This blog is a record of the wine that I make and drink. Each flavour made and each bottle drunk will appear here. You may come to the conclusion that, on the whole, I should be drinking less.

Wednesday 31 May 2017

Rose Petal Wine - Twelfth Bottle (A3), 26th May 2017

With six middle-aged, middle class adults sitting in the garden on a warm Friday evening in May, one bottle was never going to be enough. My second (though not final) of the evening was this rose-petal wine - and it was perfect for the occasion; floral, summery and with a touch of the Middle East.

Part of the evening's entertainment was watching tadpoles feast on the corpse of a dead fish in our pond - a delightful pastoral scene. I trust this will result in several healthy bouncing frogs before the summer is up.

Tuesday 30 May 2017

Rhubarb Wine - Second Bottle (A2), 26th May 2017

On the strength of this bottle, wine making may be contagious.

It being a lovely evening, we invited Liz, David, Phil and Angie for a sit round the pond and an end of week bottle of wine. The rhubarb wine was delicious (though maybe not as much as the rhubarb gin that Phil brought) and I have now made arrangements to lend a bucket, a couple of demijohns and some yeast to Liz so she can make her own. Bentcliffe Drive will become its own wine region should Liz catch the bug. She has an excess of rhubarb, so at least that is a start.

Monday 29 May 2017

Crab Apple Wine - Sixteenth Bottle (D2), 24th-25th May 2017

My first glass of this crab apple (which incidentally is excellent - full of apple at the sharp end) was drunk in bed while struggling on with Appassionata by Jilly Cooper. Our Book Group party in June is themed around 'Bonkbusters', and this is mine. I find it close to unreadable - unlikeable characters, dull and petty themes, sprinkled with inaccuracies about classical music.

My second glass was better - drunk in the garden on Thursday enjoying the early evening warmth - and not a Bonkbuster in sight.

Sunday 28 May 2017

Ugli Fruit Wine - First Bottle (1), 21st May 2017

Well, this is an unexpected delight. I had anticipated something rather less than middling at best and bloody awful at worst. What I have is a light and fresh citrus wine that has no hint of bitterness and that I would be proud to serve in company. Whilst this flavour will remain a one off, I think (and whisper it quietly) it may be even better than Orange Wine.

It was drunk at the end of a lovely, quiet weekend in which I exercised some previously unused gardening muscles removing ash saplings, buttercups, brambles and grasses from our front garden. It may not sound like heavy work (it wasn't) but I ache all over.

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

Saturday 27 May 2017

Blackcurrant Wine - Fourteenth Bottle (B1), 20th May 2017

On the whole, Richard likes his wines white. I was too disorganised on Saturday to put anything in the fridge, so I took along a blackcurrant wine instead. We were eating at Richard & Linda's and were fed royally. It is not a proper evening there unless I come away clutching my sides, groaning "I ate too much". Saturday was a proper evening. Our starter was mackerel with a gooseberry, apple and cucumber salsa. For the main course we had a goats' cheese, red onion & asparagus pasta dish with home-made soda bread flavoured with carrot and parmesan. Finally, Richard served a honey, blueberry & lemon cake which he claimed was underbaked, but I had a second slice anyway. The wine, whilst nice, could hardly compare.

Thursday 25 May 2017

Blackberry Wine - Seventeenth Bottle (B6), 14th-16th May 2017

Half a bottle of Christmas Tutti Fruti on a Sunday night was never going to be enough. Particularly when Claire and I had spent the weekend apart. I had been at a Warwick reunion, which was wonderful, but I was keen to get home to see Claire. In fact I spent most the evening making rhubarb wine, but at least I was pottering on familiar territory.

We left the last glass of wine until tonight, and my helping was distinctly soupy. More of an alcoholic blackberry smoothy than a glass of wine. But what's not to like?

Wednesday 24 May 2017

Xmas Tutti Fruti - Fourth Bottle (A6), 13th-14th May 2017

My phone buzzed whilst I was at a Turkish restaurant in London at a 25-year University Reunion Meal. "Have opened a bottle of Tutti Fruti" it read. I approved of Claire's choice - it has been a while since we drank one of those. While Claire spent the evening with the wine and an episode of Midsomer Murders I was recapturing my Warwick days. It was joyous seeing Sue & Caroline again, and being in Kings Cross Station at midnight, having it to ourselves, was magical.

The bottle had half its contents when I returned, but that was soon remedied. We drank it chilled while wandering round the garden, inspecting our holdings in soft fruit and columbines.

