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.

Saturday 30 December 2017

Xmas Tutti Fruti - First Bottle (A3), 25th December 2017

Merry Christmas. I am writing this whilst still wearing a paper crown from my Christmas cracker. The trinket was a disappointing key ring and I cannot now remember the joke. Anyway, to accompany roast venison, I opened my first bottle of Xmas Tutti Fruti 2016 . The overall consensus was 'good' though I think no more than that. There is a prominent rose petal taste and I think this is too strong. Sooz said that if she hadn't seen the wine's colour, she would have believed it a Gooseberry, and I think this is down to its sharpness. The wine has a bite, and I think a depth and complexity which will improve as it ages.

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

Friday 29 December 2017

Xmas Tutti Fruti 2017 - The Making Of...

It is 23rd December and I am only just now starting to feel in the mood for Christmas. This morning I collected a huge slab of venison for Monday's meal and tonight Claire and I will go carolling around the neighbourhood. Work has finished for the year and I feel I can start to relax.

A close up of fruits from the freezer
One of the Christmas traditions is, of course, making the Xmas Tutti Fruti Wine. This brings with it many seasonal abstract nouns to Claire, for the freezer (having been stuffed with fruit for five months) is now empty: 'joy', 'gladness', 'wonder', 'peace' to name just a few.

Those frozen fruit in the bucket
I have more fruit in the wine than I have used before - 9 lbs 9 oz - meaning that I toyed with making a triple batch, but have settled on the usual double. In the approximate order in which I extracted the fruit, I have used:
  • 1 lb 15 oz blackcurrants
  • 12 oz strawberries
  • ½ oz red raspberries and 4¾ oz yellow raspberries
  • 1 lb 9 oz blackberries
  • 2 oz damsons
  • 1½ oz loganberries
  • 1¾ oz redcurrants
  • 2 lbs 3 oz gooseberries (of which one gooseberry only was red - the others from our red gooseberry bush all having been gobbled by pigeons)
  • ¼ oz fuchsia berries
  • 2½ oz sloes
  • 14 oz rhubarb
  • 2 oz rose petals
  • 1 lb 3 oz elderberries; and
  • 1¾ oz blueberries
  • Plus (of course) 1 satsuma
The fruit defrosted
I measured all the freezer fruit yesterday and put it in my bucket to defrost overnight. This afternoon I mashed it with a potato masher, added 5 lbs 12 oz sugar and poured over 12 pints of boiling water. I made my wish for the coming year while mashing - last year's was that I hoped Claire's job would be sorted and secure, and that has - eventually - mostly come true.

Fruit mashed with sugar added
The yeast, nutrient and pectolase all went in on Christmas Eve (though several hours before the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols) and I have put this into its two demijohns tonight, 28th December, leaving a large gap in each demijohn (with two 'topping up' bottles prepared) so that the fermentation can die down. I could have cut the water used by two pints. But the taste at this stage is sweet and fruity, and it is a pleasing dark red in colour.

The wine in its demijohns (and the snow)

Thursday 28 December 2017

Christmas Tutti Fruti - Eighth Bottle (B3), 18th-19th November 2017

NB - This post is out of order. I must have forgotten to type it up when I originally wrote it. The Space-Time Continuum will shortly be restored.


This weekend has had thrice the number of concerts as bottles of wine. Claire played in two - an all Haydn concert on Saturday night (very good) and Dido & Aeneas on Sunday (less so, apparently). I played in one on Sunday afternoon - Scheherazade, The Firebird and Sleeping Beauty, and this concert was terrific. But it all left little time for drinking more than is sensible. If I were to use one word to describe this Tutti Fruti, it would be 'Insipid', though 'Disappointing' would follow closely. There is just no depth to it and no real hint of its fruit.

Wednesday 27 December 2017

Gooseberry Wine 2012 - Final Bottle (6), 24th -25th December 2017

Leaving this bottle nearly four years since the last one has changed its flavour, but only marginally for the better. It now has the taste of an aged country wine - so broadly sherry like - though there is a hint of its original sharpness. Far from undrinkable, but not your actual Nice.

I opened this after the annual Christmas Eve Bentcliffe Drive Party, but as that involved several glasses of real wine (made from grapes!), we did not finish the bottle. That task was saved for Christmas Day, during present opening. Sooz, Bob and Judith were here, meaning that it was the usual present lucky-dip. My best one was a tea-towel with the Periodic Table printed on it. There wasn't a worst, but the most ephemeral was a bag of Pork Scratchings.

Monday 25 December 2017

Crab Apple Wine - Twenty-second bottle (C2), 20th December 2017

I obviously care about work. Today I came home disappointed, frustrated and on the verge of miserable. I started the day needing eight exchanges for year-end and aiming to get four of these. This evening I cam home with having achieved only one, with three plot buyers having pulled out. It means, only, that the business as a whole will make slightly less profit for the year. But I find that I care about that. Despite it being a Wednesday, I knew that this would be a whole-bottle night - and crab apple is a fine mid-week bottle. With any luck, it will help me sleep. Over the last week I have had long periods of wakefulness - not exactly worrying about work, but with that always being a background hum.

Saturday 23 December 2017

Blackcurrant & Gooseberry Wine - Second Bottle (4), 15th December 2017

There was a definite first hit of gooseberry flavour in this wine, before blackcurrant became dominant. It is a sharp taste, and a light red - good for a Friday night after a monumentally busy week at work. It was a quiet night in, gathering energy for the weekend - which was to involve two Christmas parties and a titanic Christmas Card session. The parties were fun, the cards not so much.

Tuesday 19 December 2017

Prune & Parsnip Wine - Eleventh Bottle (A5), 14th December 2017

In the ongoing saga of Claire's job, what started off as a 3 year contract, changed to a 2 year contract, reverted to 3 years after much wailing and gnashing of teeth, has now - somehow - become a 5 year fixed term. This is excellent news and called for celebration in the form of a bottle of Prune & Parsnip wine, though it has left me irritated that the last, dreadful, five months could have been avoided. Still, it gave us excuse enough for an entire bottle of wine on a Thursday night and Claire is now employed until she is 52. Happy times!

