire and I were poor hosts. Rather than pulling out all the stops and planning exciting things for our guest, we just got on with our ordinary weekend things. Catherine did not appear to mind.

Thursday 8 October 2015

Strawberry Wine - Second Bottle (6), 2nd October 2015

Book Group was round at ours last night and the home-made option for wine was Strawberry. Most people stuck to the red & white. Actually, that's not true - Catherine, Gina, Ros, Jenny, Claire and I all had at least some strawberry wine with Catherine being the most enthusiastic. Rightly so - it is a fine bottle. And it is lovely that Catherine was able to visit for Book Group: she founded it 13 years ago and it is a decade since she moved away.

Our book was After Me Comes the Flood, which was a near-universal 'Miss', though no-one felt strongly about it. Many thought it was reminiscent of The Bell by Iris Murdoch (a previous Book Group book), though not as good. Next month, a book about cancer genetics!

Wednesday 7 October 2015

Rhubarb Wine - Fourth Bottle (A2), 30th September - 1st October 2015

I showed great forebearance by not opening this bottle until Claire came back from WYSO; a strings-only rehearsal. This was particularly the case because I spent the evening reading our latest Book Group book - After Me Comes the Flood by Sarah Perry, which is tedious and over-written. But once Claire was home the cork was pulled and we settled in to watch Bake Off's semi-final. The wine slipped down as the tension twisted up. Why is it that I care so much about people I don't know making cakes I won't eat? It is excellent television.

We left enough wine for a glass each on Thursday. I was meant to be at Madeleine's for quintets, but she had forgotten and the house was empty.

Monday 5 October 2015

Christmas Tutti Fruti - Ninth Bottle (A5), 26th September 2015

I think this is a particularly good vintage of Christmas Tutti Fruti. Previous versions have been somewhat thin, but this is full bodied and delicious. All the better when you drink it with sausages, roast potatoes and onion gravy.

Claire and I spent much of our time chatting about the House while drinking this. There is still a vast amount to do to it, and we have given up the idea of moving in before Thanksgiving, which is a shame.

The rest of the bottle was drunk to Doctor Who, which is back (hurrah). It was a Dalek episode, which are often tedious, but this was well done - full of moral dilemmas and danger. And I am warming to Peter Capaldi.

There is still a vast amount to do to it ...

Sunday 4 October 2015

Blackcurrant Wine - Fourth Bottle (C2), 25th September 2015

This was rather a splendid bottle of wine. One of the best blackcurrants that I have tasted. It has the correct amount of sharpness to balance the sweet fruit taste. I think Burgundy yeast is the way to go.

We drank it after I had spent an easy day at work and Claire had spent a hard day at the house, painting two bedrooms with their first coat of white emulsion. Much of the wine was drunk, though, while I looked for venues to hold the Extended Family Gathering 2016. The Nightingale Centre is booked for the weekend that we want (1-3 April) and now I must find somewhere else. It is not looking easy.

Thursday 1 October 2015

Elderflower Wine - Eighth Bottle (A5), 23rd-24th September 2015

Of the four movements in Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony, it is the second that I love the most. It has a mournful, beautiful melody passed between the orchestra and, of course, the bassoon gets it last. We played this on Wednesday and I emoted as much as I could. The tune has been stuck in my head ever since.

I opened this bottle to Bake Off after WYSO and we finished it on Thursday to an episode of Mad Men. Elderflower is a solid, mid-week bottle: consistent, floral, just a little bit dull.

Monday 28 September 2015

Julia's Wines - Redcurrant 1995, 20th September 2015

We finally buried Julia. On Sunday her ashes were interred along with those of her mother and Mrs Soots the cat, beneath a weeping lime. It was a glorious morning - crisp early autumn filled with light. Madrigals were sung and Steffan read The Dorking Thigh. We covered Julia's ashes with rose petals, rosemary and a helping of Sam Smith's Ale. At the end of the ceremony a frog hopped its merry way through the grass. Of course I opened a bottle of her wine that evening. It is what she would have wanted.

Saturday 26 September 2015

Elderberry Wine - Tenth Bottle (A4), 18th September 2015

Friday night was mostly noteable for just how exhausted I was for no good reason. I had to have a lie down while listening to The Archers, and I spent the rest of the evening feeling like a zombie. By 9:30 I was in bed, managing a short chapter of my book and three sips of bush tea before slipping into sleep. This did not prevent me from drinking half a bottle of elderberry wine, however. It was a Friday night after all. We ate haggis and mashed potato with the wine, as well as obligatory runner beans from the garden. This will not go down as the most memorable Friday night in the history of Ben, but I hope it is not entirely typical either. (It is.)