Monday 22 May 2017

Prune & Parsnip Wine - Fourth Bottle (A1), 11th-12th May 2017

Another week. Another WYSO. Another bad mood. This time it is Berlioz's March to the Scaffold that I can't play. Drastic measures are called for. I may have to do some bassoon practice.

Other reasons why I might be a little grumpy? I am now 'Priority Level 3' for PlusNet failing to connect us to broadband. It only goes up to 4 and I have no idea what happens then.

Claire also needed wine - she has taken the plunge and applied for a new job - one which does not rely on grant applications and uncertainty. Prune & Parsnip fitted the mid-week mood-improving need quite nicely, with its medium-dry sherry flavour and overall alcoholic content.

Sunday 21 May 2017

Rhubarb Wine 2017 - The Making Of...

The end result
King's Cross Station, after midnight, is a magical place. It is a huge domed space, empty of people save for a few late night revellers returning home. Last Saturday night I was one of those - reliving my youth after a 'Quarter of a Century Since Graduating from Warwick' reunion. Being in the station with Caroline, Susan and Stuart was only a short moment, but my favourite of the weekend.

Four people in their late 40s pretending to be 22 again

On Sunday 14th May I came home to find nearly 7 lbs rhubarb waiting for me to make into wine. Nick had dropped this off from his allotment on Saturday and in return was rewarded with two bottles of last year's rhubarb wine. This strikes me as a good deal which makes everyone happy. I made the rhubarb up to 9 lbs from our garden, which is the right quantity for a triple batch.

Some of our rhubarb - with flowers (which one is meant to avoid)

All the rhubarb was washed and cut up into slices - none more than an inch and most considerably less than that. I put the sliced rhubarb into my bucket and poured 20 pints of boiling water over it, releasing a wonderful scent of stewed rhubarb. My recipe requires 9 lbs of sugar for a triple batch, but I only had half of that. It being a Sunday evening after an exhausting weekend, I couldn't be arsed to go round to medium-sized Sainsburys to get more, so I put in what I had and made the rest up on Monday. I can't imagine this two-staged approach will affect the wine.

On Monday morning before work (and so before the second application of sugar) I added the yeast and a teaspoon-and-a-half each of nutrient and pectolase. By Tuesday this was frothing nicely.

Rhubarb frothing nicely (plus my foot)

I put all the liquid into my three demijohns on Friday night, 19th May. As with most wines, I removed the bulk of the fruit with a collander and then proceeded with the sieve-jug-funnel method, leaving a gap at the top of each demijohn to avoid explosions and filling a bottle with some wine for later topping-up purposes. By the time I had finished this it was eight o'clock and Claire & I were both hungry. We left the wine, pale pink and bubbling, and had a fabulous Turkish meal at 'The Olive Branch'.

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

Friday 19 May 2017

Crab Apple Wine - Sixteenth Bottle (A5), 7th May 2017

I can think of nothing interesting to say about this wine. We drank it. It was fine.

Currently I am totally wound up about Plusnet - who are meant to be providing us with a new, improved broadband. We dispensed with TalkTalk and (despite ordering Plusnet on 6 April) have been without internet for a fortnight. And it makes me so tense and cross. When I ring them they sound reasonable and apologetic and tell me everything will be working soon. But it bloody isn't and my heart races when I think about it.

*By way of update, we have finally been connected (on 17 May)

Thursday 18 May 2017

Orange Wine - Third Bottle (A6), 6th May 2017

After the slight disappointment of the last two bottles, this orange wine came as a relief. It was sweeter, less bitter and an all-round good bottle. We drank it on the Saturday night after our week's holiday in the North Pennines, and I had been considering not having anything alcoholic to drink. But as soon as Claire suggested that I open something, I crumbled.

The wine was drunk while I was finishing the longest book I have ever read: The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett - a twelfth-century based saga full of plot and cathedral-building. Badly written, but I loved it.

Wednesday 17 May 2017

Rose Petal Wine - Eleventh Bottle (C3), 4th May 2017

I always take Rose Petal Wine with me when going on holiday with Rachel & Duncan. It has been a tradition to drink it outside during evening sunshine and pretend it is warm and pleasant. This year I opened it on our last night after a 9-ish mile walk at Allendale Banks, which was lovely. The wine was good - full of rose flavour and a promise of the exotic - and a nice way to end our holiday. Despite the heavy cold, it has been an excellent, relaxing week.

