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.

Tuesday 31 January 2017

Mango Wine - Fourth Bottle (1), 22nd-26th January 2017

Having returned from our Airedale Concert on Sunday night and finished up the Prune & Parsnip, we wanted something else to drink. I fished out this bottle of Mango from under the stairs as something that would not be so nice that we would want to finish it. In fact, it suffered greatly as a direct comparison to the Prune & Parsnip: far drier, thinner, less interesting. Not finishing the bottle proved not to be a problem. This task was completed on Thursday night after discussing money with our financial advisor - never the most interesting of subjects. At least this bottle has removed 'Mango' from my list of possible flavours for this April.

Monday 30 January 2017

Prune & Parsnip Wine - Ninth Bottle (A2), 21st-22nd January 2017

On both Saturday and Sunday nights, when drinking wine from this bottle, there was a sense of relief of a concert having gone rather better than it ought.

Saturday was Music Club, when I played with Pat & Peter - trios by Tim New. The composer turned up (which added to the stress somewhat). We played far better than I had expected and as well as I had hoped, and Prune & Parsnip (another double P) was drunk in the adrenalin come-down.

On Sunday it was the turn of Airedale - where each of the pieces (including Beethoven's Fifth) was under-rehearsed. We got away with it, though, and another glass of Prune & Parsnip went down the hatch.

Sunday 29 January 2017

Blackcurrant Wine - Eighth Bottle (C5), 20th January 2017

Returning from David Wilks' on Friday night, I expected this bottle to have been mostly consumed. It was, afterall, nearer to nine than eight. And did I mention it being a Friday night? Instead, Claire had only had one glass. We soon polished it off though, snuggled up on the sofa in front of the fire watching QI. It being two days later now, I can't really remember much about the wine itself. I imagine it was blackcurranty. But the evening was lovely - pretty much everything a Friday evening should be.

Saturday 28 January 2017

Orange Wine - Tenth Bottle (A3), 14th-15th January 2017

I had not meant to open this bottle when Rodney & Helen came for a meal, but somehow I found myself with corkscrew in hand, encouraging people to try my orange wine. We needed something to drink for the soup - cream of lemon - and the first bottle was already empty. Fig would have gone badly, so the natural choice was orange wine. I think our guests enjoyed it, though it was the only one of the four bottles that we did not finish. Helen said that she thought it was sherry-like, though I do not get that.

Claire finished the last dribble this evening, after a less than satisfactory afternoon Airedale rehearsal. We are badly prepared for next week's concert.

Thursday 26 January 2017

Strawberry Wine - Third Bottle (5), 14th January 2017

Strawberry wine is excellent. Tiramisu is delicious. They make a terrible combination. The sweet richness of the pudding makes the wine heavy and acid. I don't think I will serve strawberry as a dessert wine again.

This was our fourth bottle of the evening when Rodney & Helen came over - and four bottles between four is two too many. However, it was an excellent night. Rodney said that he hadn't seen Helen enjoy wine as much as the bottles I produced - which even if untrue is a nice thing to hear. Of the four, this was the one I liked least, but I blame the Tiramisu!

Tuesday 24 January 2017

Fig Wine - Third Bottle (1), 14th January 2017

This bottle was certainly a hit. Rodney was in raptures about how good it was and wondered if he could order a case. (He can't.) Fig wine is fabulous - it has a deep figgy taste and is a delightful colour. It went splendidly with the lamb cous-cous and honeyed onions that Claire served as our main course.

I had been a little worried about the evening. I didn't really know Helen and Claire did not know her at all. I wasn't sure how well Rodney & Claire would get on and was anxious about awkward silences. Needless worry, of course. The evening was lots of fun, the conversation never stopped and we drank far too much.

Saturday 21 January 2017

Inca Berry & Raisin Wine - The Making Of...

An Inca Berry (or Physallis) (or Cape Gooseberry)
Back in April last year, at the Extended Family Do, I was complaining that it was difficult to find a fruit that began with the letter 'I' for my wine alphabet. Adam, being a modern-day technologically connected teenager, pulled out his phone, did a quick search and discovered both Inca Berries and a place that sold their seeds. Now, I know this fruit as 'Physallis' and others call it 'Cape Gooseberry'. However, that the seed packet said 'Inca Berry' is good enough for me to tick the letter 'I', leaving only 'J' and 'Z' to go.

Inca Berry seedlings - taken to Cornwall

We planted the seeds in mid-April, sending a pack to St Albans for Lou and Adam to fail to grow, and took the seedlings with us to Cornwall for a week's holiday in May.