Sunday 17 December 2017

Rose Petal Wine - Sixth Bottle (A2), 10th December 2017

I forgot to chill this wine. However, December did that job for me. It is bitterly cold and for that reason I have not left the house today. There is widespread snow throughout the UK, though not in Leeds. It has been a pleasure, though, to have a remarkably lazy weekend. The only productive thing I have done is to make bread. The wine has done its job, to the extent that I can barely keep my eyes open and it is only just past nine. It was its usual exotic, dry, floral flavour and a good pink colour too. But now I really must go to bed. I'll leave Claire to deal with the cats.

Thursday 14 December 2017

Blackberry Wine - Eleventh Bottle (A1), 9th December 2017

We needed a decent bottle of Blackberry to go with steak, and this vintage is far superior to that of 2016. It really is a splendid wine - rich and fruity, yet dry enough to complement medium-rare steak in blue-cheese sauce.

We had a lazy Saturday, but I needed that - having had a manic week of work, and interrupted nights as the cats shat on our landing at 3 a.m. every morning - ignoring the litter tray placed there specially. It is very wearing - and a good job that otherwise Kato and Wiggy are affectionate and beautiful. However, this problem may have just been solved with different cat litter. Fingers crossed.

Sunday 10 December 2017

Rhubarb Wine - Tenth Bottle (B1), 3rd December 2017

It is a joy to have cats again. Today, we have been joined by two white cats - Kato and Wiggy. They are so white that it looks as if their artist has only drawn an outline and forgot to colour it in. Either that, or we have two ghost cats. They are affectionate and seem to be settling in (to the extent that Kato has tried to buy his food and what was my dining room chair now, apparently, belongs to Wiggy). We picked them up from Maurice at nine, and then have spent a lazy day getting to know them.

Of course, the wine that I opened had to be what and, as it is a significant event - getting our second set of cats - it had to be a good one. Rhubarb wine fit the bill nicely - definitely the white I make that is closest to real wine. Almost Chardonnay in flavour.


Tuesday 5 December 2017

Blackberry Wine - Fourth Bottle (B2), 26th-28th November 2017

On Sunday our house was quiet again. All visitors had left the day before and, whilst I love entertaining, having one's own space back is always a relief. It is a measure of how good the Thanksgiving holiday was that we had no wine on Saturday and only half a bottle of blackberry (which is now fizzy) on Sunday.

We finished the bottle having returned from meeting our next cats: Kato and Wiggy (which we have decided is short for Wilgefortis, and that makes it better). They are 6-year-old siblings, pure white and needed a home urgently. He is a bruiser, she is beautiful and both are affectionate.

St Wilgefortis - patron saint of bearded ladies

Sunday 3 December 2017

Elderberry Wine - Second Bottle (B5), 24th November 2017

Jayne came round for Thanksgiving II on Friday night. Whilst much of the alcohol ration was provided by Prosecco and Whisky Macs, I also opened a bottle of elderberry. Paying no attention at all to what people thought of it, I am unable to report whether it was popular or not. The bottle was emptied, which must mean it was at least acceptable, and I enjoyed it - though a young elderberry has a certain roughness to it.

I disgraced myself by having to go to bed before 10:30, leaving Claire and the guests to continue their carousing.

They have missed 'young elderberry' from this list

Friday 1 December 2017

Rose Petal Wine - Fourteenth Bottle (C4), 23rd-24th November 2017

I think I drank most of this bottle; I was well-sauced by the time I went to bed on Thursday. This was my reward for a day of hard-graft. It was Thanksgiving and Claire had not taken the day off work. Never having roasted a turkey, made a nut-loaf, assembled cranberry sauce or prepared a meal for seven, I was somewhat out of my comfort zone. But it all seemed to work and I even had some time for tidying. Hence the vast quantity of alcohol (Thanksgiving marks the opening of whisky-mac season too) including much rose-petal wine. And no thumping headache on Friday morning. Result!

Thursday 30 November 2017

Apple & Strawberry Wine - First Bottle (1), 23rd November 2017

Well, I liked this bottle of wine. I thought it light and fruity with subtle flavours of both apple and strawberry. It was entirely clear and its colour was white with an edge of pink. Sooz said that this wine would aid in not drinking too much. Harrumph.

It was a Thanksgiving bottle, and the evening was lovely. Andrew, Sooz, Richard, Linda, Mary, Claire and I fit round the table and ate more than was sensible, managing to leave enough leftovers for a week. Happy times!

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

Monday 27 November 2017

Blackcurrant Wine - Nineteenth Bottle (A5), 22nd November 2017

I marked the start of my Thanksgiving holiday by opening and finishing a bottle of blackcurrant wine. Still, I had Claire and Sooz (who has arrived from Dublin) to help me. I didn't take much notice of the wine's flavour - sharp and blackcurranty I imagine. Instead, we sat on the dining room sofa and chatted about this and that until nearly midnight. I was in a good mood after WYSO where we played Grieg's Piano Concerto with the soloist. It sounded fantastic and our concert on 2 December should be a good one.

Sunday 26 November 2017

Orange Wine - Eighth Bottle (B1), 21st-22nd November 2017

Mostly drunk on a Tuesday!

Claire's new job has yet to take off into any sort of realm of usefulness. She came home bored and dispirited and a bottle of wine was in order. Madeleine's quintet was cancelled so I was able to help her with that, and we got through most of it. To maintain a veneer of decorum, a glass each was saved for Wednesday night after WYSO. This was polished off as I sat down with Claire to plan my turkey-cooking timetable for Thursday.

Tuesday 21 November 2017

Crab Apple Wine - Twenty First Bottle (E1), 15th-16th November 2017

As we returned to the house from WYSO, Claire asked whether we had any wine. We have rather a lot, so I fished out a bottle of crab apple from under the stairs. It had been a good rehearsal - I have new bassoon reeds and they make such a difference. I had not realised how much effort I expended in playing on my old ones. I can now do dynamics and everything! Anyway, a glass of wine slipped down easily but I showed restraint by not refilling my glass.

The rest of the bottle waited till Thursday, when I spent much of the evening watching I Know Who You Are. This second series is not as good as the first - a common occurrence. It is too event-led, whereas the last series depended on characters.

