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 30 December 2016

Xmas Tutti Fruti - Tenth Bottle (A1), 25th December 2016

I have broken a tradition. After many years of drinking the last bottle of one batch of Tutti Fruti and the first bottle of the most recent batch on Christmas Day, I find myself having drunk only the tenth bottle of the older batch instead. I'm obviously not drinking enough.

I shared this bottle between ten at 3 The Alders as a pre-dinner drink and everyone thought it was excellent - which of course, it was. Claire's Uncle Richard said "Surprisingly good". I get that quite a lot.

Wednesday 28 December 2016

Blackberry Wine - Third Bottle (B6), 18th-19th December 2016

I had my first ever crisp sandwich while drinking this wine. Claire has mentioned these previously in hushed tones as if describing a thing of beauty and is amazed that I have never had one before. I found the experience underwhelming - very much the sum of its parts. Neither delicious nor nutritious. But we did not fancy a proper meal, having spent the afternoon in Ilkley snacking on Christmas food, while Claire played in Mendelssohn's Octet.

The wine, good as it was, remained unfinished until Monday night, and then I only had a glass to keep Claire company.

Saturday 24 December 2016

Blackcurrant Wine - Sixth Bottle (B3), 17th December 2016

Another Saturday, another concert, another bottle of blackcurrant wine. This time the concert was a Christmas Concert in Ilkley, and on the whole I could have done without it. I spent the entire day feeling washed out from my work Christmas party the night before, and I'm never the jolliest person this time of year anyway. However, we drank the bottle round at Mary's afterwards, eating cheese and nibbles, and that bit of the day was lovely. Mary is not a big drinker, so I only poured her a small glass. Followed rapidly by a second.

Thursday 22 December 2016

Blackcurrant Wine - Fifth Bottle (B4), 10th December 2016

This bottle was our reward for a concert well-played. WYSO performed Temper by Diana Burrell, Beethoven's 3rd Piano Concerto and Brahms' Third Symphony. It all went extremely well - I think I only hit one wrong note in the first half (though plenty in the second) and I have not been as thrilled by a performance for an age. I am still on a high the morning after.

We got through the blackcurrant wine with undue haste, given only the merest of help by my mother. It was a wonderful evening.

Wednesday 21 December 2016

Crab Apple Wine - Eighth Bottle (E3), 9th-10th December 2016

Opened on a Friday and finished on a Saturday - that doesn't happen very often. This might indicate that the wine was somewhat less than palatable, but in fact this is a great batch of crab apple - sharp and light. It was more down to kicking the evening off with a whisky mac and knowing that Saturday was going to be intense - a long afternoon rehearsal followed by a concert. Haviing a hangover would be counterproductive.

We finished the last third after the concert (and, shockingly, after a bottle of blackcurrant) sat in front of the stove, knowing that we had played well. It is a glorious feeling.

Monday 19 December 2016

Christmas Tutti Fruti - Ninth Bottle (B2), 8th December 2016

Delicious. This vintage of Christmas Tutti Fruti is the best I have ever made. The depth of fruit is wonderful and the slight fizz is entirely beneficial.

We shared the bottle with Matt Byrne, who is in Leeds for a training course - and it was lovely to see him. Claire made three curries - all fabulous (but particularly the lamb) and we discussed defences to bigamy, and whether failing to report one's spouse falling off a cliff amounted to a crime. None of us is planning on putting either of these scenarios into practice.

Wednesday 14 December 2016

Rhubarb Wine - Seventh Bottle (A3), 4th December 2016

I think the best thing about this wine is its colour and clarity. It is a wine that shines a copper pink. That is not to say that its taste disappoints. It is a reliable white wine and certainly good enough for a Sunday night, sat in front of the fire, reading. Whilst winter is very far from my favourite season, watching logs burn helps make up for that. The book is Wise Children by Angela Carter which, so far, is superb. If I knew what picaresque meant I think I would describe it as that. It is bawdy, funny and charmingly told. It has potential to be my Book of the Year.

Tuesday 13 December 2016

Rose Petal Wine - Fifth Bottle (B2), 3rd December 2016

I put this bottle in the fridge many days ago but each time we had occasion to open a bottle of wine (obviously a rare event in this household) we fancied something else. Saturday, though, was perfect for a bottle of rose petal. We were eating vaguely Middle-Eastern food (chicken, olives and lemon cooked in a tagine) and Rachel & Duncan were visiting from Cambridge. And Rachel is a big fan of Rose Petal wine. It was an excellent evening - food, company and drink all wonderful, and we got through much of the last in that list. Rachel misses living in Leeds, having swapped it for village life, and we miss her being just round the corner

Sunday 11 December 2016

Blackberry Wine - Second Bottle (B5), 27th November 2016

What a fabulous bottle of wine. My first sip elicited an audible "yum". There is an instant hit of blackberry. Further down the glass this taste becomes less surprising, more expected, but the wine retains its quality.

I have had a lazy day, though more active than yesterday - in that I managed to get dressed and briefly went outside. Only into the back garden to collect apples, but it still required shoes. I'm not certain that I am entirely better - it being only shortly past nine and I'm exhausted, but I am certainly well enough for work tomorrow.

Friday 9 December 2016

Crab Apple Wine - Seventh Bottle (B2), 25th November 2016

This was a grand bottle of crab apple wine - the apple flavour was unmistakable and it slipped down very nicely indeed. It may have contained a sleeping-draught, however. I was in bed before nine and asleep shortly afterwards. I put this down to my busy week (returning from Amsterdam and then a frantic three days in the office) but I have woken full of cold and feeble. I am also still bobbing about as if on the High Seas, despite my 16 hour crossing ending on Tuesday morning. Now is a poor time to spend more than a weekend ill, so fingers crossed for a rapid recovery.