Inca Berry Plants in Summer
By July the plants were putting out flowers - an attractive yellow and brown mix, and by September these had turned into green lanterns surrounding the nascent fruit. This is really where it started to go wrong. Our summer was not hot enough and the autumn not dry enough for the lanterns to turn brown, crack open and reveal a small yellow globe. Some did, but on the whole the lanterns and their fruit inside stayed resolutely green.
Over time Claire and I harvested what we could - even bringing three of the plants inside (this helped) and this weekend, 15th January, I harvested everything that had not gone rotten. Overall, this produced only 1 lb 8 oz of fruit in various stages of ripeness. This is not enough for a batch of wine, but I couldn't waste what had grown, so I have made do with 'Inca Berry and Raisin Wine'.

I mashed the Inca Berries in my bucket (and they made a satisfying 'pop' as I crushed them) and added 1 lb 8 oz of minced raisins. Raisins have their own sweetness, so I added 2 lbs 8 oz sugar (which is half a pound less than I usually add to a wine) and poured in six and a half pints of boiling water. The Inca Berries are perfumed, which gives me hope that this won't be the blandest wine ever made (I think Ya Ya Pear may get that particular prize).

I left the mixture over night and added the yeast and a teaspoon each of nutrient, pectolase and tannin on Monday 16th January. I had earmarked Friday to put the wine into its demijohn, but by the time I returned from practising bassoon pieces with David on the piano, Claire had started a fire, downloaded an episode of QI and opened a bottle of wine, so I left it until this morning, 21st January.

The wine is exceptionally brown, and Claire says it suggests a bad attack of cholera. Yum!

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

Thursday 19 January 2017

Rhubarb, Elderflower & Mint - Fourth Bottle (1), 14th January 2017

A few months ago I went for a boozy lunch with Rodney and we got to discussing my home-made wine. I heard myself telling him that he and Helen would have to come over sometime and Claire would cook a delicious meal. Claire took this news better than many wives might have, and last night Rodney & Helen came over for the said delicious meal.

My first bottle (of, a now regrettable, four) opened was Rhubarb, Elderflower and Mint, and was Helen's favourite of the night. No-one picked up the mint flavour, but 'refreshing' was a word used to describe it. 'Lovely' was another one. All rather gratifying.

Tuesday 17 January 2017

Ginger Wine - First Bottle (6), 13th January 2017

This ginger wine is far better than my previous batch. It is dry, there is an undertone of lemon and the ginger comes through splendidly. It doesn't even need a splash of whisky to make it pleasant. Maybe it is a bottle to share between four rather than two, because the taste is so gingery, but Claire and I managed just fine to finish it over the course of an evening. In fact, we finished it before we ate - but we did eat closer to nine than eight, so I don't think that is scandalous. It was a lovely, quiet evening to round off a week with its fair share of tensions.

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

Sunday 15 January 2017

Elderberry Wine - Ninth Bottle (A1), 8th January 2017

When having steak - rare to medium rare, naturally - only a red wine will do. And amongst my reds, it is really only elderberry that makes the cut. Elderberry is a substantial, full-bodied red which complements the meat. It is fruity without being sweet.

The steak came from a tree-surgeon, which is a bit random.

We spent the day doing very little - still recovering from the Christmas socialising. This is our first and last quiet weekend in January. I am gearing up for another whirl of entertainment.

Saturday 14 January 2017

Blackcurrant Wine - Seventh Bottle (D1), 6th-7th January 2017

Book Group was at ours this month and our 'Winter Classic' was The Picture of Dorian Gray. I read this in my early-twenties and remember enjoying it. Perhaps it is a young man's book. This time round I found it tedious, over-written and far too arch for its own good. Mostly Book Group declared it a 'Miss', with only Claire being very positive about it.

I opened a bottle of blackcurrant for the occasion along with some real wine. Our brand new member, Jenny 2, had a couple of glasses though I made it clear she need not for politeness' sake. I hope she will be back.

Friday 13 January 2017

Crab Apple Wine - Ninth Bottle (C4), 2nd January 2016

We are officially still on holiday and it is not yet a work night. Claire has taken the whole week off and because I worked on Friday while everyone else was out of the office, I get Tuesday in lieu. This is reason enough to have a bottle of crab apple wine. Claire directed me to choose a bottle that was neither fabulous or awful, and crab apple fits that bill nicely. We drank it in front of the stove, recovering from what has been a sociable several days. But now we are Home.

Thursday 12 January 2017

Elderberry Wine - Second Bottle (B5), 1st January 2017

This is a fine vintage of elderberry wine. It is slightly sweeter than 2014's batch but maintains the complex elderberry taste. I shared it between Claire, Duncan, Rachel, Ruth and me in Cambridge - though it was not quite the first bottle of 2017 (that was a bottle of something sparkly). We had spent the day getting wet in Bury St Edmunds and settled down to watch the first in a new series of Sherlock. I was sufficiently sober (just) to follow the plot, and it was a grand way to begin 2017.