Saturday 18 November 2017

Rhubarb Wine - Ninth Bottle (C4), 9th-12th November 2017

On Thursday night, while on a train from London to Leeds, my phone buzzed. A text from Claire read "I have opened a bottle of wine". I sent one back suggesting that she may have chosen Peach & Banana, but was informed that it was 'nice', thus ruling out that flavour. When I returned, several glasses of wine ahead (travelling First Class is marvellous), I found this bottle of rhubarb in the fridge - so poured Claire and I another half glass each. Claire was right; it is a good bottle of wine.

We left the remainder in the fridge whilst we spent the weekend in Newcastle, celebrating Bob & Judith and Richard & Dianne's 50th Wedding Anniversaries. This involved a Barn Dance and lots of beer. I dosy-doed, swung and stripped the willow like a good 'in, driving back to Leeds on Sunday morning with a headache. Half a bottle of wine between us on Sunday was plenty.

Wednesday 15 November 2017

Blackberry Wine - Third Bottle (C4), 7th-9th November 2017

I am writing this several days after this bottle was emptied and consequently can remember little about it. Claire was suffering from existential angst on Tuesday and wine generally helps with that. We drank Tuesday's share (about half the bottle) to a fabulous, if I do say so myself, beef stir-fry - using up some of Sunday's roast. Then a glass each on Wednesday after WYSO (where Tchaik 5 is starting to get some sort of shape) and Claire finished the bottle on Thursday as I was returning from London. The wine was alright - not as disappointing as I had remembered. And there is praise indeed.

Monday 13 November 2017

Elderberry Wine - Eighth Bottle (B1), 5th November 2017

What a great bottle of wine. Everything that elderberry should be - dark, earthy, sophisticated. It was also my only bottle of the weekend: Friday had been Book Group and we were playing Handel's Coronation Anthems in Pontefract on Saturday. Having just the one bottle is a rare event, and I savoured it all the more for that reason. Claire cooked a slab of beef in Madeira, auditioning the recipe for Christmas, when all the Taylors will descend. It got a definite approval from me - far better than turkey. And we will have enough of that in a few weeks for Thanksgiving.

One of the Coronation Anthems involves this man

Sunday 12 November 2017

Apple Wine and Apple & Strawberry Wine - The Making Of...

Apple Wine

At WYSO in early September, Katie asked me if I had any use for apples. I did a quick mental calculation of how much wine I have made so far this year (result: 'Too Much') and replied that I would be delighted to receive 4 lbs. Her apple tree has been prolific this year, whereas ours is far less fruitful than last.

Blurred apples
On Wednesday 13th September, Katie brought me a carrier bag full of red sweet-smelling apples. I do not know the variety, but they are eaters rather than cookers and have snow-white flesh. On Monday, 18th September, on returning from St Neots and Emily & Marco's wedding - a wonderful family affair enlivened by Mexican food and tequila shots - I had a spare afternoon so started the wine.

I washed the apples, cut them into eight pieces each and whizzed them through the food processor on the 'slice' attachment. Next I minced 1 lb of sultanas, again using the food processor, and put all this into the bucket along with 3 lbs sugar. I boiled 6½ pints of water and poured this over, filling the kitchen with an apple scent. The same evening I added the yeast and a teaspoon each of nutrient and pectolase.

On Thursday night, 21st September (after 'Caramel Week' on Bake Off) I put the liquid into its demijohn in the usual manner. There was only just enough and I had to squeeze the discarded pulp for its last drops. The wine is brown and has a large head of foam. I'm wondering if I have made a real ale.

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

Apple & Strawberry

Our apple tree has not been fecund this year, so I am leaving most of the fruit to the blackbirds. However, by early November, enough apples had fallen off intact for me to collect 4 lbs and make Apple & Strawberry Wine.

I sliced up the apples on 2nd November using the same method as set out above and added these to my bucket containing 1 lb of crushed strawberries. I poured over 6½ pints of boiling water, again releasing a fabulous scent, and then stirred in 3 lbs of sugar.

I transferred the liquid to its demijohn on Tuesday evening, 7 November. The wine is pinker than last year and the taste I got promises great things.

The Apple is on the left, after 6 weeks in its demijohn

Wednesday 8 November 2017

Prune & Parsnip Wine - Ninth Bottle (A6), 31st October - 3rd November 2017

It was the Bake Off final on Tuesday night, and of course that called for a bottle of wine. I opened Prune & Parsnip for no better reason than we have not had one in a while. There is nothing that suggests 'baking' about it (though it could be used in a trifle). I will miss our Tuesday nights, curled up on the sofa, watching Reality Television and eating treats.

Claire had what remained of the bottle (which was not a right lot!) on Friday before Book Group (South Riding by Winifred Holtby, a book I cannot recommend enough - I loved it). I was driving and she was in need. But her new job starts Monday, which means things should start to look brighter.

Monday 6 November 2017

Crab Apple & Strawberry Wine - Fifth Bottle (5), 28th October 2017

Whenever I am playing something at Music Club I will put a good bottle of wine in the fridge so that I have something pleasant waiting for me on my return. This time it was Crab Apple & Strawberry for my first ever solo performance. I was far outside my comfort zone so chose something easy to play well, rather than something showy to play badly: Song of the Penguins by Sam Haywood and  Little Suite by Philip Godfrey. And I gave them a pretty decent shot, meaning the wine was a celebration rather than used to drown my sorrows. Claire had stayed home - she is low at the moment - to watch Midsomer Murders and eat crisps, and she kindly left me half the bottle. It is a fine wine - crisp, fruity, dry and satisfying.

Saturday 4 November 2017

Jasmine Tea Wine - The Making Of...

14 Februrary 2021 - Update. Loads of people are looking at this post today. Can someone drop me a comment to explain why? Thanks!

For several years I have been thinking about the letter J for my wine alphabet. I had rejected 'Jam' as a cheat, though there is a recipe and we have many jars of ancient and random jam in our attic. Jack-fruit comes in tins, is fibrous and has an odd, meaty texture. Much as I would like to turn Jerusalem Artichokes into wine, I don't think we are growing them in sufficient quantity. The solution presented itself at my wine party last week. Rodney suggested Jasmine flowers, which would be expensive and difficult to obtain. Liz refined this to Jasmine Tea, which is sold in Sainsbury's and works out at 10p a bag.