Tuesday 6 December 2016

Strawberry Wine - Second Bottle (6), 24th November 2016

Thanksgiving was at Richard & Linda's this year, so I took a bottle of Strawberry and Claire took the pumpkin pie (which was fresh from the oven - she had to wear oven gloves in the car). Richard thought the wine was drier than previous years and had more body to it , and I think both observations were correct. It is a lovely wine, and it is a shame I could only have a small glass.

The evening was excellent with two genuine Americans there (Linda and Cindy) and more food that would fit on the table. Everyone was sent home with a box of left-overs.

Saturday 3 December 2016

Apple & Strawberry Wine - The Making Of...

Our tree now it is winter
Now that it is late November, I no longer need to use a ladder, a rake and some precarious balancing to collect apples from our back garden. A quick poke about on the lawn will do the job nicely. The apple tree is still laden with fruit waiting to fall and is a popular meeting place for blackbirds. This afternoon, 27th November, I saw a squirrel leap into the tree's branches, scurry to the top, pick an apple, scurry to a midway point and then spend five minutes nibbling at it. He didn't finish the apple, though. Just dropped it casually into the flower beds. There are squirrels starving in Africa who would be grateful for that food.

Our lawn on a typical day in late November
I chose my apples from the windfalls carefully, making sure that I avoided those pecked by birds or consumed by slugs. This was easier than I had imagined and I should remember that if I am going to use our apples for wine in the future, late November is the time to do it. I needed 4 lbs of apples, which translated to 25 in number, and once picked, I washed them twice.

Some of the apples that made it into the mix
My 1 lb of strawberries came from the freezer, saved specially for this occasion. I gave them about five hours to defrost before starting to make this wine. When I crushed them with a potato masher in the bucket, the strawberries were still firm, but not solid, so mashing was effective.

What 1 lb of frozen strawberries looks like
I cut each of the apples into quarters and then tossed them into the food processor, using the 'slice' attachment. Only one of the apples had been attacked by some insect, and I cut the core out of this one (which looked suspiciously like it contained eggs). Otherwise I used the whole apple removing only the stalk. They all then went into my bucket in which I had crushed the strawberries

I added 3 lbs of sugar and poured over six and a half pints of boiling water, giving it all a thorough stir. The yeast, pectolase and nutrient all went in the same night, when the wine had cooled to 32 degrees Celcius.

An overview of the demijohn and some windfalls
The wine was transferred to its demijohn on Thursday evening, 1st December, before I watched the final episode of The Missing (superb television). This was done using the usual collander-then-jug-and-sieve method. Its colour started off peachy, but 24 hours later it is more pink. The wine made its bid for freedom shortly after being enclosed in the demijohn, but I managed to beat it back with a teaspoon. (This was done by scooping out the most aggressive froth from the demijohn's neck and that seemed to fettle it.)

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

Tuesday 29 November 2016

Recurrant Wine - Final Bottle (A1), 15th-16th November 2016

When opening a bottle on a Tuesday night, one requires a 'Punishment Wine': that is, a wine which is likely to be slightly unpleasant so one can reflect on one's lack of temperance while drinking it. This final bottle of Redcurrant fitted the bill splendidly. It had the taste of a fruit wine that had aged too long. So, the base flavour was beyond subtle which meant that only a thin dryness remained. It was drinkable, but not with any delight. Still, that is this batch of disappointing redcurrant finished and (despite having a plant in the garden) I suspect it will be many years before I make another.

Sunday 27 November 2016

Elderberry Wine - Eighth Bottle (A5), 13th November 2016

I gave Claire her free pick of reds and she chose Elderberry. We had just returned from an afternoon Airedale Symphony Orchestra concert and needed a drink. The concert was mostly very good, with Dvorak's violin concerto the highlight., but too long. We could easily have done without the Polonaise and Waltz from Eugene Onegin and no-one would have gone home thinking that there was just not enough music.

The wine was excellent - elderberry gets smoother with age - and was partly drunk to a beef cobbler and partly drunk sat in front of the stove, where I finished my book: The Blood Doctor by Barbara Vine.

Saturday 26 November 2016

Crab Apple & Strawberry Wine - First Bottle (3), 12th November 2016

What a genuinely excellent bottle of wine this is. Dry, pink, clear and refreshing. It has a strong strawberry taste, but the crab apple sharpens it, making the wine greater than the sum of its parts. We drank it to a Bolivian Chicken Pie that I made.

Claire spent the afternoon at the Otley Science Fair, showing people their cheek cells, so I was in charge of cooking. Being an adventurous soul, I dug out the Latin American cook book and chose something complicated - cross between a pie and a souffle with added corn. Just as I was pleased with the wine, I was proud of the result. When cooking goes right, I can really enjoy it.

Thursday 24 November 2016

Orange Wine - Eighth Bottle (B1), 10th-11th November 2016

I drank rather too much on Friday - not quite half a bottle of orange wine and two whisky macs. But this is my reaction to this week's news. Actually my other reaction is to stop watching the news - it is entirely depressing and I can do nothing about it. So why put myself through that, other than the dubious virtue of 'Bearing Witness'? It isn't that Trump is going to be the next president (which is awful in itself) but that people were inspired by hate and fear and xenophobia and misogyny. Individually, people tend to be alright or better. Collectively we are a terrible, terrible species.

Tuesday 22 November 2016

Prune & Parsnip Wine - Eighth Bottle (A1), 6th November 2016

Prune & parsnip wine seemed the natural choice to accompany rabbit stew. There was a subtle sweetness to both food and drink, and I don't think I could have had a better match.

The day has mostly been spent at Airedale Symphony Orchestra, rehearsing for next week's concert. I don't think the orchestra has sounded better and for once I am genuinely looking forward to the performance. The more I play Schumann's First Symphony the better I like it. Having believed Schumann to be the most overrated composer, I am now have second thoughts.