Friday 25 September 2015

Whitecurrant Wine - Fifth Bottle (6), 16th-18th September 2015

Claire and I both had the same experience when drinking this wine. The first taste had distinctly unpleasant overtones, but thereafter they were no longer there. The wine never approached the dizzy heights of 'nice', but it sauntered along the foothills of 'drinkable'. I opened it on Wednesday evening while we watched Bake Off, then finished the last glass on Friday while I was waiting for Claire to finish her gin & tonic so that I could open something better.

Tuesday 22 September 2015

Rhubarb & Elderflower Wine - Fifth Bottle (3), 13th September 2015

We wanted something specifically associated with this house to drink in celebration, for today someone has put in an offer to buy it. This means that we no longer have to keep it spotless at all times, make sure the washing up is done and put away, and we can move the cat food back to where it needs to be. So today has been a Good Day. Exhausting too, what with the gardening, wine-making, bread-making and our final tidying session.

The wine was really good, with hints of spice (which is unexplained). We both drank too much, though, because we still had a bottle of rose petal to finish.

Saturday 19 September 2015

Fig Wine 2015 - The Making Of ...

It is a Tuesday evening, 8th September, and I am discombobulated. We put our house on the market yesterday.* Someone has put in an offer today. That wasn't meant to happen. I needed to get used to the idea first. We were meant to be closer to having a house to move into. I'm adept at being disconcerted by what should be good news. At least I have wine-making to distract me.

An aerial view of some figs (and my feet)
The fig wine that I made last year is a surprising 'Hit', so I am trying to repeat that success. Claire and I were in York this weekend where my parents have been collecting and freezing figs from their tree. Mom has built a tool - a long stick with a hook on the end - with which to pick figs. She uses it to grab a branch, pulling it in towards her 5 foot 2 stature, and then plucks the fig from the tree. I wouldn't have had her down as an inventor.

By Sunday I was able to take away 6 lbs or so of figs. Those that were fresh from the tree needed a couple of days to ripen, hence starting the wine tonight. I weighed 5½ lbs of figs and cut these into four pieces per fruit. Those that had been frozen were extremely soft. They went into the bucket and I mashed them into a pulp. I added 3 lbs sugar and 6 pints of boiling water and gave it all a stir. It was a thick, soupy mixture at this stage.

Chopped figs in the bucket
On Wednesday morning I put in the yeast and a teaspoon of everything (nutrient, pectolase, tannin and citric acid). By the evening our buyer had withdrawn, but this turned to be a Good Thing. On Sunday we had another offer. And I thought that our house, with all its stuff and colours, would be a difficult sell.

Figs during fermentation
That evening, 13th September, I transferred the liquid into its demijohn, which I overfilled. The wine made its bid for freedom over night, but I think it is now safely contained. It is a pleasing light purple colour.

*This link will take you to details of our house for sale, until contracts have been exchanged - at which point I imagine the link will no longer work. (Actually, I think it still does.)

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

Friday 18 September 2015

Rose Petal Wine - Fourth Bottle (A4), 12th-13th September 2015

We wanted a bottle with a garden theme, and rose petal wine best fits that criterion. Our afternoon was spent at Laura's, taking a large number of plants from her garden with which to stock our new one. They all had frightening Latin names, but all I can remember is Lungwort and Hellebore.

I opened the rose petal wine after the first Music Club of the season, which was a good evening: not a duff performance, with Dawn as the highlight singing French songs. The wine was lovely; sweet and fragrant; but it was late and we only had two glasses each.

Thursday 17 September 2015

Orange Wine - Sixth Bottle (B1), 11th September 2015

The courgettes have finally started doing their thing. Usually courgette week is the beginning of August. It is only now that we need to keep an eye on them to prevent a marrow invasion. Claire used a couple to make a Thai curry with sticky rice, and it was delicious. Orange wine was the correct bottle to drink. We needed something unsubtle to work with the Thai flavours, and orange has a powerful citrus kick to make its presence known.

The rest of the evening was mostly taken up with wine making and staying on top of the washing up.