The ingredients, plus a gate-crashing orange
On checking my diary for Tea Wine, I noticed that I had written "Never make this wine again", or words to that effect. Advice is there to be ignored. Anyway, that was black tea, and this is Jasmine Green Tea, so it is bound to be different. I remember that my previous tea wine had too much flavour - it was cloying, strong and too sweet - so I have cut down the quantities of most ingredients.

Measuring the tea
It being the end of October and with me not having made any wine so far this month, I started the wine this morning, 29th October. This time I have used 1¼ oz of tea (which was 15 tea bags, ripped open and shaken out), 3 oranges (just the juice), 1 lb minced sultanas and 2½ lbs of sugar. I boiled 2½ pints of water and poured this over the tea in my bucket. This brewed while I squeezed the oranges and minced the sultanas (in the food processor). I put these in the bucket, added the sugar and then poured in another 5½ pints of boiling water. I can't imagine that adding the water in two stages will have made any difference, but this is what I did last time (and that was obviously such a success).

Stirring the tea
When I came to put in the fermenting aids on Sunday evening, I found my wine-making tin bereft of yeast. A quick Facebook message to Liz and a saunter down Bentcliffe Drive saw me returning with her tub. I added a teaspoon plus nutrient and pectolase. The wine went into my demijohn on Thursday evening, 2nd November. Currently its colour is an unattractive greeny-beige, and I fear this will taste awful. But now, at least, the alphabet is complete!

The end of the alphabet
If you want to see how this wine turned out, click here.

Friday 3 November 2017

Ugli Fruit Wine - Third Bottle (2), 26th October 2017

Thursday is not normally a 'whole bottle of wine' evening, particularly if I am planning to walk to work the following day. All I can say is 'oops'.

In fact, Claire continues to have a difficult time with the university's HR departments and felt in need of half a bottle of wine. We were having fish and a citrus wine always goes well with that, so I extracted a bottle of Ugli Fruit. I think it is lighter in taste than Orange wine but they are definitely similar. The fish dish was invented by Claire from what we have in the fridge and was so good that she has recorded the recipe in her Little Red Book.

Fish Lairs [sic]

Par boil some slices of potato and leek
Mix slices of potato and leek with cream, salt, pepper and lots of garlic
Put fish fillets on top
Put slices of lemon on top
Put slices of courgette/marrow (aka zucchini) on top
Put herbs on top
Drizzle olive oil on top
Bake about 200 degrees C until done

Delicious and nutritious.

Thursday 2 November 2017

Ya-Ya Pear Wine - Third Bottle (4), 21st October 2017

Ladies & Gentlemen, may I present this year's loser of the Wine Party. Ya-ya Pear was the lowest scorer of my 12 bottles, with an average score of 2.19 out of 5. It was the lowest scored wine by Rachel, Helen, Claire, Phil, Anthony and me. Only David ("4 - Length") and Matthew ("3 - Crisp and delicate") had anything nice to say about it. We still managed to finish the bottle between us, however and I am not aware of any hangovers the following morning. Four guests stayed over: Rachel, Duncan, Kate and Jayne; and all were bright, chirpy and ready for bacon sandwiches on Sunday.

Wednesday 1 November 2017

Peach & Banana Wine - Fifth Bottle (6), 21st October 2017

This is awful news. I thought that with this bottle we had completed our Peach & Banana journey into darkness. But there is still a bottle left, lurking somewhere under the stairs.

I used the Wine Party as an excuse to get rid of this bottle. Curiously, though, it has improved beyond nearly undrinkable. In fact Lindsay and Matthew both gave it a 4.5 and its overall average was 2.39. It did not come bottom of the pile. Rodney's face, though, was a picture as he took his first sip. It was the epitome of disgust. He scored it a zero.

Tuesday 31 October 2017

Blackcurrant Wine - Second Bottle (3), 21st October 2017

We are into the bottom three wines at this year's Wine Party and I am genuinely surprised to see Blackcurrant there. It came tenth of twelve. Duncan scored it -1 and wrote "Repellent. The devil's wee". I probably should not take a bottle to Cambridge for New Year's Eve. Helen and Anthony both scored it a 4, though.

The party as a whole was excellent, but left me completely wiped out on Sunday. I had to have two naps and otherwise the most energetic thing I did was to lie on the chaise-longue and read. #NoLongerInMyEarly40s

Monday 30 October 2017

Orange Wine - Seventh Bottle (A5), 21st October 2017

I had not planned on opening this bottle at the Wine Party. At previous parties, ten bottles of wine had been plenty, with some to spare. And this year I initially opened eleven. By ten o'clock, though, I could see that a new bottle was needed so I fished out an Orange. It was not a universally popular choice, coming 9th out of 12. Matthew hated it: he gave it a score of -1 and wrote 'Toilet Duck'. Claire riffed on the same theme - "Superior cleaning fluid" - but was generous and awarded a 3.

Sunday 29 October 2017

Fig Wine - Second Bottle (4), 21st October 2017

Blimey, this wine split the room. David scored it a 5, Lindsay scored it a zero, and it got every number in between. This meant it came eighth out of twelve at the Wine Party, with an average score of 2.86. It shows how subjective taste can be. Those who liked it tended not to comment (though Kate wrote 'Tingly'). Those who did not were more eloquent, saying 'A bit musty', 'Grassy aroma' and 'Smell is not inviting. Taste is worse'. I awarded Fig Wine a solid 4. It is not as good as 2015's vintage, but I would still choose it above many of my wines. I think some of my guests were just wrong!

Saturday 28 October 2017

Blackberry Wine - Second Bottle (A2), 21st October 2017

In past years blackberry wine has won the Wine Party. This year it has come in the bottom half: seventh of twelve with an average score of 3.21. A poor show. Rachel and I conjectured about what might be different - possibly the sweetness of berries picked.