Bury St Edmunds in the rain

Tuesday 10 January 2017

Crab Apple & Strawberry Wine - Second Bottle (6), 31st December 2016

This year I saw the New Year in. For the fourth year in a row we are staying at Duncan and Rachel's in Cambridge but certainly last year I was asleep before the chimes. This year we had lots of fun with Alexa, Duncan's new artificial intelligence computer who responds to questions and orders. She had no opinion on whether I was devastatingly handsome but knew who won Best Actor Oscar in 1957. Duncan managed to order a grand piano (quickly cancelled) and put pollonium on his shopping list. The evening was helped by large amounts of alcohol, of which this was one bottle. And because it was one bottle amongst many, I remember little about it. Though I think it was quite good.

Sunday 8 January 2017

Christmas Tutti Fruti - Eleventh Bottle (B1), 28th December 2016

I had planned to open this bottle in Newcastle, but in fact opened it in York. Christmas is exhausting with all the hithering and thithering it involves, and Wednesday was my parents' turn. This was one of the early bottles open, and by the time we got to Jonathan Creek I was really rather drunk. Mom cooked a hearty dish involving beef, ham, swiss cheese and onion sauce. It is lucky there were no militant vegans in the room.

Saturday 7 January 2017

Orange Wine - Ninth Bottle (B6), 27th December 2016

Christmas is great. Well, maybe not the frippery and build up to it - but it is wonderful to spend the time feasting and seeing people you love en masse. However, it is also nice to sit quietly with a cat on your lap, not having to be sociable. Tuesday night was one of those rare occasions for this week, and we spent it sharing a bottle of orange wine and watching the Christmas episodes of both Bake Off and Doctor Who. Every aspect was entirely satisfactory and has recharged the batteries for the socialising still to be done.

Friday 6 January 2017

Rose Petal Wine - Sixth Bottle (A6), 26th December 2016

We had a raucous time on Boxing Day E'en whilst drinking rose petal wine. Claire, Sooz and I went round to Andrew's with alcohol and games - a winning combination. We played Exploding Kittens and Sabateur, sat by the stove and filled the room with laughter. Things got particularly silly when Andrew found a pipe and we all had a go looking like Edwardian gentlemen. I couldn't get the pipe-hold right and only succeeded in looking exceedingly camp.

The rose petal wine was only a minor part of the evening - neither Sooz nor Andrew had realised it was rose petal until the bottle was finished and I mentioned it. Claire only had a sip as designated driver.

Wednesday 4 January 2017

Xmas Tutti Fruti 2016 - The Making Of...

Work has been exceptionally busy as of late. This year we will have sold 71 houses: 24 of them completed the week before Christmas. That is over a third of the year's total in one week. No wonder I have been at least two of the seven dwarves (hint: one of them is not Happy).

On Friday 23rd December the office closed early and I got home at four. This gave me time to remove fruit from the freezer and with it before dashing off to sing Christmas carols round the neighbourhood (which is always the first enjoyable Christmas event for me). I pulled the following from the freezer:
  • 2 lbs 6¾ oz elderberries
  • 2 lbs rhubarb
  • 1 lb 6½ oz blackberries
  • 9 oz raspberries (red)
  • 7½ oz blackcurrants
  • 7¼ oz gooseberries
  • 3¼ oz rose petals
  • 2½ oz rosehips
  • 2 oz redcurrants
  • 1¾ oz raspberries (golden)
  • 1½ oz blueberries; and
  • 1¼ oz figs
I calculate that this makes 8 lbs 1¼ oz fruit. These defrosted in the bucket overnight.

I waited until the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols on Christmas Eve before mashing the fruit. Claire waited until the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols on Christmas Eve before starting her viola practice. I grumbled a bit, but with judicious shutting of doors the carols were louder than the viola. King's College choir sang my favourite carol - Harold Darke's In the Bleak Midwinter, which was pleasing. At this point I added a satsuma into the mix.

I made my wish while mashing the fruit (but I always forget what I wished for from year to year - I don't think I wished for Brexit or a Trump presidency last year). It is easy to lose concentration when measuring sugar and whilst I think I put in 5½ lbs, there is a possibility that the wine got an extra pound. I added 12 pints of boiling water - definitely.

On Christmas morning I added the yeast, nutrient and pectolase, Claire gave the wine a stir, making her wish, and we got into the car and drove to Newcastle.

I put this wine into its two demijohns on Friday night, 30th December, after a day in the office which I will claim back on Tuesday. I should have put in a pint less water when making the wine, but it is bubbling away happily and is its usual dark purple.

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

Tuesday 3 January 2017

Xmas Tutti Fruti - First Bottle (A2), 25th December 2016

This wine suffered in comparison to Tutti Fruti 2014. It is thinner and sharper, whereas the older vintage has greater depth and more obvious berry flavours. However, I think this is still a good wine - and more akin to a rosé. Dianne said that it would work chilled and I think she is right.

Christmas has been spent in Newcastle this year and the day was lots of fun. We had a present Lucky Dip (nothing cost more than a fiver) followed by good company, excellent food and sufficient booze. It is the way Christmas should be spent.

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