Wednesday 16 September 2015

Crab Apple Wine - Third Bottle (B3), 9th-10th September 2015

Claire chose crab apple wine because it is made from the apples in our garden. We thought we had sold our house on Wednesday evening and it was fitting to drink our home produce. Today, though, the buyer had second thoughts - the house is too small - so the wine lost its symbolism and reverted to being just another bottle of crab apple wine. Still tasty, though, with its light apple flavour. I'm actually not too disappointed about the lost sale - better that he pulls out immediately than four weeks down the line.

Our crab apple tree (and a photo-bombing teasel)

Tuesday 15 September 2015

Blackberry Wine - First Bottle (C1), 6th-7th September 2015

After a day of picking blackberries in the sunshine, getting stung and scratched in the process, and absolutely covered in goose-grass seeds, I deserved a bottle of blackberry wine. This vintage is delightful - stuffed with bramble taste, full and rich. There was still a finger of wine left in the bottle when we went to bed, which is unusual for a Sunday.

I finished it off on Monday after our first Airedale rehearsal of the season. We are playing Elgar's second symphony and the words 'Difficult' and 'Noisy' come to mind.

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

Sunday 13 September 2015

Blackberry Wine 2015 - The Making Of ...

The cusp of summer and autumn is often the best weather that England can provide. So it was today, 6th September. The sky was deep blue and cloudless. A perfect day to go brambling. As ever, Claire and I were in York for blackberries and we set off to the Victorian Cemetery after saying our farewells to the Wands. Helen and Ian are moving to Woking to be closer to Celia, leaving York after 43 years. A part of my childhood gone. But not before I had a last piece of Helen's chocolate cake!

We got to the cemetery at noon and picked for an hour and a quarter. The blackberries were thinner on the ground than usual - they are late in ripening, which meant picking was more selective than the great handfuls that previous years have allowed.

Claire and I both ensured we took some fruit from Thomas Douthwaite's grave, even though his gravestone is now entirely obscured. Other graves I picked from included the Leetham family plot, Timothy Taylor, John William Walker and Sarah Allison. I won in the nettle-sting stakes (I got several, compared to Claire's frankly pathetic none) and also in the weight of blackberries picked. Between us we got 7 lbs 5 oz, which is not even enough for a double batch. So I went to Stonegate Fields in the early evening and picked the remaining 11 oz required - though I was in competition with a woman who was picking blackberries for her apple & bramble pie.

I crushed the fruit without washing it, put in 5 lbs sugar and 11 pints of boiling water. The yeast and a teaspoon each of nutrient and pectolase went in on Monday morning. I put this into its two demijohns on Friday evening, 11 September, which was a quicker process than expected. Using a collander at the beginning helped.

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

Friday 11 September 2015

Fig Wine - Second Bottle (3), 5th September 2015

My parents have been instructed to collect figs on the strength of the last bottle. Therefore, I thought taking a bottle to York with me would only be fair. Both Mom & Pop loved it - with Pop saying he thinks this is the best wine I have made. I wouldn't go that far, but it is good and worth doing in fig-heavy years (of which this is one).

Earlier in the evening I won convincingly in Scrabble against Mom - my first win for many games. I got all letters out twice (LOOSEST  and  REDOING). Only part of this game was played in the presence of a random bleeding teenager who had come off his bike outside the house.

Thursday 10 September 2015

Rhubarb Wine - Eleventh Bottle (A2), 2nd September 2015

Wednesday nights are not whole bottle nights. Or at least they shouldn't be. Somehow we managed to finish this rhubarb wine. It took little effort. But Claire has the week off work. When I had a week off by myself I went galavanting to Wales. Claire has stayed at home to put the house in order before it goes on the market. Mostly this involves decluttering. I think I got the better deal.

Tuesday 8 September 2015

Blackcurrant & Red Gooseberry - Fifth Bottle (2), 30th August 2015

Sunday is meant to be a day of rest. I spent it washing floors, tidying rooms and digging soil. It is a hard life. The cleaning tasks are in preparation for putting our house on the market. Until we get a buyer, we are going to have to live without clutter and mess. It will be a challenge. The gardening was at the new house, where we met more neighbours. There is a definite feel of community there - and it turns out a former colleague lives two doors down.

We drank this wine to two splendid curries, one of which involved mutton, and the wine was suitably fruity. It is another one which matures well.

From this ...

