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.

Sunday 31 May 2015

Elderberry Wine - Eighth Bottle (A3), 24th May 2015

Claire cooked lamb koftas and a bottle of rich, sweet elderberry was the right choice to complement the heat and the spice. We deserved it, though. Sunday marked our second of three days spent cleaning and tidying. Our attic is now clear of all the carpet offcuts left by previous owners, though we have kept the rather splendid 1970s curtains found in a bag. The kitchen counters are clean and we have generally de-cluttered. We are a long way from minimalism, however.

The 1970s curtains, as modelled by me in a break from tidying.

Saturday 30 May 2015

Crab Apple Wine - Fifteenth Bottle (A3), 23rd May 2015

This bottle of crab apple wine was particularly good. It tasted properly of apples - sharp and fruity enough to make me say "ooh" on my fist sip. Claire brought it to me as I was in the process of cleaning cat hair and dust from my wine bottles in the hall. An Estate Agent is coming on Tuesday and in an attempt to declutter we are hiding my wine - all 150+ bottles of it. But that involves cleaning as I go.

The day also saw me condense 3 years of a history degree into one box file and go to the municipal tip twice. But we also had a fabulous meal at an Ethiopian restaurant as compensation.

About half my wine collection

Wednesday 27 May 2015

Blackberry Wine - Thirteenth Bottle (C6), 22nd May 2015

The Archers, when it makes an effort, can be splendid. I drank this bottle listening to Ed and Emma Grundy get married and the two Grundy brothers reach some sort of peace. Really well written, possibly made better by drinking blackberry wine (delicious) on an empty stomach.

My other activity while drinking was to sort through two boxes of papers which had everything from O Level essays about Romantic Poetry to some of my Medieval Studies MA work. I am keeping much of it, but have thrown out my Latin revision cards. I spent hours on those.

Tuesday 26 May 2015

Orange Wine - Third Bottle (A4), 20th-21st May 2015

It was a strings only sectional on Wednesday at WYSO, so I put a bottle of orange wine in the fridge and settled down to watch Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa on the computer. The British do comedy of social embarrassment extremely well, and Alan Partridge is a complete monster. Excellent stuff.

While drinking this wine over two evenings, Claire and I were mostly talking about the house-move, which inches closer, and getting this one into a state where people might consider coming through the front door. There is so much to do, and orange wine could only help.

Monday 25 May 2015

Vanilla Wine - First Bottle (4), 16th-17th May 2015

Well, this was as disappointing as expected. It is not comically nasty, but it is not one to which I will be rushing to make again. The wine is dry with a hint of bitterness to it. If you concentrate hard there may be a vanilla taste towards the back. Its best attribute is its light pink colour, and it is never a good sign when the wine's greatest aspect is its tint. However, it is not a disaster.

I opened this wine as our first bottle home, back from holiday. Being on holiday is great, but it is always nice to return. And despite dreaming two nights in a row that he had died, Stan survived the cattery, is much better and no longer needs to wear the Collar of Shame.

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

Sunday 24 May 2015

Rose Petal Wine - Tenth Bottle (B6), 14th May 2015

I brought this bottle to Suffolk with me because it is Rachel's favourite of mine. We shared it on the last night of the holiday on a day where we had visited both a farmyard barn stuffed with art (including a vast painting by Maggi Hambling with a £70K price tag) and a nuclear power station.

Ann described the wine as "Turkish maidens lying on divan beds scantily clad in harem pants," which I think is perfect.

Saturday 23 May 2015

Rhubarb Wine 2015 - The Making Of ....

Our rhubarb plants, particularly that from Claire's grandmother's garden, are doing well this year. This is despite great sections of them having been put in pots in anticipation of the house move (which finally appears to be speeding up a little). It has been a dry, warm spring so far and all our rhubarb has flowered. I understand that this is a Bad Thing, but the flowers are pretty, in a vaguely alien, threatening way.

I pulled and chopped the first two pounds of rhubarb at the beginning of this month and stored it in the freezer. Today, Sunday 17th May, is our first full day back at home after a wonderful week in Suffolk and Claire's first gardening job was to prune the rhubarb. This produced another 2½ lbs, all from her grandmother's plant. Shirley's rhubarb is far pinker so I got most the remainder from that, even though it has put out less growth and I have seen both our cats pissing on it. I washed this rhubarb with care.

All rhubarb - 6 lbs of it - was cut into thin slices and went into the bucket. I reached for the sugar. There was a space on the shelf where the sugar should have been, which is poor planning. I poured 7 pints of boiling water into the bucket, dashed over to Sainsburys to get sugar, returned, put 6 lbs sugar into the bucket and the remaining 7 pints of boiling water.