Tuesday 15 November 2016

Blackberry Wine - Fourteenth Bottle (A2), 3rd-4th November 2016

I find myself in a state of eternal exhaustion. Work is busy (which is a good thing), Claire is ill (which is not) but recovering and this week my only night in was Thursday. Hence a bottle of blackberry wine. I drank some while finishing the Book Group Book for Friday - The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley. Though I found it gripping in parts, and I cared about the characters, ultimately I was a little disappointed and I'm not sure why. Then I moved onto watching The Missing on i-player, which so far and until the last few seconds of this episode, has been excellent. Now, though, I fear it has degenerated into silliness and genre fiction.

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street - Claire's homage in the form of sausage roll

Saturday 12 November 2016

Rhubarb Wine - Sixth Bottle (B1), 29th-30th October 2016

My little sister is a bad influence. After an evening of not-quite excess, Rachael asked whether there was any more wine. There is close to 200 bottles. I fished out a bottle of rhubarb and we made minor inroads into it.

On Sunday I spent much of the day chasing after an energetic nephew, some of it in Roundhay Park. As soon as Myles saw the tourist train it was inevitable that we would have an overpriced journey to the top of the park and back again. Some of the rest of Sunday was spent with the remainder of the rhubarb wine and my invalid* wife.

*That is 'invalid' as in 'ill' rather than 'invalid' as in 'not recognised'.

Wednesday 9 November 2016

Fig Wine - Second Bottle (5), 29th October 2016

Mom, Rachael and Myles came to stay on Saturday night and I wanted to pour them the best of my wines. Well, not Myles, obviously. He is not yet four. Fig wine is an excellent bottle, and we needed something red to go with the lamb that Claire had just cooked.

It was a lovely evening, full of talk and laughter. Mom has recently returned from Japan and China, so kept us entertained with tales of the exotic.

We finished the evening with steamed ginger pudding, sat in front of the stove. As I say, a lovely evening.

Friday 4 November 2016

Blackcurrant Wine - Fourth Bottle (C6), 28th October 2016

Claire is not well - coughing, spluttering, not sleeping and nearly voiceless. So far I have managed to escape this lurgy - despite being surrounded by it both at work and home. It is my Hardy constitution.

On Friday night when I got home Claire said that she had no idea what to have for supper and that she needed plenty of Vitamin C. I ordered an Indian takeaway and opened a bottle of Blackcurrant Wine. Both problems solved in an instant.

Thursday 3 November 2016

Crab Apple Wine 2014 - Final Bottle (C2), 26th-29th October 2016

I dashed away from Madeleine's quintets on Wednesday so that I could watch the Final (and final time it is on BBC) of The Great British Bake Off. Claire's alcohol consumption currently only consists of hot toddies, so I drank this bottle of crab apple almost entirely by myself - albeit over three nights. The final Bake Off was as warm hearted as all previous episodes and I enjoyed it thoroughly.

On Saturday night I shared what was left of this bottle with Rachael and Mom, who were both visiting. This, though, was an appetiser for the rest of an excellent evening.

Sunday 30 October 2016

Apple Wine 2016 - The Making Of...

Our crab apple tree back at 14 Carr Manor Mount was less than eight feet tall. It produced many pounds of fruit, virtually all of it within easy picking range. The lowest hanging apples on the apple tree at Bentcliffe Drive are higher than 8 foot from the ground. This makes picking them a challenge. Claire had mentioned that she had some success pulling apples off by snagging them with the teeth of a rake. Even with this knowledge, I needed a step ladder.

Our apple tree and washing line

On Sunday, 16th October, shortly after a heavy downpour, I set up the ladder under the tree and looked over to Claire through the kitchen window. She was shaking her head. On going inside, it was pointed out to me in no uncertain terms that this was a foolhardy endeavour and I would probably break something. Not being one to give up on wine-making opportunities lightly, or to take good advice, I promised that I would be careful, that I would only go two steps up the ladder and that everything would be fine. And (for once) I was right.

The apples and the rake

The apples took some tugging and the rake often got caught in branches, but I managed to repeat Newton's gravity experiment several times over, being careful to spot where each apple plummeted. I managed to get four pounds of apples, enough for a single batch, and decided not to push my luck by going for twice this amount.

I have used exactly the same recipe as my crab apple wine on the basis that my past 'pure' apple wines have been disappointing. First task was to chop the apples into pieces and then whiz them through the food processor, using the 'slice' attachment. These went into the bucket, along with a pound of minced sultanas (again using the food processor) and three pounds of sugar. I covered all this with 7 pints of boiling water.

By Sunday night the liquid was cool enough to add the yeast and a teaspoon each of nutrient and pectolase. I strained the wine into its demijohns on Thursday night, 20th October. This was a quick job and entirely uneventful. Probably I could have cut down the water by half a pint. The wine is light brown (always an attractive colour for wine) and I anticipate a massive sediment.

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

Thursday 27 October 2016

Prune & Parsnip Wine - Seventh Bottle (B6), 20th-23rd October 2016

We needed to drink something rather better than the Vanilla Wine just finished on Thursday night. Pretty much any bottle would have done, but I pulled out a 'Prune & Parsnip' from under the stairs. We were officially 'on holiday', having taken Friday off work to go to Keith & Jaki's renewal of their marriage vows, so opening a second bottle on a Thursday night wasn't that scandalous. And in comparison to Vanilla, it is Nectar of the Gods.

We finished the bottle tonight, Sunday, while watching Sandi Toksvig's first episode of presenting QI. She is rather good and Stephen Fry will be less missed than I had imagined.

Tuesday 25 October 2016

Vanilla Wine - Fourth Bottle (3), 18th-20th October 2016

On the basis it was a Tuesday, I decided to open something nasty. We hardly ever drink on a Tuesday night, so something to discourage drinking seemed appropriate. Vanilla wine really isn't very good. Claire says that it is exactly on the borderline of "undrinkable". We still managed to finish the bottle. It joins the growing list of "Wines never to make again".