... to this

Saturday 5 September 2015

Crab Apple & Strawberry Wine - Fifth Bottle (5), 29th August 2015

I took this bottle over to Richard & Linda's. They are going to America shortly and Linda thinks she is going to say goodbye to her father. It will be an emotional time for them. But she is in good spirits now and we had a lovely evening. Richard was chief cook and the food was fabulous. We started with baked camembert eaten fondue style. The main meal was a prawn risotto, a green salad, and olive and goats cheese hush puppies (no, I'm not sure what they are). A raspberry baked cheesecake left me feeling like I had eaten too much. The wine was good but neither distinctively strawberry or crab apple. It seems to have got drier in its maturity.

Wednesday 2 September 2015

Crab Apple Wine - Seventeenth Bottle (C5), 28th August 2015

This bottle proved that crab apple wine is one best drunk young. We had a bottle of 2014's vintage on Sunday and that was light and refreshing. This one was dark and murky. More inner-city canal than sparkling stream. It was still okay in taste, and we had no trouble in polishing it off - there was little left by the time we sat down to eat. Mind you, it was late - nearly nine - and Claire reminds me that I am a Hardy and Hardys traditionally eat beyond a time that is reasonable. I was glad for my earlier slice of toast and lemon curd, though.

Tuesday 1 September 2015

Vanilla Wine - Second Bottle (5), 26th-27th August 2015

It was 'Dessert Week' on The Great British Bake Off, so what better than a bottle of Vanilla Wine? In truth, plenty - almost any other flavour. This wine is drinkable but little more. (Unlike the Tepache which I tried to make from pineapple skins. It tasted of calomine lotion and had the consitency of muccus. It was meant to be light and fizzy.) At least I could detect vanilla this time.

We finished the bottle on our return from the theatre, where we saw The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. It was physical theatre, wonderfully staged and brilliantly done.

Sunday 30 August 2015

Crab Apple Wine - Second Bottle (C1), 23rd August 2015

Claire wishes me to record the fact that I had more than my fair share of this bottle. Probably only by half a glass. Maybe three-quarters. But it is very nice, and government guidelines say that I am allowed to drink more than her.

This crab apple is a good vintage - it has that sharp apple taste which is deceptively refreshing. Mostly we drank it before eating - chatting about the new house and garden. Things are so much more positive than they were six weeks ago - partly because we are spending more time there, getting to know the neighbourhood (including the Jewish Bakery, where we had lunch today) and making the garden ours.

Friday 28 August 2015

Elderberry Wine - Ninth Bottle (B4), 22nd August 2015

There is a lamb-based theme for many bottles of elderberry wine. Last night Claire cooked a Morrocan lamb, prune & almond teggine, and I chose elderberry wine as the accompaniment. It was a good choice - both food and drink were fruity and sweet.

Earlier in the day we chose the kitchen for our new house by visiting Zoe in Guiseley. The work top will be 'Storm Brown', the units 'Stone' and the handles long and sleek. It is depressing that I can get quite excited by these things.

Wednesday 26 August 2015

Christmas Tutti Fruti - Eighth Bottle (B1), 21st August 2015

I am too quiet at work, and I find that more frustrating than being too busy. When there is too much to do I zip along, get a bit snappy but feel a sense of achievement. Too quiet, and mundane tasks stretch beyond tedium. It is the August effect. But a bottle of Christmas Tutti Fruti makes things better, with its complex fruit flavours and slight fizz. This is one of the best batches that I have made. We drank it while watching Mad Men on DVD (Claire had confused it with Breaking Bad). It is glorious to look at, with all the 1950s period detail, and a good way to spend an hour.

Monday 24 August 2015

Orange Wine - Fifth Bottle (B3), 19th-20th August 2015

This orange wine has a more bitter taste that previous vintages. It is entirely drinkable but is reminiscent of the harshest of thick-cut marmalades. Definitely a mid-week bottle, and at this time of year, that means drinking half of it in front of The Great British Bake Off.

Claire and I polished the bottle off on Thursday evening. My helping was a large glass after trios with Pat & Peter, where we are working on an obscure trio by Swan Hennessy, who was of Irish/French/American stock.

Sunday 23 August 2015

Blackcurrant & Raspberry Wine - Second Bottle (A6), 15th August 2015

I took this bottle to a Feast at Ros's. Bob, Julia's brother, had come up from Kent and we spent much of the evening drinking far too much and talking about Julia. Her house has finally sold which means Emma will need somewhere to live. It was lovely to see Bob - there is a large amount of Piggott in him (which is unsurprising).

The wine was fruity and light and sweet and delicious, and I think most people agreed.

I disgraced myself at the end of the night by falling asleep in an armchair, waking only to apologise when the taxi arrived.