Rhubarb in bucket with water and yeast (Champagne variety)
 I put the yeast and 2(ish) teaspoons of nutrient in on Monday morning, stirred twice a day until Friday 22 May, and then put the liquid into its demijohns. Using a collander as a scoop in the first stage made this a rapid job. Claire was going to sit in the kitchen and be companionable, but got bored during the sterilisation and rinsing process, so went to bed instead.

The rhubarb having a particularly frothy ferment
I could have used a pint less water for this wine. At this point it is its usual Barbie pink.

Friday 22 May 2015

Dandelion Wine - First Bottle (3), 12th May 2015

I have left this batch of dandelion two years before sampling. I thought my last batch improved massively on keeping, hence the wait. Even so, I was expecting something bland at best and undrinkable at worst. When I fail I like to do so in a big way, so I shared the bottle between the six of us sharing a cottage in Suffolk. In fact, the wine was Not Bad At All. It was too sweet, but when I changed my mindset to this being a pudding wine, that stopped mattering so much. Nick declared that I had made a sherry and everyone finished their glasses. Only the colour was unfortunate: dark urine.

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

Thursday 21 May 2015

Rhubarb & Elderflower Wine - Fourth Bottle (6), 11th May 2015

This bottle came at the end of an excellent 10 mile walk round Snape through forest, field and marsh. We saw lizards and deer and had glorious, properly hot weather. It was a perfect 'holiday' day: relaxing, friendly, outdoors.

We visited Snape Maltings during the walk and other than the gallery I mostly did not enjoy this. Its music shop's best seller seemed to be crime novels. But the day as a whole was fabulous and everyone enjoyed the rhubarb & elderflower wine. Dry and summery.

Wednesday 20 May 2015

Strawberry Wine - Fifth Bottle (5), 10th May 2015

Today has been a lovely day with a real holiday feel. We have been to Southwold on the Suffolk coast, and Claire and I have spent the day together drinking coffee in artisinal bakeries, walking along the beach with the sun beating down and eating more seafood that is sensible. It was a good day to share a bottle of strawberry wine, which was its usual delicious self. We pretended that it was warm enough to drink outside, but quickly realised that it really was not.

The Artisinal Bakery in Southwold - Highly recommended

Tuesday 19 May 2015

Blackberry Wine - Twelfth Bottle (A1), 9th May 2015

I cooked Greek Baked Lamb for six today and decided that of the wines I have brought to Suffolk, blackberry would go best. It was a tasty bottle and was very quickly followed by something red made from grapes. We it took it rather easier on the wine than last night, where we ended up drinking seven bottles between us. This led to a day-long hangover, and walking twelve miles through Suffolk countryside with a life-threatening headache is not the greatest of experiences. I appear to have survived.

Recipe for Greek Baked Lamb (for six)

2 lbs lamb
1 lb tomatoes - a few more possibly
1/2 lb feta cheese
olive oil
salt and pepper

Spread the lamb in a shallow baking dish.
Chop the feta into thin slices and place over lamb
Chop the tomatoes into thin slices and place over feta
Sprinkle on the salt and pepper liberally
Pour over a good quantity of olive oil
Bake in an oven at gas mark 4 for one and a half hours.
Serve with rice. - Very easy and delicious.

Sunday 17 May 2015

Blackcurrant & Raspberry Wine - First Bottle (A3), 8th May 2015

Julia died a year ago today, and we marked her passing with a bottle of the wine made from the fruit I found in her freezer when clearing the house. She would have been very happy that I put her frozen fruit to such good use. This wine is excellent: rich and rounded and fruity, at the right sweetness level and extremely drinkable.

We drank it in Suffolk on our first night of a holiday with Rachel, Duncan, Nick and Ann. The drive from Leeds to Aldeburgh took somewhat over five hours and, thankfully, was uneventful. Today's most notable event was a text from Ocado at 8 a.m. saying "We have cancelled your order. Operational Difficulties. Sorry." I was fuming, and sent them several e-mails telling them so.

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

Friday 15 May 2015

Christmas Tutti Fruti - Fifth Bottle (B4), 6th-7th May 2015

We are about to go on holiday and of course: a) I am busy at work; and b) my wisdom tooth has decided that now is a good time to flare up. I cannot do much about the former and I have an antibiotics prescription for the latter. At least this Christmas Tutti Fruti is a decent bottle. The rose petals are distinct and a benefit, and the whole thing has a rounder taste than past vintages.

I had my last couple of glasses on election night, where the BBC exit poll made depressing reading, but not as depressing as what, in fact, happened.

Wednesday 13 May 2015

Blackcurrant Wine - Fifth Bottle (3), 4th May 2015

It is cruel to do so, but Claire and I spent much of the day laughing at Stan. Mind you, he has cost us £350 in vets' bills, so he shouldn't begrudge us the entertainment value. Stan has a wounded leg that went septic. The vet has drained the abscess and put a cone round his head to prevent him licking the wound. Now Stanley wanders round bumping into things and looking cross. The sound of our laughter cannot help. But none of this is about wine, which was an excellent bottle - better than previous ones of this flavour and full of sharp blackcurrant.