Sunday 23 October 2016

Xmas Tutti Fruti - Eighth Bottle (B5), 16th October 2016

Today has been one of those non-descript days where in its closing hours you wonder if it could have been better spent. Claire has been morose all day, except for the evening, because she isn't sleeping well. Next door has some sort of extractor fan which we can hear in our bedroom and which has started going off in two second bursts every 10-15 minutes through the night. I have managed to sleep through it, but Claire has not. A bottle of Christmas Tutti Fruti helped perk her up. It is delicious, with its deep fruit flavours.

News Flash. Claire has, just this second, handed me a plate of cakes, one of which is mostly made from spinach!

Thursday 20 October 2016

Orange Wine - Seventh Bottle (B3), 12th-15th October 2016

Orange wine is a reliable mid-week bottle ideal for sipping slowly while watching the Bake Off. This week, though, the bottle hung round until Saturday night, which is unusual. On Thursday I didn't have any because I was playing trios at Pat and Peter's. On Friday I didn't have any because it was Book Group at Gina's (Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier which I enjoyed but was not universally popular). On Saturday I didn't have any (apart from two stolen sips) because I had had a boozy lunch with Rodney at The Mustard Pot. Even though I did not have my fair share of this wine, it was a decent bottle of orange - sharp but not bitter.

Sunday 16 October 2016

Elderberry Wine - First Bottle (A5), 8th October 2016

I had the absolute pleasure of sharing this bottle of wine with Claire and Sue in St Dogmaels. Claire and I travelled all the way to Pembrokeshire to play in Haydn's Creation, but having missed the Abbey Shakespeare this year, it was alson an excuse to see Sue.

We had a glorious weekend; Sunday morning found us at Poppit Sands in warm October sunlight. Most of the time was taken up with playing - it is wonderful music, though the conductor commented audibly on imperfections during the performance and twice clapped the beat for several bars. Saturday night, though, was a relaxed affair, talking non-stop with Sue and drinking this rather decent vintage of elderberry wine. It has a semi-sweet distinctive taste and it is one that will age well.

St Dogmaels High Street

Friday 14 October 2016

Crab Apple Wine - Sixth Bottle (C6), 5th-6th October 2016

Hurrah! I am on holiday (sort of). Friday will involve a long drive to Pembrokeshire, which is an official day off work. Thursday was my unofficial day, when I went to London for a conference - and going to London, even if it is work-related, is always a little bit exciting. I managed 15 minutes in Tate Modern as my tourist treat.

As an anticipatory celebration I opened a bottle of crab apple wine on Wednesday - after baking a banana cake - and had my fair share of each, leaving Claire to polish off the bottle as I returned from the Capital.

Tuesday 11 October 2016

Blackcurrant Wine - Third Bottle (C5?), 2nd October 2016

I was the chef on Sunday. My toad-in-the-hole is a thing of beauty. Okay, I exaggerate a little, but it was good and I think my onion gravy was the best I have done. Topping it all off with blackcurrant wine was almost an excess of delights.

The day was a pleasant, unmemorable Sunday. Most excitingly we bought a new garden rake. Otherwise, we explored south and east of our neighbourhood, I got some documents certified and I put myself in a bad mood by practising the first movement of Brahms' Third Symphony. So, literally, a thrill a minute.

Friday 7 October 2016

Ginger Wine - Final Bottle (5), 28th-29th September 2016

The final bottle of this ginger wine was smoother than my memory of previous bottles. It was still too sweet but there was no near-bitter bite - and that is a good thing. This is another flavour where age improves things (its vintage is November 2012).

We drank the first half of the bottle while watching Bake Off in our pyjamas. While coming downstairs, dressed in my night attire, anticipating cosy television and a glass of ginger wine, I was struck by how lucky I have been. This scenario sounds like the epitome of middle-aged and middle-class dullness. But the cap fits. At that moment, there was nowhere that I would have preferred to be. The ginger wine could have been a little drier, though.

I don't particularly feel like a decrepit corpse. And there is a typo!

Tuesday 4 October 2016

Rose Petal Wine - Fourth Bottle (A2), 25th September 2016

Autumn is upon us. I can tell this because we had a roast chicken. Food should be seasonal, and a roast Sunday dinner marks the drawing in of nights. A bottle of rose petal wine, particularly one as tasty as this, was the perfect accompaniment. It has a fragrant taste and is the correct level of dryness. As was the day itself. I spent some of it in the sunshine picking elderberries, much of it in our dining room stripping the same off their stalks, and a fraction of the rest practising the bassoon. I appear to have volunteered to play a solo at Music Club. That was careless.

Saturday 1 October 2016

Elderberry Wine 2016 - The Making Of...

September has been as warm as July this year. The middle two weeks were glorious. This is not something to complain about. However, it caused me to worry about the availability of elderberries. On Sunday 18th September I explored the area near Gledhow Wood Road where I had gathered elderflowers in June. I had expected trees dripping with elderberries and instead found scant pickings. Either the elderberries were black and ash-like, or they had been snatched by the birds. I went home disheartened with only 8 ounces.

A typical tree on my first attempt

The following Sunday I tried Stonegate Fields, which was only slightly better, and then the open area behind Stainbeck Road, where at last I found a couple of fecund trees. This still only produced 2 lbs of elderberries - not enough even for a single batch. That afternoon, without much hope, I drove to Hetchell Woods and walked down Kennel Lane. Ahead of me was a young couple carrying plastic bags. As I got closer, I saw that one of those bags contained elderberries. This was unwelcome competition. I greeted them with "I see we have exactly the same idea", told them my recipe, assured them that there would be plenty of berries for both of us, and then made sure that I overtook them.

Much better!

