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.

Sunday 26 February 2017

Rose Petal Wine - Eighth Bottle (A1), 24th-25th February 2017

Claire is having job troubles again. She has been told that there is unlikely to be funding for her role beyond 2017. The problem is that her job doesn't tick the funding boxes: she isn't doing her own research and very often she gives the advice "your experiment won't work for the following reasons..." to those who are. Whilst this saves time and money, it is not measurable. Consequently, Friday was spent moping - particularly after an abortive visit to Madeleine's to provide musical advice on a trio, where we came home again because the pianist had forgotten to turn up. I'd like to say that a bottle of rose petal wine banished all ill-temper, but that would be a lie. It is a good bottle nonetheless, and exceedingly drinkable.

Thursday 23 February 2017

Blackcurrant Wine - Tenth Bottle (A2), 19th February 2017

This weekend has involved remarkably little alcohol. Particularly if you discount tonight. On both Friday and Saturday we were at the opera - The Snow Maiden and Hansel & Gretel respectively. The Rimsky Korsakov was fine but the Humperdinck was excellent. This left Sunday to have a bottle of wine plus a couple of gin & tonics, and this blackcurrant wine was delicious. I'm now on the bush tea to sober up a little, before I go to bed.

I have spent the day having an exploratory walk around north Leeds, where Council Estate slots into seven-figure dwellings nearly seemlessly, and finishing Eight Months on Ghazza Street, which was chilling, ambiguous and thoroughly recommended.

Hansel & Gretel, the Opera North way

Tuesday 21 February 2017

Xmas Tutti Fruti - Second Bottle (A4),15th-16th February 2017

If I say that this bottle was disappointing, it is only because I know how good Christmas Tutti Fruti can be. My sole complaint is that there is a thinness to it which was missing from 2014's vintage. Taste-wise it is fine, if not very interesting.

I opened the bottle on a Wednesday - which was a rare night in, on account of it being half-term and no WYSO rehearsal, and we finished it on Thursday. Little of interest happened on either day - which makes for a dull read (apologies). I saw an excellent docudrama - The Moorside - based on the Shannon Matthews kidnapping. The acting was exemplary, but the programme has been criticised for being too soon after the event (9 years) - the girl involved is only now 18.

The three main characters in 'The Moorside' - all fabulous actors

Sunday 19 February 2017

Crab Apple Wine - Eleventh Bottle (A3), 12th February 2017

I was a little disappointed with this bottle of wine. Maybe it was my mood (mostly mournful) but there was something about it that I found bitter. Claire disagreed, and we had no problems dispatching the bottle. It had been a miserable day, weather-wise (and in general) and apart from an irritating trip to Sainsburys we were cooped up all day. I got on with our Book Group Book - Eight Months on Ghazzah Street by Hilary Mantel, which so far is excellent and uncomfortable, but otherwise it was a low-key end to what has been a terrible weekend.

Saturday 18 February 2017

Blackberry Wine - Fourth Bottle (B2), 11th-14th February 2017

This vintage of blackberry is superb. Have I said that already? There is an instant burst of blackberry which tastes as good three days after opening as it does when fresh. I opened it before Rachel, Duncan, Claire and I went to Hansas for an evening of hot vegetarian curry and talking about Stan.

Rachel & Duncan's visit coincided with the first day of our new sofa - which previously belonged to Rachel's grandmother. We have had it upholstered with an Art Deco inspired material. Until now, I had only thought of sofas as functional rather than things of beauty. This one is absolutely stunning.

Our 'new' sofa

Thursday 16 February 2017

Prune & Parsnip Wine - First Bottle (A2), 10 February 2017

Stanley died tonight. He was hit by a car and we think was killed instantly. He was part of our lives for nearly seventeen years and of our two cats was the better one (by some margin). I thought I was okay about it - he was old, still healthy, died quickly, had a good life - but when I rang my mother I just broke down. Stan was a lovely cat and I won't know a better one. There will be a void, Stanley-shaped, for quite some time.

We tried to numb the grief with a bottle of Prune & Parnsip - which I am not in the best position to judge right now - and by watching The Full Monty - and that helped. But right now, I would like to be annoyed by a cat whining about his food being inadequate.

Stanley - butter wouldn't melt!

Wednesday 15 February 2017

Rhubarb Wine - Eighth Bottle (B3), 8th-9th February 2017

This wine was opened to celebrate the fact that I am not going to jail.

In January I had a phone call from the Inland Revenue: they wanted to come and inspect some professional records I was meant to keep. My heart dropped and I felt sick. What records I had were scant and on checking the maximum penalty, I focussed on the word "imprisonment". The next 3 weeks were spent getting my papers in order and worrying. The inspection was on Wednesday and, of course, went without much of a hitch. So I remain a free man, able to enjoy a glass or two of rhubarb wine - a dependable mid-week bottle.

Tuesday 14 February 2017

Elderberry Wine - Third Bottle (A1), 5th-7th February 2017

My Sunday was one of those days where I am glad to be alive. Well, I am always glad to be alive, if one considers the alternative, but on Sunday I was particularly so. This was only partly down to my elderberry wine (which is fabulous) accompanying roast gammon. Mostly it was spending the day not rushing about, but having time to dig in the garden while the sun shone and robins watched my every move waiting for worms.

