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 29 April 2016

Dandelion Wine 2016 - The Making Of ...

On the four-hundredth anniversary of Shakespeare's death I found myself in a field on the edge of Gledhow Valley Woods picking dandelions for wine. A quick trawl of the internet tells me that Shakespeare never mentioned dandelions by name and only referred to them obliquely (if that) in Cymbeline: "Golden lads and girls all must / As chimney sweepers, come to dust." I was early enough in the season to catch them before the flowers became clocks and 'come to dust'. Indeed, 23rd April - St George's Day - is the traditional day on which to pick dandelions for wine.

My plan had been to collect flowers from the allotments off Harrogate Road, but all entrances were locked and since Julia died I no longer have access. I wandered around the adjacent park, where dandelions were sparse and mostly half-opened, and then down the hill to Gledhow Valley Road, where I saw an open area of grass dotted with points of gold. From here my spirits lifted and I picked six pints of flowers in the sunshine, feeling only slightly self-conscious as cars, joggers and pedestrians passed.

Back home, after all of Saturday's chores and a quintet rehearsal, I started taking the petals from the green base of each dandelion head. This was slow going and I had little time, so after doing about a tenth, I gave up and poured all flowers into the stock pot. I covered this with seven pints of water and put in 2 lbs 9 oz of sugar and the thin peelings of two lemons and an orange. This was brought up to the boil and I let it boil for either ten or twenty minutes (I forget). Meanwhile I minced half a kilo of sultanas and squeezed the juice from the lemons and orange and put these in the bucket. Once the dandelions had finished boiling I poured all this in too and let it sit overnight.

On Sunday morning I added a teaspoon each of nutrient, tannin and pectolase and sprinkled in the yeast.

After a very busy Thursday at work, getting everything done before a week's holiday in Cornwall and staying until 6:30, I put this into its demijohn. Its colour is a gorgeous mustard yellow and I get a good feeling about this wine.

The gorgeous yellow doesn't look quite as biege as this!
If you want to see how this wine turned out, click here.

Thursday 28 April 2016

Rhubarb Wine - Tenth Bottle (A4), 22nd-23rd April 2016

For a second night on the trot I left Claire home alone while I was out galavanting. This time I was drinking (too much) beer with Matthew and John, reminiscing about Emsleys and catching up with each other's news. Claire had rhubarb wine for company and a quiet night.

On Saturday we each had a large glas before Music Club - I was performing a Peter Muller wind quintet and thought wine could only help. It didn't. I remained as nervous as ever. We played fairly well, and I don't know why I feel more pressure playing at Leeds Music Club than anywhere else.

Where Matthew, John and I went drinking

Wednesday 27 April 2016

Elderflower Wine - Eleventh Bottle (A2), 20th-21st April 2016

I opened this bottle after our first WYSO rehearsal for the summer term. Mostly we are playing crowd-pleasing medleys (James Bond, Phantom of the Opera) but there is some real music too: Beethoven's Fifth, Night on a Bare Mountain.

I drank a couple of glasses while finding clips of Victoria Wood on i-player. Generally I am only vaguely interested when a celebrity dies, but I am genuinely upset about Victoria Wood. She was so funny, so talented and provided such a distinctive northern voice. It is too early for her to die.

Sunday 24 April 2016

Blackcurrant Wine - Twelfth Bottle (A5), 17th April 2016

Hallelujah. Repeat ad nauseum. Actually, it is a fabulous piece of music amongst several wonderful arias and choruses in The Messiah.

I made short work of the bottle of wine after returning from a performance of this oratorio. The bassoon part is the same as the cello, which means non-stop quavers with nowhere to breathe. Therefore I more than earned my wine, and it was delicious. Claire, Rachel and I drank it (alarmingly quickly) to olives, cured meat and flat bread before I staggered off to bed and dreamt of essays to be handed in.

NB - The two videos posted are two of my very favourite YouTube videos, and both relate to The Messiah

Thursday 21 April 2016

Fig Wine - Fourth Bottle (4), 16th April 2016

Fig wine is delightful. We drank it on Saturday evening in front of (possibly) our last fire of the season. April continues to be cold and there was snow in some parts of West Yorkshire. The wine was our reward for a day of solid playing. St Matthews in Chapel Allerton had a 'Come and Sing Messiah' this weekend and Claire and I were in the (small yet perfectly formed) orchestra. Rehearsals started at 10:30. By 11:20 my lip was starting to die, and there was still another 6 hours to go. At lunch I ate vast quantities of cake in the hope this would resurrect it. It did. Hallelujah.