Quickly I found a field off Kennel Lane where I saw many elder trees hanging with black fruit. I went in and managed to fill my bags - my worries had proved groundless. This produced far more than the 6 lbs I needed for a double batch. The rest are in the freezer.

Stripping the berries from their stalks took about two hours, during which I listened to a Dum-Tee-Dum podcast. I crushed these in my bucket with a potato masher and added 5 lbs of sugar and 12 pints of boiling water.

On Monday morning, 26th September, I put in the yeast and a teaspoon each of nutrient and pectolase. After stirring twice a day I transferred the liquid into its demijohns on Friday night, 30th September. It is fermenting away and is the darkest of all my wines.

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

Thursday 29 September 2016

Rhubarb Wine - Fifth Bottle (A6), 18th-21st September 2016

Sunday found me driving a 21 foot van to Whitby whilst wearing a Superman T-shirt. My colleagues had cycled from Morecambe to Whitby over 3 days and needed someone to drive their bikes back to Leeds. When a call went out for drivers I hadn't anticipated that I would be driving anything other than my (small and red) car. Other than the crash, everything went swimmingly.

The type of van I drove

Back at home Claire asked if I wanted anything to drink. In fact I was so exhausted that I only had one glass of rhubarb wine, which was cold and pink and refreshing. Claire has had the rest of the bottle over the week (with occasional sips from me) because I am on antibiotics. Yet again my wisdom tooth is infected and I live with a dull, nagging, constant pain.
In Whitby with a colleague

Saturday 24 September 2016

Fig Wine 2016 - The Making Of...

I do have selfish parents. They are spending mid-August to mid-October travelling around America, Japan and China. Don't they realise it is Fig season? I have had to make a special trip to York on two occasions to pick figs from their tree. Couldn't they have gone in November when nothing in their garden is useful for wine? As I say, selfish.

A fig on my parents' tree

My parents' tree
My first trip was on 4th September, where I picked 3 lbs of figs. Some of this involved climbing the fig tree, feeling the branches bend beneath my weight. I also trespassed into next door's garden to pluck a juicy fig hanging beyond the party wall. Our second visit was the following week, 11 September, where only another 2 lbs were ripe - but 5 lbs is enough for a single batch of wine. There were several more fruit growing on the tree and I imagine that the birds will take full advantage.

Back home I kept the ripest figs in the freezer and let those that were still mostly green ripen on our kitchen counter. On Friday 16th September I cut each of the figs into bits and put them in my bucket. I think the figs are riper, darker than last year, but that is probably a false memory.

Though ripe defrosted figs do not require much crushing, I still attacked them with a potato masher and then covered them with 3 lbs sugar. I boiled six pints of water and poured this over, giving it all a thorough stir. At this stage the mixture was soupy, but it all separated out over the next few days. Next time I will increase the water by half a pint: on putting the wine into its demijohns on Thursday night, 22nd September, I was filtering the thickest of sludge at the end of the process and I would ordinarily have discarded this.

The soupy fig mixture
But I have got ahead of myself. I added the yeast and a teaspoon each of pectolase, tannin, nutrient and citric acid on Saturday morning, 17th September. Really I should have transferred the wine into the demijohns a day earlier than I did, but Wednesday was busy with WYSO and the Bake Off. The method of transferring was the same as ever - fish out most the solids with a collander at the beginning, then start putting the liquid into the demijohn using a jug, sieve and funnel. I now have Fig wine in its demijohn, fermenting happily and dark plum in colour.

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

Friday 23 September 2016

Blackberry Wine - First Bottle (B1), 17th September 2016

This is another cracking vintage of blackberry wine. It has the correct level of sweetness and the taste is unmistakable. Blackberry is almost too easy to drink - its burst of flavour means there is little depth on which to concentrate. We toasted each one of the names on the graves I recorded in the 'Making Of...' post (see below for a link) as we had our first sips.

It being a Saturday night in the Hardy-Taylor household, I spent much of my evening listening to a documentary on Radio 4 about Public Information Films from the 1940s to present day. It was far more interesting than that might sound.

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

Tuesday 20 September 2016

Crab Apple Wine - Fifth Bottle (B6), 16th September 2016

Our oven clock showed 17:59 when I asked Claire whether I should open a bottle. She gave the oven a hard stare and the time flipped to 18:00, answering that particular question.

The wine was a good bottle of crab apple - sharp, not too dry and definitely made from apples. We drank it in the kitchen as I was elbow-deep (nearly literally) in my blackberry wine must, and we only just stretched the bottle to our evening meal. Still, there were the remnants from bottling orange wine to go.

Sunday 18 September 2016

Elderberry Wine 2012 - Final Bottle (B6), 11th September 2016

Claire said that she wanted the best bottle of elderberry in the house. She had cooked 'Kleftiko' - a lamb dish that requires a day to prepare. I remembered we still had a bottle of Elderberry 2012, so dug that out from below the stairs. Leaving the wine for four years has done it no end of good. Despite its fizz, it was a fuller, rounder taste. Deep, rich, with a strong elderberry flavour. The lamb was also superb - I could cut it with a plastic spoon.

We drank the first couple of glasses rapt, listening to an hour long episode of The Archers. It was the trial's denouement. We were taken iinside the juryroom as the jury deliberated on Helen Archer's fate. The episode was beautifully written and acted: tense and believable. And, of course, the verdict was 'Not Guilty'. A nation rejoices.

Saturday 17 September 2016

Blackberry Wine 2016 - The Making Of...

Driving back from Newcastle on 4th September, we made a diversion to York to make sure all was sound with my parents' house while they are away. The fact that there were ripening figs to be harvested did not cross my mind. With the lavender pruned and a bowl of figs collected, we made our way to York Victorian Cemetery, arriving half an hour before it closed. Even at my most efficient, this did not give us time to pick the 12 lbs of blackberries that I wanted, so Claire and I returned the following Sunday morning, 11th September, armed with baskets and plastic bags.

