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.

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