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.

Friday 30 June 2017

Prune & Parsnip Wine - Fifth Bottle (B5), 22nd-23rd June 2017

Work has been very noisy of late. Not just literally noisy (it has been that as well) but mentally noisy. I come home and my head is full of things to be resolved and incidents of the day just gone. On Thursday night I was partially successful in creating some stillness, or at least shifting the noise to a different quality, by bassoon practice, cooking, Doctor Who and Prune & Parsnip Wine. We were careful to leave half a bottle for Friday - and supplemented the evening drinking with a rhubarb & ginger gin and a nightcap of whisky. Claire got me a bottle of Welsh whisky (Penderyn) for my birthday and it is Wonderful.

Wednesday 28 June 2017

Crab Apple Wine - Eighteenth Bottle (B4), 21st-22nd June 2017

This is a busy period at work, and Wednesday was particularly so. It was the second night in a row of arriving home late, shovelling down some food and hopping in the car to play my bassoon somewhere. Consequently, Claire and I drank rather more of this bottle than intended on Wednesday night. It was midsummer, though, and we can be excused for celebrating the solstice. On the basis that England's mini-heatwave continues, we drank the wine outside until nearly eleven, leaving only half a glass each for tonight. That barely touched the sides so now I am on Prune & Parsnip.

Tuesday 27 June 2017

Elderberry Wine - Fifth Bottle (A2), 18th June 2017

Whilst it was not my birthday on Sunday, I had my birthday tea. This was steak cooked rare, exotic mushrooms and a green salad, followed by chocolate grouting for pudding. It was meant to be a mousse but 'light' and 'fluffy' appeared not to be on the menu. All delicious and all accompanied by a fabulous elderberry wine.

The day had been the hottest of the year so far, and with typical timing we spent most of the afternoon indoors, rehearsing Tchaikovsky's 5th Symphony for the concert next weekend. Still, we spent the evening outside.

Friday 23 June 2017

Fig Wine - Final Bottle (4), 17th June 2017

Disaster! There will be no Fig Wine this year. More accurately, there will be no fig wine made this year, which means the dearth will hit in the 2018-19 season. Mom and Pop came over bearing these bad tidings, but we opened this bottle anyway - reinforcing the idea that any spare figs should come my way. Their tree has not produced the goods for a September crop.

We savoured this wine with a Middle Eastern feast involving chick peas, tomatoes, lots of garlic and a spinach and feta pie. It was a perfect Saturday - much of it spend outside basking in the June warmth, everyone enjoying each other's company. An excellent day, despite the news about the figs.

I think the fig disaster is second from the left, third row down.

Thursday 22 June 2017

Rose Petal Wine - Thirteenth Bottle (C5), 17th June 2017

Saturday was one of those rare British summer days that is pleasantly hot with no hint of mugginess, where it is a delight to spend all parts of the day outside. My parents were visiting and a bottle of rose petal wine in the garden was ideal. The wine's colour is now golden rather than pink, but it glowed in the late afternoon sunlight and it was no chore to finish the bottle before we ate. I had wondered if we should 'do something' to entertain the parents, but sitting in the warmth, chatting about this and that was just ideal. I am so lucky to have the family that I do.

Our pond is not the size this photo suggests

Tuesday 20 June 2017

Apple Wine - Final Bottle (4), 11th-13th June 2017

"Not Entirely Nasty". I had expected this to be awful - the last bottle of apple wine ended up down the sink. Therefore, when it turned out to be drinkable I was pleasantly surprised. 'Apple' was not a detectable flavour - the wine was more 'cheap white' than anything.

We opened the bottle on Sunday night, when we really should not have (already being a bottle down) and finished it on Tuesday. I spent Tuesday evening baking peanut butter cookies to take into work for my birthday. It is a strange tradition that the one celebrating his birthday should be the one who provides the biscuits.

And here is my recipe for Peanut Butter Cookies:

8oz butter (or margarine)
8 oz brown sugar
8 oz white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
8 oz peanut butter
16 oz plain white flour
2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Heat oven to about 200/ gas mark 6

Mix butter, sugar (both sorts), eggs and vanilla together (my recipe says ‘cream these’ but I’m not sure how that differs from mixing).

Mix in peanut butter

Add flour, bicarb and salt and mix in.

Roll small dollops of mix (about a teaspoon) into balls (smaller than a conker, larger than a marble), put on ungreased baking tray and press down with a fork (make a criss cross pattern). Don’t put the unbaked biscuits too close to each other, because they will expand in the oven. Bake for about 10 minutes

This recipe will make tons of biscuits - over 60 probably.

Saturday 17 June 2017

Mint, Elderflower & Rhubarb Wine - The Making Of...

I have had possibly the most middle class, middle-aged weekend one could ever imagine. What is more, I have absolutely loved it. On Saturday night I went to a string quartet party and ate Italian cheese brought by a guest who is renovating a villa near Padua. On Sunday afternoon, Claire and I wandered around 17 gardens as part of Chapel Allerton's Open Garden Festival, and then sat in a bar to drink craft beer. I feel I have reached the zenith of the bourgeoisie. And making Mint, Elderflower & Rhubarb Wine hardly struggles against that particular mold.

