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 March 2016

Blackcurrant Wine - Eleventh Bottle (C5), 19th-20th March 2016

What a fabulous bottle of wine. This was packed with healthy vitamin C and is therefore officially Good For You. Fact. Every now and again I make a bottle of wine which I would drink in preference to a good red - and this was one. I opened it immediately after a WYSO concert, which went surprisingly well. We had had a poor rehearsal, where pieces fell apart and the Mendelssohn was particularly ropey. This ensured that the orchestra concentrated all the way through the concert and I think it paid off. The Tchaikovsky Romeo & Juliet Overture was the highlight. It has been a weekend of concerts, though, and this bottle was finished after the ASO concert where my overriding memory will be of being far too hot throughout. It did nothing for my tuning.

Saturday 26 March 2016

Ya Ya Pear Wine - The Making Of ...

Claire, if you asked her, would say that she is Long Suffering. She has to put up with wine bottles in every room, fruit in the freezer and demijohns in the bath. All because one year she bought me a wine-making kit for Christmas. On Saturday, 19th March, Claire proved that, despite all this, she does actually love me. She asked whether I had yet ticked 'Y' off my wine alphabet (I haven't) and told me that she had seen something called 'Ya Ya Pears' for sale at Noshis. Now, I have made pear wine before, and that was disgusting, but I was really struggling for the letter Y. Apparently there is an edible plant called Yarrow, but I don't know where to find that, and Yam Wine sounds fraught with peril. So Ya-Ya Pears fit the bill nicely (though when I have looked them up on Wikipedia it calls them 'Ya Pears').

I hot-footed it to Noshis and found the pears selling at five for a pound. Fifteen came to about 5 lbs in weight, so that is what I bought. They are pale - a yellowy-greeny-white skin that is speckled with faded brown dots, and rounder than European pears.

On Sunday morning I cut each pear into small pieces and put these in the bucket. I tried a piece and the overall taste was bland with a hint of pear, so I don't hold out too much hope for the resulting wine. I added 2 lbs 12 oz sugar and seven pints of boiling water.

The afternoon and evening were spent in Ilkley practising and then performing Brahms' Tragic Overture, Elgar's Cello Concerto and Dvorak's Seventh Symphony. On my return the liquid had cooled sufficiently to add the yeast and a teaspoon each of pectolase and nutrient.

I left this until Friday evening, 25th March, though stirred it once or twice a day. Putting the liquid into its demijohn was a quick job, and mostly done during a traumatic episode of The Archers, where the domestic abuse storyline with Helen and Rob must surely be coming to a denoument. The wine has an undead look to it, as if made by ghosts.

I racked this on 4 June, which is a bit later than I would ordinarily rack it, and I tried to video myself doing this, to show how the racking works. Unfortunately, for some unfathomable reason, the video decided to stop after a minute and sixteen seconds. I have no idea why, and it remains a tale half told. Anyway, here is the video.

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

Wednesday 23 March 2016

Elderberry Wine - Final Bottle (A5), 18th March 2016

Ordinarily on a Friday night I have at least a gin & tonic more than half a bottle of wine. Tonight I have stuck to the elderberry and I suspect that Claire had a tad more wine than me. Tomorrow I need to be fighting fit. We have a concert and I am worried about it. Worried enough to do an hour's bassoon practice, and that never happens. The elderberry wine, though, was fabulous and chosen by Claire to accompany steak - brown on the outside, but bloody pink were it matters.

It is rare that we eat red meat and that makes the experience all the better. Elderberry is a perfect wine to go with it - and an aged elderberry particularly so - smooth, fruity and dark. Here is to no hangover tomorrow!

Monday 21 March 2016

Blackcurrant & Raspberry Wine - Fourth Bottle (A5), 12th March 2016

Eastern Europe was the theme of Saturday's Feast. Ros, Alex, Vicky and Emma came to ours - partly to eat lots of wonderful food and partly to examine the new house. Christian & Kate were invited but have split up (about which I am very sad) and neither came.

The food was, indeed, wonderful. We started with blinis and all sorts of exciting accompaniments mostly bought from a Polish shop (pink, salty fish-eggs are nasty). Next was a clear beetroot soup, followed by Bigos - apparently the national Polish dish with more meat than is sensible, including a spicy Polish sausage. We finished with Dobos Torte. Against all this, the wine was unremarkable, and in fact that was delicious too.

Half a Dobos Torte

Saturday 19 March 2016

Orange Wine 2016 - The Making Of ...

Nasty 1960s pebble-dashed garage (RIP)
 After a long, dark, wet winter, it felt like Spring was upon us this weekend. The sun shone all of Sunday, 13th March, and now the ghastly 1960s pebble-dashed garage has been taken down, our garden gets a good deal of light. It was a shame that Sunday afternoon was taken up with an Airedale Symphony Orchestra rehearsal, but Claire managed to spend much of the morning in the garden.

I spent the entirety of Desert Island Discs thinly peeling 12 oranges and not doing a particularly good job of avoiding the pith - so I predict a bitter aftertaste to this wine. I covered the peel with two pints of boiling water and let this sit around until Monday morning.

This year the oranges were selling at seven for a pound and appear to be good quality. On Sunday evening I squeezed all 24 of them, changing hands every two and taking a slight break every four - mostly to feed the cats, who continue to insist that they want something to eat. This produced nearly four pints of orange juice and bits, and all of this went into the bucket.

On the basis that 2015's batch of orange is so good, I followed the quantities for that vintage, so I put in 5½ pounds of sugar and 9 pints of cold water. It being cold water, I added the yeast immediately along with a teaspoon each of nutrient and pectolase.

On Monday morning, before leaving for work, I added the water that had been covering the orange peel and threw the peel away.