Derek Piggott - Julia and Bob's father

Saturday 22 August 2015

Rhubarb Wine - Third Bottle (A5), 13th-16th August 2015

"Will you be opening a bottle tonight?" falls into the category of Questions Expecting the Answer 'Yes'. In fact, I hadn't specifically planned to - we had already drunk one mid-week bottle of wine - but I took little persuasion, and I do like rhubarb wine. It has a light crispness that makes it distinct.

I earned the rest of the bottle on Sunday after spending a hard weekend digging (well, call it two hours spread over two days) in the new garden. There is enough clay to open a pottery.

Me, digging

Thursday 20 August 2015

Prune & Parsnip Wine - Sixth Bottle (A6), 11th-12th August 2015

For the next nine weeks, Wednesday evenings are likely to involve sharing at least half a bottle of wine watching The Great British Bake Off with Claire. We watched the second episode tonight while drinking Prune & Parsnip wine. On the whole it made me feel hungry - partly because of the food porn, but also because I am trying to lose a bit of weight by the radical solution of eating a bit less. Over the last two weeks I put on half a stone. Prune & Parsnip wine can, in these circumstances, be seen as a dietary aid.

Wednesday 19 August 2015

Blackcurrant Wine 2015 - The Making Of ...

Buying a house is an expensive way to acquire soft fruit. On that first, tense weekend when we owned 20 Bentcliffe Drive one of the few pleasures was discovering blackcurrant bushes laden with fruit. There are raspberries and strawberries too, but not in such quantity. Anyone who visited (mostly parents) was put to work and our freezer began to fill with bags of currants.

Blackcurrants and chives (the chives were not added)
Of course, we also have blackcurrant bushes at Carr Manor Mount and these ripened whilst we were away at Rydal playing symphonies and having all sorts of fun. Claire and her parents harvested these during the course of last week whilst I was in Wales. When I came home the freezer was so full of blackcurrants that we had to use a buttress to keep the door closed. (I exaggerate. A little.)

More blackcurrants on their bush

On Monday 10th August I weighed the blackcurrants. Twelve pounds. That is enough for a quadruple batch, so this is what I have done. I mistook a small bag of sloes for blackcurrants and only realised my mistake when they were in the bucket. I rescued as many as I could, but there are still some in the mix.

Blackcurrants (and a few sloes) before mashing

On Tuesday, once the fruit had defrosted and I was back from helping Rory move flats again, I mashed it with a potato masher. This was hard work, took a while and I am surprised that my hands are blister-free. I dissolved 11 lbs sugar in 22 pints of water (in three batches), boiled this and poured it over the mashed fruit. The bucket is close to full and when putting in the yeast on Wednesday evening, 12 August, I noticed the packet warned of "High Foam". Fingers crossed. I also added 2 teaspoons of pectolase and about three of nutrient.

A full-ish bucket
Though I added the yeast on Wednesday, there was no hint of fermentation until Friday afternoon, and I was beginning to think that this would be my worst wine-making disaster yet. However, everything is fine and I put it all into its demijohns on Sunday 16 August. None of the demijohns are full and the recipe (if not the bucket) would have benefitted from another 2 pints of water.

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

Tuesday 18 August 2015

Fig Wine - First Bottle (5), 9th August 2015

It was purely for research purposes that I opened this bottle. Apparently this year is good for figs and I wanted to know whether it was worth asking my parents to put some aside for me. It is. Despite the nutty aroma, which generally indicates something undrinkable, this was really nice. It is unmistakeably fig - a dense, fruity taste. Possibly a little too sweet. The colour is lovely - a dark pink. I think this akin to a red wine, whereas Claire thinks it is a rosé.

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

Monday 17 August 2015

Blackcurant Wine - Third Bottle (B2), 8th August 2015

Claire and her parents drank this bottle while I was in St Dogmaels Abbey playing incidental music to the Tempest. They opened it because the gooseberry wine tried earlier in the evening was unspeakably nasty. Blackcurrant was a suitable choice because Bob and Judith had been hard at work in our garden picking fruit for this year's batch. I conclude that this wine was rather better than the gooseberry by the fact that the bottle was empty on my return, rather than a quarter drunk and in the fridge.

Sunday 16 August 2015

Brew It Yourself - Review of an Excellent New Book

The Book Cover

Brew It Yourself by Nick Moyle and Richard Hood is the most recent addition to the ever-growing library of books about how to make your own booze. An experienced home-brewer might be sceptical about whether there is room on the shelf for another book. A novice may not be sure about whether this is the right book to choose to get started. I would urge both to get this book. There is much to delight the experienced brewer, and it both guides and encourages the novice.