It was a beautiful day - we are experiencing the warmest and longest Indian Summer that I can remember - and picking blackberries was a pleasure. I tried an area of the cemetery where I have not been before: one that began to be populated with graves in the 1950s. Generally I try to avoid tombstones younger than a century, but the fruit was so luscious and large that I made an exception. The names to whom I will raise a glass when I first taste this wine are Frank Roberts, George Zimmerman, Elijah and Rose Copley and (in particular) Ethel Metcalfe. Thank you all.

In two hours I managed to pick over 7 lbs of blackberries and Claire got more than 5 lbs, so my goal was achieved: a triple batch of blackberry wine.

Back at home I did not wash the fruit, it being so ripe (another week would have been too late) and I only rescued one woodlouse, so I suspect the wine will not be truly vegan. I crushed the fruit in my bucket with a potato masher, added 7 lbs 12 oz of sugar and poured over 14 pints of boiling water. This is less water than in previous years but then the blackberries produced more liquid. (In fact, I could have had another pint and a half of water in there.)

On Monday morning I added the yeast and (only) one teaspoon each of nutrient and pectolase. I put the wine into its three demihohns on Friday night, 16th September. This took about forty minutes and by the end the liquid was more of a thick gravy than a free-flowing wine. It is fermenting well and is a lovely vibrant aubergine colour. Aubergine wine - now there's an idea!

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

Wednesday 14 September 2016

Orange Wine - Sixth Bottle (A1), 7th September 2016

Ordinarily, when watching The Great British Bake Off, we will share half a bottle of wine between us, leaving the rest for Thursday. This bottle was out of the ordinary. Claire was spittingly angry. Someone took exception to my parking at some point, presumably earlier in the day, and stuck a paper pig onto the car saying "You park like a pig" (or something) and the adhesive doesn't come off. This left me puzzled and concerned (I really don't think I parked badly anywhere - possibly very slightly too close to the car in front, outside the Emmaus building - but nothing that would merit a cross note) but it left Claire furious. She thinks it is low-level vandalism. A bottle of orange wine was a calming measure.

Sunday 11 September 2016

Mango Wine - Third Bottle (5), 4th September 2016

After a long day's drive from Newcastle to York to Leeds, and an aborted attempt to pick blackberries from York Victorian Cemetery, I was feeling somewhat less than lovely. Claire hinted that we may not have a bottle, but I scotched that attempt at sobriety. The wine itself was inconsequential - fine, slightly sparkling, dry, no taste whatsoever of mangos - but it did its Sunday evening job. By the time I went to bed, life was looking better, if more blurry.

Friday 9 September 2016

Fig Wine - First Bottle (3), 3rd September 2016

What a superb bottle of wine, in every respect. It has the colour and clarity of rubies. The taste is divine - rich, rounded, fruity and substantial. 2014's vintage was good. This one is even better.

We are up in Newcastle, celebrating Nick Byrne's 40th birthday. All six of his siblings were there and it was a pleasure to see them all. The fig wine, though, was saved for the evening when I only had to share it out amongst four Taylors, which meant we all got a generous helping. Of course, I was most generous to me.

Nick Byne is the one with a cello
If you want to see how I made this wine click here.

Thursday 8 September 2016

Blackcurrant Wine - Second Bottle (A6), 2nd September 2016

Blackcurrant wine is delicious. This vintage is fizzy, sharp and loaded with fruit. It is Claire's favourite flavour for good reason. We drank it on Friday night while listening to The Archers (the trial is fast approaching), then while eating curry & dumplings (an odd but successful combination) and then finally in bed while scoffing a mirror-glazed genoise cake with orange jelly, chocolate icing and spiced kumquats. It was an excellent night.

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

Monday 5 September 2016

Crab Apple Wine - Fourth Bottle (D1), 31st August - 2nd September 2016

The Great British Bake Off is back. It has been for a couple of weeks - but we drank bush tea for the first episode. I opened a bottle of crab apple for this one and drank most of it while watching lovely people make biscuits with varying degrees of success. I still don't quite understand the appeal (the programme, rather than the wine - its apple appeal is self-evident) because it should not be interesting. I am hooked, however, and on the basis of this and Doctor Who, have now bought a television licence. The loophole which allowed me to watch without one closed this week.

Sunday 4 September 2016

Rhubarb Wine - Fourth Bottle (A1), 29th August 2016

Alcohol is meant to be a muscle relaxant. Therefore, this bottle was officially good for me. My muscles have been well used this weekend, and to show for it we now have a rockery and a bed ready for planting in the front garden. Previously it was a disaster zone full of clay, large stones and tree stumps. The physical labour has paid off and I have enjoyed it immensely. It looks great too.

Rhubarb wine and swordfish were my rewards. Both delicious, and an excellent way to round off a fine Sunday.

How it looked when we bought the house
How it looked when all horrid conifers were taken out
How it looks now

Wednesday 31 August 2016

Crab Apple & Strawberry Wine - Final Bottle (2), 28th August 2016

I took this bottle over to Jenny's as one of my best. We had a lovely evening - Jenny had made two cold salads (carrot & tahini, and green bean & red pepper) and chicken baked in cardamon & clove rice. Excellent food. We rounded off the evening playing Stapelmรคnnchen - an Austrian game similar to Jenga but using colourful plastic men wth holes and long arms, rather than building blocks. I lost the final game in spectacular fashion.

The wine was lovely, though I only had a glass. Fruity and rounded.

Not even slightly associated with wine, there are two blogs written by friends of mine that I have been enjoying. One about science, written for a general audience, which can be found here (actually that one does have something to do with wine) - and one which is, so far, about a hip replacement, but I am sure will be about lots more besides - and that can be found here.