Stan in the Cone of Shame

Monday 11 May 2015

Prune & Parsnip Wine - Eleventh Bottle (A1), 3rd-4th May 2015

We had a splendid Mediteranean meal on Sunday, full of chickpeas, aubergines, olives, yoghurt and cucumber, and all accompanied by falaffel and pitta bread (home made). Claire is a genius, and that partly manifests itself in the kitchen. Prune & Parsnip wine was the right choice: sweet with both depth and clarity.

The day was mostly taken up with books and cats. I am reading Lady Audley's Secret - a nineteenth century pot-boiler. Badly written, but with sufficient plot to keep the pages turning and loads of historical detail. In between chapters, we had to take Stan to the vets again. His leg was no better. The vet took him into another room from which emitted yowls and screams of an unhappy cat. We made a further appointment for him today. I shall describe the result in the next bottle. But he is still alive.

Friday 8 May 2015

Kiwi Fruit Wine - Fourth Bottle (1), 29th April - 2nd May 2015

After we had both had a glass of Kiwi Wine (which has developed a chemically taste) I noticed that Stan was not his usual self. Rather than greeting us with a demand for food when we returned from WYSO, he had remained curled up. On further inspection he was limping badly and yowled when Claire touched his leg. She rang the emergency vets and we decided to take him in the next morning. I was convinced that this was the end for him and hardly slept. When told on Thursday morning by the vet that it was probably only an abscess I had to exercise all self control not to weep with relief. Ridiculous. But several days later he is still not right and needs another visit.

I finished the bottle after playing half a concert with the White Rose Orchestra - Mozart's 24th Piano Concerto. The soloist was completely mad. In her cadenza she plaed Rondo a la Turk as if arranged by Scriabin.

Wednesday 6 May 2015

Orange Wine - Final Bottle (B6), 26th-28th April 2015

I wasn't absolutely certain about opening this bottle. It was a Sunday night and between three of us (Claire, Rachel and me) we had already finished the Ginger and drunk an entire bottle of Crab Apple & Strawberry. But we were planning our Suffolk holiday and it seemed the right thing to do.

Rachel enjoyed the wine, and I'm not certain I have served her orange wine before - on the basis that it got slated at one of my wine parties. It has a sharp crispness that I think is excellent.

I didn't feel great on Monday, but I don't think the blame lies with the wine. It is more down to Martin, who struggled into work last week on two days when he was ill. Now I have an itchy throat and a muddled head. Two other colleagues look as if they may flake out too. At least orange wine tastes somewhat medicinal.

Monday 4 May 2015

Crab Apple & Strawberry Wine - Third Bottle (3), 26th April 2015

Internet shopping when a bottle is close to empty may not be the most sensible of ideas. We are shortly to go on holiday in Suffolk, sharing a cottage with the usual gang. Rachel came over to guide me through buying groceries from Ocado, making use of a £20 off voucher. Good job she was there. We very nearly ended up with 500 kilograms of tomatoes and 33 chickens.

This is the first time that I have done my food shopping online, and it beats going to the supermarket. Having several glasses of wine during the process makes it more civilised and, as always, this flavour is a winner.

Saturday 2 May 2015

Ginger Wine - Fifth Bottle (1), 24th-26th April 2015

This wine is too sweet and does not have enough ginger. Rachel told me to think of it as Ginger Sherry for Ladies, and that might help a little.

Much of the bottle was drunk on Saturday night after Claire and I had returned from the Yorkshire Dales, having been helping at one of the 'clocking-in' stations for the Fellsman. The Fellsman is a 62 mile hike taking in numerous hills and is to be done in 27 hours. I spend about eight hours standing on marshy ground in shoes that leaked making sandwiches. Claire served 250 hotdogs. The best bit was coming home.

The other reason that this was the best bit was the sunlight on Pen-y-Ghent. With dusk approaching, and the valley in muted browns and greens, the top third of this hill was bathed in a warm orange light. It was just beautiful and made the day worthwhile.

NB - the link is to a blog for one of the participants this year. It is very well written, and I get a mention!

Friday 1 May 2015

Gooseberry & Elderflower - Tenth Bottle (A5), 20th-23rd April 2015

Another bottle of nasty gooseberry & elderflower dispensed with. Actually, it wasn't too bad - just bad enough. There is an underlying hint of bitterness and something a little cloying. Still drinkable, though.

This week has been a busy one, socially, for me. Orchestras started up again after Easter, I was in Ilkley on Tuesday, when this bottle was opened and then more wind quintets in Harrogate on Friday. That left Thursday to have my share of this wine. I had meant to be out drinking beer with a load of solicitors and other "professionals in the construction industry", and I even made it to the relevant pub. But on arriving I only recognised one person, realised that I didn't want to be there and walked out. Not a social triumph.