I made bread, started my Prune & Parsnip wine and went to Leeds Grand Mosque for an open day to watch Muslim men pray - so an entirely ordinary Sunday! We went to the Mosque in response to awful things happening in the Middle East and the USA, but watching the prayers felt intrusive (albeit interesting). I was invading other people's personal faith.

Leeds Grand Mosque

Sunday 12 February 2017

Prune & Parsnip Wine 2017 - The Making Of...

Not Aesthetically Pleasing Parsnips

I popped into Sainsburys on Thursday to pick up one or two things we needed and saw that 'Basics Parsnips' were being sold at 70p for a 750g bag. In this instance 'Basics' means 'Not Aesthetically Pleasing', and for wine that matters not a jot. I put three bags into my trolley and proceeded to the checkout.

My wine-making, though, was done on Sunday 5 February. The morning's activities mostly involved digging in the garden. It was sunny and - once I had been digging for half an hour - T-shirt weather (until I stopped). Two robins watched my work with interest and one was brave enought to flit to a point I had just dug, grab a worm and flit off again. They are more corageous than the pigeons and blackbirds, who stayed in their trees until I went inside.

Prunes & Parsnips

Once I decided that I had done enough in the garden for the day I weighed 4 lbs of parsnips and chopped these into small pieces, ready for boiling. These sat around for a couple of hours while we attended Leeds Grand Mosque (which is more 'Concrete' than 'Grand') for an open day. Mostly we were there for solidarity purposes, to express support against the vilification of Islam in social media and by certain influential sectors and people, but I got a cup of tea and a Danish pastry too.

Parsnips chopped into small pieces
Back at home, I halved each of the prunes and put them in the bucket. The parsnip pieces were boiled in 16 pints of water for half an hour (though I did this in two lots). I poured the water into the bucket and threw out the parsnips. 5 lbs 10 oz sugar went in and the next morning I added the yeast and a teaspoon each of pectolase and nutrient. It took a coupld of days before there was much evidence of fermentation, and I put that down to it being February and cold.

Evidence of Fermentation

I was going to put this into its demijohns on Friday night, but Stan was knocked over and killed that evening, so wine-making was rather less important. I know he was only a cat. But he was our cat and I loved him. Instead, the wine went into the demijohns on Saturday morning, 11th February, and judging by the foam, I am worried that I have filled them too full. They look like two large jars of an English Real Ale.

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

Saturday 11 February 2017

Rose Petal Wine - Seventh Bottle (B1), 4th-5th February 2017

Often rose petal wine is let down by just a hint of bitterness. Not this bottle, though. It was a delight - floral (of course), not too sweet and with a suggestion of the exotic. We drank most of it after Music Club where I played with Madeleine's quintet. Our theme was 'walking': two Promenades, a Walking Tune and the Washburn Suite (which, admittedly, has very little to do with perambulation). The quintet played well and I came home pleased, though eager for wine. We drank it while eating cheese on chilli flavoured crackers - and excellent way to wind down after a concert.

NB - the Video is the last movement of the Washburn Suite - and my favourite of the pieces we played (and has a great bassoon part). It only lasts a minute and a half. The three other links I have put in are Youtube videos of the pieces we played - though only one is a wind quintet.

Tuesday 7 February 2017

Orange Wine - Eleventh Bottle (A4), 1st-2nd February 2017

My wine bottle filing system leaves something to be desired. It took an age to find this bottle – and when I did, it was in the crypt, meaning that I was on my hands and knees reaching precariously into a large hole. But Claire had asked for orange wine, and that was my quest.

We drank this wine over two nights. On Thursday it was to the best tortilla I think I have ever made (adding chilli seeds made the difference) and we finished the bottle listening to an exciting, cliff-hanging episode of The Archers. Rob, the panto-villain, has just run off with his infant son. Tonight's episode is on in four minutes!

Saturday 4 February 2017

Crab Apple Wine - Tenth Bottle (A4), 28th January 2017

I must get into a better habit of writing up my bottles. It is now Tuesday evening and we had this bottle on Saturday. Consequently I remember little of its taste - though it being Crab Apple, I imagine it was very much like other bottles of this vintage.

The evening was excellent. Richard & Linda came over for a meal and we had a lovely time chatting about this and that - mostly families, cats and The Archers. They are our oldest friends from Leeds, having lived in the flat below when we moved here in 1997 (gosh - 20 years ago!) and an evening spent in their company is easy, comfortable and fun. Like a pair of comedy slippers.

Wednesday 1 February 2017

Blackcurrant Wine - Ninth Bottle (C4), 27th January 2017

I only had a glass and a half from this bottle, but even that was a mistake. I had arranged to go for beers with Paul Pinder at 8:30. Having not seen him for 27 years, I was unsure about how well we would get on and how long I would be out. Five pints later, it was suddenly midnight and I was walking home in my best approximation of a straight line.

Seeing 27 years happen in an instant to a school-friend's face is a strange experience. Teenage acne replaced by greying hair and greater wisdom. It was an excellent, joyful night, but I am feeling it today. What was that about greater wisdom?