Tuesday 30 August 2016

Strawberry Wine 2013 - Final Bottle (2), 27th August 2016

What better way to kick off a bank holiday weekend than with a bottle of strawberry wine? How about a six mile walk home from work? This is only the second time I have walked back since we moved house, and the return journey feels longer and slower than the same walk in the opposite direction. It made the strawberry wine all the more welcome (and effective) and there was no problem at all in finishing the bottle.

Having left this vintage over a year since the last bottle, I was interested to see if there would be any difference. It is, of course, difficult to remember, but I don't think there was. The wine was as full flavoured and rounded as ever. Strawberry is a great wine.

Monday 29 August 2016

Fig Wine - Final Bottle (1), 24th August 2016

Pop came over to stay as a prelude to his and Mom's adventure in the Far East. He flies to Nebraska tomorrow, meeting up with Mom. In a few weeks they go to Japan and then China. Mom says that this will be their last big trip and Pop hopes this to be true.

It was a wonderful evening, part of which was spent drinking Fig wine in the garden and all of which was spent in good natured conversation about nothing very much. I am exceedingly lucky in my parents and I like them tremendously. My father is a Good Man and the person I strive to be.

The man I strive to be

Sunday 28 August 2016

Crab Apple Wine - Final Bottle (B2), 21st-24th August

On Sunday night, Claire and I had another blind gin taste test, to see if the results from our last experiment (maybe a year ago) still held true. We tried two posh Lake District gins against Gordons. Neat, there was a barely discernable difference. With tonic there was none at all. This is pleasing - from now on it is cheap gin for us.

Much of the crab apple wine followed this and half a bottle of Blackberry between us. On a Sunday night this was a bit too much and Monday was spent feeling slightly delicate. Still, I survived to have the rest of the wine over Tuesday and Wednesday.

Thursday 25 August 2016

Blackberry Wine - Thirteenth Bottle (C3), 20th-21st August 2016

It is unusual to drink half a bottle of wine once one has returned from a restaurant. On Saturday night, Claire and I ventured out to a new pizza restaurant on Street Lane, with it Neopolitan wood-fired pizzas. Sounded fabulous. There was, however, a distinct lack of a wine list. The place was not licensed, so I made the best of a bad situation by having a non-alcoholic cocktail involving mango and ginger beer. Within minutes of our food arriving a small boy at the next table vomited profusely. Beige liquid showered out of his mouth, and the restaurant was quickly filled with the smell of Dettol as waitresses came running with mops. We ate quickly, rushed home and opened a bottle.

Tuesday 23 August 2016

Rhubarb, Elderflower & Mint Wine - Second Bottle (6), 14th August 2016

I overheard Claire tell Rachel "I think this is the best wine Ben has ever made". Now, I don't think I would go quite that far, but it is excellent (if one ignores the murky, floaty things at the bottom of the bottle). It is a sharp, fresh taste and the colour is a shining pink. We drank it over a lazy Sunday meal, involving pork and pommegranate molasses after a lazy Sunday afternoon in which I mowed the lawn (a mammoth task, made harder by having left it for four weeks), baked bread and made wine. So perhaps not that lazy afterall.

Saturday 20 August 2016

Blackcurrant Wine and Blackcurrant & Gooseberry Wine - The Making Of...

Blackcurrants & honeysuckle & rocket
This year has been less prolific in terms of blackcurrants than last. The fruit has also been later and I wonder if the two are connected. My (undoubtedly false) memories of last year reveal handfuls of blackcurrants being plucked from our bushes daily from July to August. This summer has required more work, with half a pound being collected once every four or five days. In total our bushes have produced 5 lbs and 7 oz and that is not enough for a double batch.

Our blackcurrant bushes

Blackcurrants & Hydrangea
Claire suggested bulking out the fruit with our gooseberries, so that is what I have done. The gooseberries have also been a little disappointing. I got excited in April, seeing how many flowers we had and how unaffected by sawfly our goosberries were. But I think in total I harvested fewer than 2 lbs. Nevermind - next year should be better.

So, what I have done is make one demijohn of pure blackcurrant wine, for which I needed 3 lbs of blackcurrants, and one demijohn of blackcurrant & gooseberry wine, which has 2 lbs blackcurrants and 1 lb gooseberries (a mix of green and red). The method has been the same in each case.
The mix of blackcurrants and gooseberries
On Sunday, 14th August, I defrosted the fruit and put each batch in a different bucket. I mashed these with a potato masher, until the fruit had become a pulpy paste. For each, I dissolved 3 lbs of sugar in 5½ pints of water. I brought this to the boil and poured it over the fruit. For the pure blackcurrant, this water was exactly right. The other could have had about a quarter of a pint more.

The fruit in each bucket before mashing
Next morning I added the yeast and a teaspoon of nutrient and pectolase to each bucket.

I should have put both wines into their demijohns on Friday night, but it was Book Group (Fingersmith by Sarah Waters - excellent). Instead, I did this on Saturday morning in between last night's washing-up and having breakfast. Making wine in one's pyjamas suggests a dissolute lifestyle.

If you want to see how the blackcurrant and gooseberry came out, click here.

Friday 19 August 2016

Rose Petal Wine - Third Bottle (C6), 13th August 2016

We were treated to an evening of experimental food at Richard and Linda's on Saturday night. The crab-cakes were so delicious; sweet, tender meat fried to perfection; that we ordered Richard back into the kitchen to cook some more. This was followed by aubergine, tomato and feta grilled in slices with a potato salad. Our pudding was a summer-berry cake with hazlenut icecream (home-made). I brought a bottle of rose petal wine to the table, forgetting that this has not been Richard's favourite flavour in the past. This vintage is superior, though, and Richard claimed to enjoy it.