Three of my guests - Phil, Matthew and Anthony - described this as tasting like real wine, with only Anthony thinking this was a Good Thing. It was a glorious party, though - mostly taking place in the dining room and kitchen. Despite the fire and moody lighting, our front room was ignored.

Friday 27 October 2017

Ginger Wine - Fifth Bottle (1), 21st October 2017

Without Liz's score of 1 (with no comment) and Anthony's score of 0 ("Too much ginger") this wine would have done well at the Wine Party. Everyone else scored it between 3 and 4.5. With those scores, though, it came sixth of 12 with an average score of 3.39. It was Rodney's favourite, and he knows a thing or two about wine. Matthew wrote that it was like being hugged by a cactus and awarded it a 4.

To some extent I'm vaguely surprised that anyone came to the party. Storm Brian meant that it was such a filthy night that even stepping outside to fetch my white wines (which had been cooling due to no room in the fridge) meant I got an absolute drenching - despite wearing full waterproofs.

Thursday 26 October 2017

Rose Petal Wine - Fifth Bottle (C4), 21st October 2017

We are definitely into the 'Also Rans' at the Wine Party. Rose Petal came a disappointing fifth out of 12 with an average score of 3.41. I think Jayne skewered the results by awarding it a zero and throwing her glass down the sink. Three people gave it top marks and that is more than one of the joint winners. Rodney thought is bitter and Duncan, having been versed in teenage lingo by Daisy (the youngest guest at 16) wrote "Proper bum". Which is a good thing. Apparently.

Tuesday 24 October 2017

Strawberry Wine - Second Bottle (4), 21st October 2017

This wine came third at my Wine Party, with an average score of 3.92 (out of 5) and more people trying this flavour than either of the winners. It was my personal favourite of the evening. Matthew noted that it was 'squashey' and I have no idea what that means.

The Wine Party was excellent. There were 17 people there and it went on until past midnight. If you include the two bottles of Prosecco at the end but discount the Chardonnay at the beginning (which was only a third full) we got through 14 bottles.

Monday 23 October 2017

Shirley Smith's Mystery Wine (4) - 21st October 2017

When Shirley died in 2009, I found a demijohn full of dark liquid in her house. Lucy said I could have it, so I took it home and bottled it. There were no labels so I have no idea from what it was made. Having opened a bottle for this year's Wine Party (where it was joint winner, with an average score of 4 out of 5) I am none the wiser. I thought it was extraordinarily like port, whereas others thought sherry, Helen said 'Masala' and Claire wrote 'tastes of aged oboe reeds'. Despite Claire's opinion, I loved this wine. Dark, sweet and mysterious.

(This is an image I got for a google search of 'Dark, sweet, mysterious'. Shirley loved cats.)

Sunday 22 October 2017

Elderflower, Rhubarb & Mint Wine - Fifth Bottle (6), 21st October 2017

Officially my best bottle of wine. This flavour won 2017's Wine Party, getting an average score of 4 out of 5. Four guests gave it top marks, with only David scoring it as low as a 2. Helen wrote "My favourite so far," which sounds like a reasonable, if bland, comment, until you notice it was her first one tried. 'Delicious' appears a couple of times. Phil tried it twice, thinking it was two separate wines. He gave them/it the same score, but remarked that the second was 'perhaps a bit cleaner' than the first. It wasn't.

Saturday 21 October 2017

Rhubarb Wine - Eighth Bottle (B4), 19th October 2017

While on the motorway, heading for Newcastle, in the dark and the rain, Claire said she was feeling peckish. I replied that I hadn't had sufficient brainpower to even think about food. "I have thought plenty about alcohol, though." It was some relief that we arrived safely and I did not give the wine any cooling time at all before opening it.

We were in Newcastle as a half-way stopover before Jennifer's funeral on Friday, which was in East Lothian. She was buried in a forest on a beautiful autumn day in which dappled sunlight filtered through the beech trees. Her send-off was a strangely lovely and moving experience.

Monday 16 October 2017

Rose Petal Wine - Fourth Bottle (C1), 15th October 2017

This rose petal wine is splendid. The colour and clarity cannot be criticised, and the taste is delightful. Floral and exotic. It has been our treat after a concert full of Fifth Symphonies (Beethoven and Mendelssohn), where the audience failed to clap after the end of Mendelssohn's. I think this is because they hadn't realised it had ended, rather than we played it badly (which we did not!). Since the concert, Claire and I have drunk the wine, chatting companionably in the front room. It has been a lovely evening.

Thursday 12 October 2017

Blackberry Wine - Tenth Bottle (B4), 8th-9th October 2017

A bitter-sweet bottle of wine, and that does not describe the flavour, which was full and fruity. This was our first bottle after a fabulous week in Corfu, where we had blue skies, golden beaches (only one of which contained nudists), mountain walks and wonderful food. I came back, though, to the news that Aunt Jennifer had died. She was a woman I liked enormously and there is an empty space where she should be. Everyone has their time - but it should always last just that little bit longer.

The distant sandy beach had more bare flesh than you can shake a stick at

Tuesday 10 October 2017

Blackcurrant Wine - Eighteenth Bottle (D6), 30th September 2017

This time tomorrow I should be in Corfu, and I have been ridiculously excited about it for a week. I have not been sleeping well. I am 47. Maybe this bottle of blackcurrant wine will help tonight, but I can already feel that buzzy sensation above the stomach and below the heart that anticipation brings. Next, the bottom of my feet will start tingling, the way they do when I am on a high bridge, looking over the edge. I have tried to keep this evening as normal as possible which of course involves a bottle of wine (delicious, by the way) but also a mountain of washing up and an episode of Bake Off cuddled up to Claire on the sofa.

Looking over a bridge (of sorts) in Corfu!

Saturday 7 October 2017

Prune & Parsnip Wine - Eighth Bottle (A3), 29th September 2017

I hadn't meant to open this bottle, but it was clear that once the elderberry was empty something further was required. And we are officially on holiday (Corfu on Sunday!) so there is excuse enough.

Rachael, Paul and Myles were here to help us share the wine (well, not Myles - he's four) and of the three bottles, this was Rachael's least favourite - too sherry-like. We discussed the Hardy method of washing up and how Rachael and I are both excellent at balancing clean dishes to dry. I wonder if Chris and Keith at both similarly good.