Wednesday 20 April 2016

Clementine Wine - Second Bottle (1), 14th-19th April 2016

With cries of "That's disgusting" and "Did you make this from a gold-miner's drowned daughter?" Claire decided not to finish her glass. I admit that there is an element of bitterness to the flavour and that it is otherwise dry and unremarkable, but I think she is being a little unfair. I won't make clementine wine again, but in my opinion it is still drinkable. The bottle did stay in the fridge for five days, though. During this period I performed in the Messiah, had a first rehearsal of Rachmaninov's Second Symphony (difficult) and saw Northern Broadsides do The Merry Wives of Windsor. This was fabulous. I haven't laughed so much in the theatre ever. The two wives were particularly good and the physical comedy was superb.

Tuesday 19 April 2016

Orange Wine - Second Bottle (A5), 10th April 2016

I do like orange wine. This vintage is the best that I have ever made: beautifully clear with a strong orange taste minus any bitterness that sometimes affects this flavour.

We drank it after a lovely day mostly spent in the garden. Jenny, who has done a garden design course, came round for lunch with leaflets and ideas, and we ate Morrocan food. Then in the evening we drank the wine listening to The Archers and discussing what might come next in the gripping domestic abuse story line (which has resulted in a rather-too-dramatic stabbing).

Saturday 16 April 2016

Blackberry Wine - Final Bottle (B), 9th-10th April 2016

On Saturday I went for a boozy lunch with Rodney. There is no other kind when Rodney is your dining partner. We went to Flying Pizza and I was only slightly concerned when he invited the maitre-de to choose our wine for us. Therefore, in the evening I was not in any need of alcohol, so handed the (500 ml) bottle to Claire. She complained that it was thin, and left a glass for me to have on Sunday. I agree with her assessment. Demijohn B from this triple batch of blackberry has been disappointing. It is odd how one flavour from the same vintage has so much variation.

Thursday 14 April 2016

Prune & Parsnip Wine - Third Bottle (A5), 6th-7th April 2016

I am quite a good cook. Nowhere near Claire's league, but given some ingredients, a few pans and a hob, I can generally make something without written instructions. What gets me, on nearly every occasion, though, is timing. On Wednesday I was doing onion gravy, bean burgers, mashed potato and kale. And whilst it all came out right, in the last 15 minutes I got flustered and felt out of control. Once it was on the table, Claire poured me a large glass of prune and parsnip wine. Followed by another. It is a fine wine - smooth, medium sweet, sherry-like. And it did its job nicely.

Wednesday 13 April 2016

Mango Wine - First Bottle (6), 4th April 2016

After a raucous weekend in Derbyshire I had not planned to round it off with a bottle of wine on Monday evening. However, Anne and David came round to inspect the house. I offered them a drink of anywhere between 0 and 40% proof, and they settled on wine. Feeling brave, they chose the Mango - and I warned them that I had yet to try a bottle of this.

In fact, it was okay. I didn't catch a taste of mango - it was more 'generic white wine' than that. Dry, but not overly so and entirely drinkable, which in my book is a 'Hit'. Anne said it slipped down nicely but also too quickly.

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

Tuesday 12 April 2016

Rose Petal Wine - Ninth Bottle (B5), 2nd April 2016

I can't remember who I shared this bottle with. There were 36 candidates - well, 32 if you discount those who are not yet teenagers. It was one of five bottles of home-made wine drunk during the Family Extravaganza. Anne said over breakfast the next morning that I had been "well-oiled". Sufficiently so that in Adam's quiz I could not remember for the life of me who wrote Moby Dick. Part of the lubrication was certainly rose petal wine and of the home-mades that I took, I think this was the least good. Still drinkable, though, but with an initial bitter taste. There was nothing bitter about the weekend. I spent the entire time gloriously happy and thankful.

Sunday 10 April 2016

Christmas Tutti Fruti - 3rd & 4th Bottles (A5 & A4), 2nd April 2016

This wine was delicious. Uncle Brian said it was better than any of the reds on the table at Quarnford Lodge. Certainly it was sweeter, but the amount of fruit allowed that level of sugar.