I left all this in its bucket until Friday night, 18th March, when I put the wine into its two demijohns. This was a quicker job than many wines, made all the duller by Any Questions on Radio 4. Still, just as I was finishing, the news came in that Ian Duncan Smith has resigned and his cuts of £30 per week to those on Disability Living Allowance have been reversed (or, at least, delayed). This is genuinely heartwarming.
Orange Wine in front of where garage used to be
If you want to see how this wine turned out, click here

Friday 18 March 2016

Rhubarb Wine - Ninth Bottle (B4), 11th March 2016

Helen, who I think has enjoyed my rhubarb wine in the past, said "Having known you for over ten years, I feel safe in asking for something different." I handed her a glass of real red. Maureen took a sip from the offending glass and gurned. I don't know what they're complaining about. The wine is pink, sparkling and dry and I think really rather nice. They know nothing.

It was Book Group round ours, where we were discussing Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov. I voted it a 'Miss', but actually, having heard the discussion, began to change my mind. There is a depth and a coldness to it that have merit.

Tuesday 15 March 2016

Crab Apple Wine - Twelfth Bottle (C6), 9th-11th March

I came back from WYSO in a far better mood than had gone. On Wednesday I had been feeling headachy and run down all day, and I am worrying about an unsightly black lumpy rash on my back. But at WYSO I entertained myself by swapping mouthpieces between a French Horn and a bassoon, and all anxiety was chased away by laughter.

We opened the bottle on our return, and shared it over Thursday and Friday. In fact, I didn't need any wine on Thursday. I had spent the day in London on a course (taking time to visit Tate Modern) and came back on a first class ticket. Being plied with copious amounts of booze seems to be one of the perks of travelling first class. How the other half live!

Turns out it's Shingles and not cancer at all

Sunday 13 March 2016

Strawberry Wine - Fourth Bottle (5), 6th March 2016

When visiting Richard & Linda, it is only polite to take a bottle of strawberry wine. We had meant to go sometime in February but failed to co-ordinate diaries, and all Saturdays in March were discounted too. Hence we found ourselves eating a goats' cheese & rosemary bread & butter pudding on Sunday night. Sounds weird, tastes fabulous. I was told that whenever we come for a meal, Richard will always work goats' cheese into it because Claire is such a fan. This is why I generally take a bottle of strawberry to Richard - it is his favourite, and with good reason.

The evening was lovely, and Linda looks happy again.

Incidentally, I am not sure where to put the apostrophe in the phrase "goats cheese" [sic].

Saturday 12 March 2016

Blackberry Wine - Seventh Bottle (B4), 3rd-8th March 2016

Ordinarily it does not take five days to get through a bottle of Blackberry Wine. That is reserved for the most horrible of my brews. However, I abandoned Claire on both Thursday (curry with Darren and Nigel) and Friday (a Brooke North reunion to say farewell to Stuart) nights. This left Claire alone with a bottle for company - and she showed remarkable temperance by not finishing it. I had the final glass on Tuesday night: just to make sure there was nothing wrong with it, you understand. There wasn't.

Friday 11 March 2016

Orange Wine - First Bottle (B4), 1st-2nd March 2016

This orange wine is splendid. It has a smoother taste than 2014's vintage: there is no bitter hint but the orange flavour is maintained. It has a sweetness and freshness which are both welcome.

On Wednesday night I was glad of its availability. When we turned up to WYSO, half the orchestra were outside the school door unable to get access. The care taker was adamant that we had been told that the school was closed for exams. I was equally adamant that I had received no e-mail telling us this. Eventually he let us rehearse in the drama hall and disaster was avoided.

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

Sunday 6 March 2016

Elderberry Wine - Fourth Bottle (B6), 28th February 2016

It has been a while since my wine has developed lumps of jelly. On the whole, solidified wine is not be be encouraged. I am hoping that they were only in this bottle because it was last out of the demijohn. And, happily, there weren't that many of them. More than none, though. Nothing a sieve wouldn't sort out.

Otherwise, the wine was good: a rich, dark elderberry, which went splendidly with a beef & mushroom pie. We spent the remainder of the evening watching the last episode of Torchwood: Children of Earth, which I enjoyed rather more than Claire.

Wednesday 2 March 2016

Pineapple Wine - Final Bottle (4), 26th-28th February 2016

Pineapple wine is definitely on the 'dessert' spectrum. It has a sweet, full taste that would not go well with a delicate fish. On Saturday we had delicate fish. Turbot fillets (at great expense) in a lemon sauce with courgettes fried in dill. Happily, I had chilled a bottle of Chardonay in anticipation.

The pineapple was opened on Friday evening after Linda's art show. She had made a crocodile (full size) from felt, which was both cuddly and sinister - an unusual combination, and one that was not dissimilar to this wine.

We finished the bottle tonight - Sunday - as an aperitif to the main attraction (elderberry). It has been a lovely weekend. I have cooked Spanish food, experimented with a piccoloon, been to an unlikely pond-selling smallholding in Garforth, shovelled horse poo (actually Claire did the shovelling) and ventured into the garden properly for the first time this year. As I say, lovely.

The Piccoloon

Tuesday 1 March 2016

Crab Apple Wine - Eleventh Bottle (B1), 24th-25th February 2016

This bottle of crab apple wine was inexplicably better than the last. Crisp and full of apple taste. Maybe I was just in a good mood. I had particularly enjoyed WYSO - the bassoon part for Romeo & Juliet is satisfying: hard enough to feel like a job well done at the end.

I finished the bottle on Thursday night while Claire was out playing string quartets, taking the opportunity to watch The Night Manager. This is a luxurious adaptation of a John Le Carré novel, and expertly done by the BBC. The cast is amazing and it looks fantastic.