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.

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.