Hiding behind trees on our walk at Allendale Banks

Tuesday 16 May 2017

Clementine Wine - Fourth Bottle (6), 3rd-4th May 2017

There is a great photo of me looking relaxed and happy while Nick has his first sip of Clementine Wine. His eyes are bulging in the manner of one who realises he has just been poisoned. Now, I wouldn't go so far to describe this as poisonous, but all I can taste is a bitter lemon pith. Nick noted its petrol flavours and described a dustiness. The wine stayed open for two days around nine drinkers, and still over half the bottle went down the sink. At least that is another bottle of this vile brew finished.

Nick with bulging eyes

Monday 15 May 2017

Rhubarb Wine - First Bottle (A5), 3rd May 2017

Of all the bottles I took on holiday with me, I would not have predicted rhubarb to be the Hit Flavour. I thought it would be ordinary and only brought it because the rhubarb had come from Nick's allotment. However, this wine was excellent. It has a taste of real wine - there is a complexity there which I had not expected. We drank it after a walk along Hadrian's Wall where the sun shone, the wind blew and I came away feeling weather-beaten. It was a brilliant day.

Friday 12 May 2017

Blackberry Wine - Sixth Bottle (B3), 2nd-3rd May 2017

This bottle of blackberry had started a secondary fermentation, so was drier than the others of this vintage and fizzy. Neither attribute is particularly beneficial, which is a shame because I brought it on holiday as an example of something delicious. It was fine, but no more than.

I opened the wine after an 8-mile walk that in High Force and Low Force on the River Tees, as well as Teeside moorland. There was some beautiful scenery, and High Force was powerful and dangerous. The Tees at this point was peat-blackened with browny-white foam, and it looked as if gallons of Guinness were pouring over the waterfall.

High Force

Thursday 11 May 2017

Ginger Wine - Third Bottle (3), 1st May 2017

My heavy cold was sufficiently better today that I ventured out for a walk beyond Allendale Town. It was six miles of early-Victorian industrial heritage, following the routes of tunnels leading from the village forge to two stone chimneys jutting out of the moor. Two of my companions were brothers Wilf and Ted (8 and 5) who told me about dragons and held my hands.

In the evening I opened this ginger wine - always good for a cold - and was surprised when David the Architect described it as subtle.

Wednesday 10 May 2017

Rhubarb, Elderflower & Mint Wine - First Bottle (1), 30th April 2017

I have opened this bottle more than a month earlier than planned because I wanted to bring my very best wine with me on holiday. There are 12 of us staying in an isolated cottage (if a thirteenth arrives, we are likely to be characters in a 1930s murder-mystery) and so everyone had half a glass. The wine is refreshing, with elderflower being the dominant flavour. If one concentrates, the mint is apparent but it is a subtle taste. This wine was generally liked by the assembled throng, but no-one waxed lyrical about it being the best drink ever created.

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

Tuesday 9 May 2017

Blackcurrant Wine - Thirteenth Bottle (D2), 29th April 2017

This was the first of seven bottles of wine that I have brought with me on our holiday in the North Pennines. We are staying in a converted cowshed and barn south of Slaggyford and the place is amazing. Lots of light, floor to ceiling windows and two kitchens.

We drank the blackcurrant wine after a 9-mile walk around the local countryside and a round of cosmopolitans - a dangerous cocktail if ever there was one, but before our meal of peppered steaks. Now, however, I am coming down with a bad cold and my throat feels like sand paper.

The place we stayed

Wednesday 3 May 2017

Crab Apple & Strawberry Wine - Third Bottle (1), 26th-27th April 2017

I was disappointed with this wine, but that was probably because of the mood that I was in. The wine had no distinction - I got neither strawberry nor crab apple from it. It might as well have been shop-bought (which, actually, must mean it was rather good). Wednesday's bad mood was courtesy of WYSO - and more specifically the Mission: Impossible theme. I can't play it. The bassoons are forever on the off-beat and I find that (suitably) impossible. Bassoons were not built to be groovy. We were built to play Mozart.

This is not what a bassoon is meant to do

Monday 1 May 2017

Dandelion Wine - Fourth Bottle (1), 23rd April 2017

Drunk on St George's Day in every sense! It seemed like a fitting occasion for a bottle of dandelion wine. Could anything be more English? The wine is superb - a full sherry that is smooth in the throat. This policy of leaving a year between bottles requires patience but pays dividends. I had a lovely, relaxed day too. Claire was off being tutored in the art of the string quintet so I spent a day on the chaiselongue reading and doing very little else. The book is A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley, our Book Group Book, and it is beautifully written. 'Jolly' is not an adjective to describe it, however.