Sunday 1 October 2017

Elderberry Wine - Seventh Bottle (B4), 29th September 2017

For Rachael, Paul and Myles's visit, I decided to open two bottles; one white, one red and both originating from the elder tree. (It actually turned into a three bottle night, but who's counting?) I drank more of this one than the other even though our meal of roast chicken called for a white. It gave me sufficient Dutch courage to deal with the largest spider I have ever seen outside of California. Paul said 'Tarantula', pointing at the wall, and there was an enormous wolf spider. I caught it in a glass after a bit of shrieking from Claire, and deposited it outside. The cat flap remained well and truly locked.

NB - I'm away for a week, so there won't be any new updates until at least 7 October.

Saturday 30 September 2017

Elderflower, Rhubarb & Mint Wine - Fourth Bottle (5), 29th September 2017

While I was baking 'Traveller's Biscuit Cake' on Thursday night, during a critical moment in the process, Rachael rang. I said I would ring her right back and went to save the cake. She was coming over on Friday, and could she stay? Friday morning I put this bottle into the fridge as Claire thinks it is my best, and we opened it an hour before Rachael, Paul & Myles arrived (their journey had been an hour slower than planned). When Rach tried the wine she described it as 'cheeky' and thought it the best of the three bottles we got through.

It was a delight having them over and I'm so pleased they came. Rachael was concerned about the short notice, but need not have been.

Wednesday 27 September 2017

Blackberry Wine 2014 - Final Bottle (B2), 24th September 2017

I wrote myself a list of jobs for the day. Saturday had been wasted arsing about on the computer and napping; Sunday had to be better. So I baked bread, made Mediterranean lemon squares for work on Monday, paid bills, tidied, cleaned and swept. Consequently I felt rather better about myself and opened this final bottle of blackberry wine as a reward. It was sausages, onion gravy and mash for tea therefore the wine had to be red. In fact, this wine has aged badly - and it was never the best vintage of blackberry anyway. It was drinkable with more than a hint of blackberry taste, but its flavour has started to decay and, unlike the day, the wine was disappointing.

Tuesday 26 September 2017

Rhubarb Wine - Seventh Bottle (B3), 23rd September 2017

I have discovered that Claire thinks my onion cooking technique is poor. Apparently I don't let them fry for long enough - particularly when making Boursin Noodles. My bacon cooking technique also has room for improvement. With this in mind, and a glass of rhubarb wine to hand, I made sure the onions were meltingly soft and that there was some browning to the bacon for the evening meal. We should have been at Music Club, but an evening in the company of rhubarb wine (which is excellent this year) and an episode of Torchwood on the sofa seemed preferable.

Here is an occasional recipe for Boursin Noodles (serves 2) - which are both easy and delicious:


1 onion
Large clove of garlic
Olive oil
3 or 4 rashers of bacon (maybe streaky, can be smoked or unsmoked)
several mushrooms
A good dollop or two of soft cheese (I used Philadelphia - the recipe says it should be Boursin)
Parsley if you have any and can be bothered.
Some pasta or noodles


1. Slice the onion thinly and fry it in your main pan in the oil for longer than you think is absolutely necessary, making sure your partner is happy with the result.
2. At some point during this frying, crush the garlic and add that
3. Cut the bacon into strips and fry that in a different pan until it goes brown enough to your partner's satisfaction.
4. Put the bacon into the pan with the onions and garlic. Let it fry a bit longer.
5. Slice the mushrooms and add them.
6. Cover the pan and let the liquid come out of the mushrooms
7. When it all looks like it might be done, stir in the one or two dollops of soft cheese and stir.
8. By now you should have been cooking the pasta or noodles.
9. When the pasta or noodles are done, add the parsley to the oniony-bacony-garlicky-mushroomy-cheesy mix.
10. Serve up the pasta and sauce.
11. Eat and enjoy.

Sunday 24 September 2017

Crab Apple Wine - Twentieth Bottle (B3), 21st-22nd September 2017

We have a new system for watching The Great British Bake Off. Now that it has moved to Channel 4 there are advert breaks, and advert breaks translate into 'Treats'. One of us will buy baked items on the way home from work (this week, it being 'Caramel Week', I bought Millionaire's Shortbread and Stroopwafels) and a bottle of wine goes in the fridge. Then, come first advert break (but not before) I open the wine. Second break is snack one. Third break is glass of wine two. Final break is snack two.

Crab apple wine doesn't go badly with caramel based treats, but is actually better by itself.

Thursday 21 September 2017

Fig Wine - First Bottle (3), 16th September 2017

Perhaps not quite as good as my previous batches of Fig Wine. But it is still a great bottle. The aroma and taste are distinctly figgy and my one complaint is that a certain depth is absent.

We drank it with Rachel and Duncan in Cambridge, having travelled down for Emily and Marco's wedding the following day. The evening started with rhubarb gin, before moving through a Prosecco and a Riesling before ending up with Fig Wine. As the wine flowed, so did the conversation and good humour and it was just a pleasant evening spent with close friends. Hard to be beaten.

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

Saturday 16 September 2017

Elderberry Wine 2017 - The Making Of...

On the 18th of August, as I was driving to Harehills to buy nectarines, I noticed what looked suspiciously like ripe elderberries near Gledhow valley. I reasoned that this was my imagination playing tricks. Elderberries do not ripen in August.

Elderberries do, in fact, ripen in August
After work on 31st August I went to inspect. I found clusters of ashen fruit, over-ripe and useless. There were a couple of patches of usable elderberries, so I picked what I could. This was ridiculously early for elderberries.

The elderberries were scant
The following week I took plastic bags with me to work and during a couple of lunchtimes I went out, hunting for elder trees. The most fruitful was in someone's garden, but its branches were overhanging the pavement, so I figured that it was fair game. Elsewhere the berries were scant.

