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.

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).