Inside Lud's Church
Two bottles emptied over the course of the evening, and I think I was only responsible for a couple of glasses. The day was fantastic. Claire and I were staying at the Knight's Table, a pub down the road, so began with a more than hearty breakfast. Heavy rain and mist delayed any walking but that allowed both of us to be knocked out in the first round of the table-tennis tournament. (As last time, Mike won - his opponent in the final was Ben.) We - eleven of us - set off with more hope than expectation and (after a false start whic involved trudging around the wrong field for 20 minutes) had a terrific 7 mile walk. We climbed up the Roaches into the mist and as we descended, the sun came out. Our destination was Lud's Church - a moss covered fissure connected with the legend of Sir Gawain & the Green Knight. Then home (after watching a peregrine falcon in her nest) to a night of laughter, fun and family stories. And an awful lot of wine.

Four cousins

Saturday 9 April 2016

Crab Apple Wine - 13th & 14th Bottles (C3 & C6), 1st & 2nd April 2016

I am on the border of Derbyshire and Staffordshire with 36 family members. This is the third extended family get-together I have organised (this time with help from Lou) and it has been wonderful. Being the highly-strung individual that I am, I have spent much of the last several months flipping between states of anxiety - mostly because I fell out badly with one family member over the whole thing. But in fact, it has all worked, and absolutely everyone is having a good time. We range in age from 3 to 76 and come from Coll in the Hebrides to Hertfordshire, with Lynn & Billy having travelled from Texas for the occasion. Of course I brought lots of wine with me, including these two bottles of crab apple, and they went down very nicely indeed. Mike and John were particularly keen. I think Mike even voluntarily opened one of the bottles iin preference to real wine.

I lost track of how much I drank on either night, but it was more than sufficient. The next few days will be spent in temperance.

The Entire 37

Friday 8 April 2016

Rhubarb & Elderflower Wine - Final Bottle (4), 30th March 2016

After last night's Apple Wine Debacle I was instructed to open something drinkable. Examining what we had in the cupboard under the stairs, I came up with this. Much nicer. I don't think that I could detect either rhubarb or elderflower, but what we got was a rather decent white wine. Admittedly the final glass had less clarity than is absolutely desirable in a wine, but we were not in polite society.

Claire is on holiday and that is my excuse for finishing a bottle of wine on a Wednesday night. In fact we finished it before we started eating, and that is borderline disgraceful.

Thursday 7 April 2016

Apple Wine - Fifth Bottle (6), 29th March 2016

This bottle gets a score of 'Abysmal'. Absolutely disgusting. It is one of the few bottles of wine that is so bad that it ended up down the sink. I suspect that the foul taste was at least partly caused by the large sediment at the bottom. Claire decanted it iinto a jug and left this in the fridge. This is the same fridge that contains Craster Kippers. When I opened it this morning, the smell of the wine overpowered the reek of smoked fish. That is how disgusting it was. I am alarmed that we still have a bottle left.

Wednesday 6 April 2016

Elderflower Wine - Tenth Bottle (B5), 27th March 2016

This was an Easter Sunday bottle of wine, drunk to a slab or roast pork with crackling done to perfection. We are in Newcastle and Andrew was the cook. Sooz quoted passages of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy at me (something to do with 'filthy elderflower concoctions') but mostly the wine was enjoyed.

Earlier in the day we had a sunny yet bracing walk along the Northumberland coast, taking in Howden, Craster and Dunstanburgh Castle. The distant storm clouds painted the scenery with dramatic light.

Tuesday 5 April 2016

Blackberry Wine - Eighth Bottle (B5), 26th March 2016

This wine was drier than most, and I'm not sure why that would be. It is a flaw easily remedied by a teaspoon of sugar syrup per glass - and that also brings out the fruity blackberry flavour, turning a drab wine into something rather good.

We are up in Newcastle for the first time since December 2014, and that is too long ago. It was a lovely evening. Judith cooked lamb meatballs, Bob opened a bottle of Prosecco and Sooz and I struggled with the Guardian's Prize Crossword. How an Easter Saturday should be spent.

Friday 1 April 2016

Prune & Parsnip Wine 2015 - Second Bottle (B1), 23rd-25th March 2016

I opened this bottle needing a glass or two of wine. I'm not entirely sure, now, what that need was and worry (slightly) about alcoholism. But a very middle-class version where two glasses on a Wednesday night suffices.

Claire and I had a glass each on Thursday night before going to see Damned United at West Yorkshire Playhouse. This was masculine, sweaty theatre - intense and gripping (once I stopped concentrating on the football elements) with two terrific performances. After the play we sat in the the theatre bar, waiting for my parents to emerge from Great Expectations and had a lovely hour together, chatting.

The last dribble of wine was finished this afternoon as a sherry substitute after a sunny morning in the garden, mostly digging.