Kennel Lane

Nettles protecting fruit
On Sunday morning, 10th September, I drove to Kennel Lane near Hetchell Woods and walked to my usual field, trusting that things would be better there. In the row of trees where I usually pick, the berries were distinctly thin and protected by a wall of nettles. I took what I could (again) and pretended that I could not feel the nettle stings through my trousers. The top field boundary was far better - here were elderberries (and nettles) in abundance, so I started filling my bags, vaguely aware of a white jeep heading my way. As the farmer slowed down and lowered his window, I gave my most charming smile, which said "I recognise I'm trespassing, please don't shoot me," and asked if it was okay if I picked elderberries. He said it was and continued on his way. Phew.

Elderberries in abundance
In total I got more than 10 lbs elderberries, so have used 9 lbs to make a triple batch and the rest are in the freezer. As always, stripping them was tedious, but it is worth it. I crushed them in my bucket with a potato masher and added 8 lbs sugar and 18 pints of boiling water. On Monday morning I put in the yeast and two teaspoons each of nutrient and pectolase.

Normally I would wait until Friday to put the wine into the demijohns, but we are going on a bat-spotting walk tomorrow, so I have done this tonight, 14th September. Straining out elderberries is quicker than straining blackberries, and Claire kept me company in the kitchen, crocheting quietly. I have left a gap in each demijohn to prevent the wine bubbling over, and have filled one and a half bottles for topping-up purposes. So far the wine is behaving itself.

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

Thursday 14 September 2017

Orange Wine - Sixth Bottle (B5), 10th-12th September 2017

Sunday night was sponsored by Orange Wine. Not only did we drink most of this bottle, I also bottled 2017's vintage, and thus had three glasses of that between us. This older version is both darker and better, but there is little in it.

Claire had rather too much on an empty stomach and marched up to bed before the baked fish came out of the oven, leaving me to eat alone.

Tuesday 12 September 2017

Elderberry Wine - First Bottle (B3), 9th September 2017

My one criticism of this wine is that it is too young. It shows promise. There is a rich, dark flavour without any hint of metal. It is dry without being overly so. But the wine's youth means there is a lack of balance and there is a certain rough quality.

I opened this bottle because I have had an 'elderberry wine weekend', spending the late afternoon on Saturday picking a disappointing quantity of elderberries. Apart from our weekly grocery shop that was my only jaunt outdoors ad it was one of those days where I felt guilty for doing nothing of any substance.

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

Sunday 10 September 2017

Blackberry Wine 2017 - The Making Of...

I heard rumours of ripe blackberries as July became August. For the last few weeks I have been aware of bramble clusters turning black and juicy. Blackberry, though, is a September wine so I have resisted foraging until today, Sunday 3rd September. This has also allowed me to spend time with my parents, who are only just returned from Mexico.

Mom and Claire foraging

As always, I went picking blackberries in York Victorian Cemetery, taking Mom and Claire with me. Usually we split up when picking and meet back at the car at a prearranged time. Today we picked together - I wanted to hear all about Mom's time in Nebraska, how the uncles were and whether Keith and family had a good time over there. Picking blackberries was the ideal time to hear all the news and it made ninety minutes pass quickly. At the end of this our hands were sticky with blackberry juice, our arms were covered in nettle stings and bramble scratches, and between us we had picked 13 lbs 3 oz (Claire, as always, was the winner).

I made sure some fruit came from Thomas Douthwaite's grave, and otherwise I made a note of Albert Dowsett, John Hardy Ellis (all good family names), Fred Dealtry and the delightfully named Vera Higginbottom. I will raise a glass to all when the time comes.

Our haul
Back at home I measured 12 lbs blackberries, putting the excess into the freezer, and mashed these in my bucket. This was a quick and easy job because the fruit was so ripe. I added 7 lbs 12 oz sugar (it may need more on racking) and 15 pints of boiling water (I should have added at least 16 - see below). The yeast, two teaspoons of nutrient and what was left in my tub of pectolase (more than a teaspoon) went in on Monday morning.

The blackberry pulp floating at the top of the wine
On Friday evening, 8th September, it was Book Group (The Trouble with Sheep and Goats, which got mixed reviews) so I did my best to be efficient in getting the wine into its three demijohns. Including sterilising everything, it took me somewhat less than an hour. Taking out the bulk of the floating fruit detritus with a colander helped. I stored the discarded pulp in a large plastic bowl (also sterilised) and this was a Good Thing. There was at least a pint too little liquid, and I pressed the pulp to extract all additional wine I could. The demijohns are still not full, but it is close, and they are all bubbling away enthusiastically.

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

Saturday 9 September 2017

Blackberry Wine - First Bottle (C2), 3rd-5th September 2017

This wine has a distinctive blackberry taste, is dry enough to make a fine partner for most food, is entirely clear and a splendid colour. Why, then, am I just a little disappointed? I think it is because 2015's vintage was so good that I know I can make better. Blackberry 2016 is perfectly drinkable, but it should be more than that. Never mind.

I opened it on Sunday following a day of picking blackberries for 2017's batch and drank a toast to the people whose graves I had picked from for this wine (Frank Roberts, George Zimmerman, Elijah and Rose Copley, and Ethel Metcalfe). Claire had a glass on Monday - she is really suffering from the job cock-up and telling her that worry is a choice won't help. We finished the bottle tonight after Bake Off.

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

Thursday 7 September 2017

Zucchini Wine - The Making Of...

Back in the early summer, I freecycled a stack of roof tiles that had been in our garden, gathering spiders and snails, since we bought the house. The woman who collected them gave us a courgette plant in thanks and Claire planted it in our front garden. It did not seem to be particularly fruitful and we mostly ignored it. This is a dangerous strategy when it comes to courgettes. The smallest fruit will, when you turn your back, grow into the most enormous marrow. And so it came to pass.

Our innocent looking courgette plant
Claire went out on Wednesday to harvest what we knew was a large courgette and staggered into the house with a seven pound, twenty inch monster. This was too big to cook and I was given permission to turn it into wine. In honour of my half-American heritage I feel justified in naming this brew 'Zucchini Wine'. Because of my Wine-Alphabet odyssey it is a wine that I had always planned to make, being the natural choice for Z, but I wanted it as my last letter. I have yet to tick off J, so that hasn't quite worked.