The book is divided into six main sections: wine, cider, beer, sparkling drinks, liqueurs and cocktails; and each has a host of recipes. I turned to the wine making chapter first, on the basis that this is where my knowledge lies. There is a good range of recipes, from classics (elderberry, parsnip) to the more unusual (oak leaf, pineapple) stopping on the way for instructions for three types of mead.  The methods given are straightforward and never complicated, and there is a very useful ‘basics’ section at the beginning in case this is your first time at having a go. What I love about the ‘basics’ chapter is that the Two Thirsty Gardeners demystify the process. There is nothing precious here. They throw out the requirement found in some literature that wine should have “temperature-controlled storing conditions” and they actively encourage experimentation. Advice on the first page includes “Treat measurements as a rough guide” and “Taste is subjective”. As soon as I read these, I knew that I had found two kindred spirits.

The chapters on cider and beer took me away from a subject I know, but made my fingers itch to try – particularly the cider section. It is clear that the authors love their craft, and they make it sound easy. But easy in a way that makes the reader suspect it truly is. Pear and Ginger cider sounds delicious, and there are handy hints on how to choose apples. In the beer section, I particularly liked the advice to make only one gallon at a time. The one time I tried to make beer, it was for vast quantities, and the result was disappointing. A gallon I could imagine doing. And how can anyone resist a recipe for “Nick’s Liquorice Stout”?
The introductory page for Cider
 The remaining three chapters were actually the ones I enjoyed most, because the ideas are fabulous and the methods looks as if they require very little patience. I have never made a sparkling drink on purpose (though several by accident, as my exploding bottles attest), not even ginger beer. Brew It Yourself gives instructions for nine of them, and the ginger beer has been expanded by the addition of chilli. Lavender Sparkle sounds like a must-do, and Tepache, made from pineapple, a cinnamon stick, brown sugar and nothing else is something that I am going to try as soon as I remember to buy a pineapple.

For the most nervous of readers wanting to make their own drinks, the chapter on liqueurs is probably the place to start. There is no brewing involved, just simple instructions on what ingredients to mix with which spirits. Of course the chapter begins with sloe gin – it would be sacrilege if it did not. Thereafter, the drinks become more unusual: raspberry and thyme whisky, mint, lime & lemongrass liqueur, mayflower brandy and many more besides. The authors have chosen the ingredients carefully and give the reader confidence that the suggested flavours will match.
Raspberry & Thyme Whisky

Finally there is a chapter headed ‘Classic Cocktails and Curios’. Some of the cocktails are familiar (Bloody Mary), some less so (Spruce Martini). All look effortless. As for the curios, they sound so unusual that they have to be tried: Beetroot Kvass, Marrow Rum, Glögg.

It is clear that much thought has gone into the layout of Brew It Yourself. There are many inserts, within the pages introducing the chapter, and in the recipes themselves. Here we are told snippets about C J J Berry, what wines to use for cooking, Norse mythology, and how to grow rocket. Within chapters the authors will break off from providing recipes to have a couple of pages about relevant issues. Within the wine-making chapter, we get an informative page dedicated to honey, for cider the recipe-break is dedicated to apples and for beer it is hops. This continues in each of the chapters, and is an interesting method of preventing the reader from being overwhelmed by the number of drinks he or she could make. For as well as being a book of recipes to follow, Brew It Yourself is also a book which you can read from start to finish for pure enjoyment. Nick Moyle and Richard Hood have an engaging and always humorous writing style. They pun, they have internal disagreements and they are genuinely funny.

This review has yet to mention the most striking thing about the book. It is a thing of beauty. I have the hardback version (I don’t know when the paperback will be out, but I would urge you not to wait for it) and the cover has a pleasing feel and look. Its colours are well chosen, and the indentations suggest quality even before you open the book to read it. Then, inside, the photographs accompanying the text are outstanding. Who would think that pictures of cloves or dandelions or frothing pints of beer could look so inviting? The book’s designer has made Brew It Yourself as much of a coffee-table (or should that be wine-table?) book as a genuinely useful book of recipes.
The Authors
Brew It Yourself is a wonderful book – it would make an excellent present, but be more adventurous than that. Buy it for yourself, and then make any one of the drinks it suggests (make several) and give these as presents – if you can bear to part with them.