Wednesday 17 August 2016

Orange Wine - Fifth Bottle (A2), 12th August 2016

This was a typical Friday night bottle, shared while listening to Radio 4, cooking and chatting in the kitchen. The meal was a 'The Sick and the Weak' special involving quinoa and bulgar wheat. We are so middle class. We managed to save the last glass each until we were sate down to eat - and as that didn't happen until 8:30, I think we deserve a pat on the back.

Orange is definitely the best of the citrus wines - to the extent that I will only make this one from now on.

Tuesday 16 August 2016

Prune & Parsnip Wine - Sixth Bottle (B2), 11th August 2016

Emma came round last night for a meal, mostly cooked by me. Actually, probably half cooked by me. Well, I did the beanburgers and sauce, and I boiled the potatoes. We haven't seen Emma since late June and it was a lovely evening, helped along by a bottle of Prune & Parsnip wine - which I felt was a bit sweet. There was nothing exciting about the evening, or the day that went before it (save that I was sharper than I intended to be with a young man who knocked on our door trying to raise funds for Bernardos) but it was a pleasant day, nonetheless.

Monday 15 August 2016

Christmas Tutti Fruti - Seventh Bottle (B4), 7th August 2016

After Friday night's over-indulgence, I had planned to take some time off from the booze. 'Not quite 48 hours' is within the definition 'Some time'. It was Claire's fault. She asked me whether I wanted to open a bottle. Pressurised into it, as you can see.

I know I keep saying it, but this flavour is fabulous. Rich and fruity with more than a hint of rose. It was a fine way to end our week's holiday. And now I really will stay off the wine. Probably until Wednesday.

Friday 12 August 2016

Blackcurrant & Raspberry Wine - Fifth Bottle (A2), 5th August 2016

It seemed fitting that Julia's Memorial Wine* made an appearance on the last night of Rydal. I poured several people a taste and we raised our glasses to her. The wine was thinner than I remember but still entirely quaffable. We then had a riotous and noisy evening of quizzes, games and far too much to drink. This involved having to sing a limerick** composed by Sooz about Albert Ketelbey to the tune of Ding Dong Merrily on High. And that doesn't sound surreal at all.

* I call this wine 'Memorial Wine' because it was made from the contents of Julia's freezer, which I took after she died in 2014. I try to drink this wine with people who remember her. She always came to Rydal and was an excellent stage manager for our last night shenanigans.

**There once was a man called Ketelbey
Who went for a walk of a Fell. Be-
-fore he set out
He was crippled with doubt
About something but he wouldn't tell me.

Our friend, a nice double bassist
Was very soon on the case, est-
-ablished his doubt
Was because he'd found out
That his music was casually racist

Wednesday 10 August 2016

Blackcurrant Wine - First Bottle (D5), 2nd August 2016

This bottle will be remembered for 'The Mahler Flounce'. I opened it in the bar at Rydal about an hour after I walked out of a rehearsal rather more publicly than I had intended. We were playing the Fourth movement of Mahler's First Symphony and I just couldn't bear it. No part of me was enjoying the experience, so I left. But everyone watched my walk of shame all the way back to the Hall. Sharing round a bottle of blackcurrant after that was an act of redemption. It is its usual blackcurranty self, and that is no bad thing.

Tuesday 9 August 2016

Lemon & Lime Wine - Fifth Bottle (4), 31st July - 3rd August 2016

This was not my most popular bottle of wine taken to Rydal Hall. That it took four evenings to finish speaks for itself. Janet said that it was evocative of her teenage years, which were apparently spent drinking Cinzano. Other than me, only one person braved a second glass. It was spurned at the next day's gin o'clock in favour of sloe gin and rhubarb schnapps. I can't think why.

Monday 8 August 2016

Crab Apple Wine - Third Bottle (C1), 29th July 2016

It has been a difficult, exhausting day. The final day at work before a week off is always fraught - trying to anticipate anything that might occur over the next seven days, and dealing with it there and then. Throw three completions into the mix, none of which are easy, and a bottle of crab apple wine is almost obligatory.

We are off to Rydal tomorrow, though not before we see Lambert and Christie get married, and I am just about unwound into the holiday mood.

The crab apple wine was delightful - as light and refreshing as ever - and an excellent way to start a week's holiday.

Sunday 7 August 2016

Blackberry Wine - Twelfth Bottle (A4), 28th July 2016

Despite it being a Thursday night, finishing this bottle was an inevitability. None of Claire's experiments had worked and I am distinctly worried about two completions tomorrow. So, all in all, a bad day at work for both of us. A bottle of blackberry was just what the doctor ordered (in this case that doctor was Dr Claire Taylor) and improved our moods no end. We chatted companionably in the kitchen whilst the chicken was frying  and potatoes boiling, and forced ourselves not to finish the wine before we ate. As ever it had a powerful blackberry taste but was a little dry.

Saturday 6 August 2016

Crab Apple & Strawberry Wine - Fifth Bottle (1), 23rd July 2016

This was our third bottle of the evening, and between the four of us that is one too many. In our defence, the first was a German white, which had a lower-than-average alcohol content and was too sweet. Also, we retained a veneer of respectability by waiting until we ate before opening this wine. As penance, I have not opened a bottle tonight (Sunday), so moderation rules supreme.

The wine was as good as ever - Rachel picked up a floral taste - and we had a hearty Czech cabbage stew to go with it (and that is nicer than it sounds).

Saturday 30 July 2016

Blackcurrant Wine - Seventeenth Bottle (A6), 23rd July 2016

In a week's time we will be at Rydal. During this time, if they are not to go to waste, our blackcurrants will need picking. I have made a start on them, but they ripen at different rates. Becky will be our chief picker, and by way of bribe, I opened a bottle of blackcurrant wine for her.

Claire, Rachel, Becky and I sat in the garden, drinking wine, eating pickles and ham, and enjoying the brief summer we are experiencing. This wine was rich and port-like, and I have convinced Becky that she has a vital job whilst we are away.