Anyway, I consulted my recipe books and have adapted C J J Berry's recipe for Marrow Wine. On Friday 1st September, I grated the zucchini (must not call it 'marrow') using the food processor, only discarding the very ends. I put this in my bucket, along with the juice of two oranges and 2-and-a-bit ounces of grated ginger. I added 2 lb 12 oz sugar and poured over 6½ pints of boiling water. At this stage what I have made is a sweet zucchini soup.

The grated zucchini
On Saturday morning I put in two teaspoons of citric acid (the recipe book asked for four), a teaspoon of tannin (not mentioned in the recipe), a teaspoon each of nutrient and pectolase plus the yeast and gave it all a good stir.

Tuesday (5th September) was my only night in this week, so that is when I sieved the liquid into its demijohn. Once I had removed the bulk of the vegetable matter with a colander, this was a quick job. It is probably not worth noting that I should have used a pint less water (it is highly likely that I won't be making this again). The taste at this stage is unpromising and its colour is dishwater grey-green. I will deem anything better than 'nasty' for this wine as a monumental success.

If you want to see how this wine turned out (and I recommend that you do so if you are thinking of following this recipe), click here.

Tuesday 5 September 2017

Elderflower, Rhubarb & Mint Wine - Third Bottle (4), 2nd-3rd September 2017

I needed no wine on Saturday evening. Lunchtime was spent with Rodney in the Olive Branch. Between the two of us we polished off two bottles of an Italian red. I do like going for lunch with Rodney.

Claire asked what flavour she could have with our meal of quiche and spicy beet tops and I told her to take her pick. Naturally she chose the best.

We finished the bottle between us tonight. It is a fabulous wine; there is a complex yet refreshing taste where no single flavour is prominent. I can tell that the remaining three bottles will not be collecting much dust.

Sunday 3 September 2017

Apple Wine - First Bottle (5), 31st August - 1st September 2017

I had anticipated something underwhelming when I opened this bottle. Apple wine is one I have found difficult to get right. My most successful attempt was that batch that used 24 lbs of apples, and that was only really good when young. Therefore I was very happy with this wine. It was a light, pleasant drink that had a real taste of apples and (now we have an apple tree) one that is destined to become a regular.

The opening coincided with the new series of The Great British Bake Off. This has newly moved to Channel Four and I was worried that it would suffer as a result. As with the apple wine, I was pleasantly surprised; two things in one evening better than expected.

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

Saturday 2 September 2017

Rose Petal Wine - Third Bottle (C2), 28th August 2017

I left this bottle with Catherine in Leamington Spa. She cannot make the Wine Party this year, mostly on account of having acquired two Jack Russells - Betty & Arthur - so I wanted to give her something nice for having put us up on short notice. I have had a Facebook message this evening to say that it tastes like sherry, is not particularly yellow and does not taste of roses. I am surprised at the last of these comments.

It was lovely staying with Catherine - she is besotted by her dogs, and having met them, that is not surprising. We did have to take precautions from their French kisses though!

Thursday 31 August 2017

Christmas Tutti Fruti - Seventh Bottle (B1), 28th August 2017

It has been a glorious bank holiday weekend, and that is not something that can be said very often. The skies have been unremittingly blue and the sun has beaten down. We have spent it in the Midlands; initially spending time with Rachael, Paul & Myles (which was an utter delight) and then seeing Helen (briefly) followed by staying over with Catherine and entertaining her two Jack Russells. It has felt like a mini-holiday, and, to extend that feel, we have shared a bottle of Christmas Tutti Fruti on a Monday night. The wine is alright - it benefits from being chilled - but is nothing memorable.

Catherine and Arthur (a Jack Russell)

Tuesday 29 August 2017

Ginger Wine - Fourth Bottle (2), 24th August 2017

On the whole, Thursdays are not a full bottle night. Generally they are not a 'best bottle' night either. However, Claire had some dreadful news at work (her shiny new 3 year contract has - due to an HR cock-up - turned into a 2 year contract) and this was the best way I could help. When it came to pouring the final glass I made sure Claire got the larger one, and this earned me brownie points.

Ginger wine, or at least this vintage, is terrific. It has a bite, but one that is playful. I tried adding a modicum of whisky and in fact that was not an improvement.

Monday 28 August 2017

Blackcurrant Wine - Seventeenth Bottle (B2), 20th August 2017

It has been one of those domestic days. I have cooked one lentil curry, baked two loaves of bread, washed up at least four times and started my nectarine wine. Consequently I am now ready for bed and just that little bit drunk. I blame the blackcurrant wine combined with the not-having-eaten-very-much.

Friday 25 August 2017

Nectarine Wine - The Making Of...

My wine making thumbs have been twitching. Having made Blackcurrant in July this year, it looked like August was to be an empty month. This, of course, would be sacrilege, and Something Had To Be Done. On Saturday morning, 18th August, I dropped Claire back at the house with our week's shopping and drove to Harehills, promising that I wouldn't come back with anything too exotic. My thoughts were either Tomato or Nectarine - I have not done either - depending on which were cheap.

Nectarines were being sold twelve for a pound and that fitted the bill nicely. The argument 'against' is that my attempts at peach wine have been Bloody Awful, and nectarines are closely related. The argument 'for' is alphabetical. My only other N wine has been Nettle, which Claire described as tasting like chopped liver and fag ash, and this has to be better. Right?

The Stones
Anyway, I started the wine on Sunday, making it up as I went along. I weighed out 5 lbs of nectarines - which came to 30 in number, washed them and chopped them into small pieces, discarding the stones. (The stones themselves weighed 11 oz). I put the fruit into my bucket and gave it a thorough mashing. Having read that peaches give very little body to a wine, and I presume the same is true of nectarines, I added 8 oz of minced sultanas. At this stage the mixture looked like particularly colourful vomit, but smelt divine.

I added 2 lbs 12 oz sugar and poured over six and a half (UK) pints of boiling water. About eight hours later, when the mix had cooled, I added the yeast and a teaspoon each of pectolase, tannin and nutrient.

Particularly colourful vomit
On Thursday night, 24th August, I sifted out the solids and put the liquid into its demijohn. I could have used at least half a pint less water in the recipe. The wine is an attractive peachy-orange, but I hear from Facebook posts that it will take an age to clear.

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