The Base Ingredients

Our rhubarb is past its best, so I picked the majority of my 3 lbs the previous weekend, sliced it thinly and put it in the freezer. The defrosted rhubarb gave an air of limpness and exhaustion in its bowl.
The Elderflower tree I picked from

I went foraging for elderflowers on Sunday morning, 11th June and picked far more than I needed in half an hour (most of which was taken up with travelling to and from the source). I stripped the flowers from their stalks in the garden, achieving a discoloured thumbnail in the process. Doing this outside meant that the insects I had collected had an opportunity to escape and our windows would not be covered by tiny flies. I stopped stripping once I had a pint of flowers (this took about an hour) and I will compost the rest.

Elderflowers that went into the wine

For the mint, I gathered both spear and peppermint from our garden - a slightly larger handful than the two previous years, and sliced this up.

Spearmint from our garden

All the ingredients went into my bucket and I poured in six and a half pints of boiling water, releasing a heavy scent of both elderflower and mint into the kitchen. I then added 3 lbs of sugar. The yeast and a teaspoon each of pectolase, nutrient and tannin went in on Monday morning, 12th June, before I walked my six miles to work.

The ingredients in my bucket

I put the liquid into its demijohn on Friday evening. As I was pouring the last of the wine from the bucket into the jug, I heard a clunk of something solid hitting the jug. It was the half-ounce weight - made from brass. I had used this when weighing rhubarb and forgotten to remove it. It is now noticeably shinier than the other weights in its set and I fear that I have ruined the wine. If it has a metallic taste, this will be why.

Less pink than pure rhubarb
If you want to see how this wine turned out, click here.

Thursday 15 June 2017

Blackberry Wine - Seventh Bottle (A4), 11th June 2017

What a wonderful vintage of Blackberry Wine. It is light, the correct level of sweetness and is absolute in its brambleness. I opened this bottle just as I was to give Liz a demonstration in how to rack a demijohn, so generously allowed her to have a glass (when, in fact, I wanted it all for myself).

It was a good bottle with which to end the weekend. Claire and I had spent the day nosing around other people's gardens in Chapel Allerton for an 'Open Garden' event. There were some excellent gardens to be seen ranging from formal and tidy to overgrown and being reclaimed by nature. Claire came away with pond envy (everyone's is so much clearer) and we finished the afternoon drinking beer in the Further North Bar.

Tuesday 13 June 2017

Orange Wine - Fourth Bottle (A4), 9th June 2017

Well, that General Election result was rather better than feared. I had imagined that Labour would be wiped out, that the NHS would become increasingly privatised, that Austerity would only become harsher and that Food Banks would multiply (incidentally, when did they become a thing?). But with the Tories only barely winning and there being a strong and rejuvenated Opposition, surely there must be more compromise, more attention to the needs of the many?

I suggested to Claire that we open champagne, but she thinks that is overdoing things - Labour still lost. Instead we had a bottle of (rather good) orange wine and ate bananas covered in melted chocolate and custard.

Sunday 11 June 2017

Ya Ya Pear Wine - Second Bottle (3), 7th-8th June 2017

I read today on the BBC website that being under the influence of alcohol does not preclude one from voting. I resolved to have at least a glass of Ya Ya Pear wine before attending my polling station, on the basis that the result will be depressing. Thus fortified, I did my civic duty and put a cross next to the Labour candidate. For the first time even when voting, there was a queue - and I find this encouraging.

Claire and I finished the wine on my return. It really isn't very good, though has improved from yesterday. Keeping it in the fridge must have helped. Claire says it tastes of Organic Chemistry lessons. I never had those. There is a hint of pear drops and something manufactured in its flavour.

NB - Mostly I write my diary entries a day or two after I have had the bottle of wine (and translate them into blog posts several days after that). This one, I didn't want to be prejudiced by the General Election result, so made sure I wrote it on the day. My next blog post will reveal how I felt about how things turned out.

Thursday 8 June 2017

Elderberry Wine - Fourth Bottle (A3), 4th June 2017

Generally it is accepted that should one couple visit another with plans to spend the evening drinking, the visiting couple will bring a bottle of wine with them. Duncan & Rachel have obviously not read the same etiquette books that I have. They turned up empty-handed and this was the second of two bottles drunk. Lucky that we are very good friends!

This elderberry is fabulous - I think one of the best I have made. It is smooth, deep and semi-sweet. So far there is no secondary fermentation - and a flat red is better than a fizzy one. I shall try to make the bottles in this batch an occasional treat.

Obviously not found on Rachel and Duncan's book shelf

Tuesday 6 June 2017

Blackcurrant Wine - Fifteenth Bottle (A4), 4th June 2017

I opened this bottle on Sunday night after an active weekend in which I discussed the merits of Bonkbusters at Book Group (very few, it turns out), ran through the wood shooting people with a  laser gun, and celebrating my brother's 50th birthday. A worrying number of party guests asked whether I was older than Chris. Which means they thought I look at least 52. I'm forty-bloody-six. How very dare they?

It was a relief to have some quiet time with a bottle of blackcurrant wine (always a good flavour), though we had Rachel and Duncan around to share it and a couple of take-out pizzas. A thoroughly satisfying weekend.

Sunday 4 June 2017

Fig Wine - Fifth Bottle (6), 29th May 2017

The day before we drank this wine Brigitta came for an evening meal and Claire made dish after dish of Morrocan food, following Claudia Roden's recipes. It was splendid food, and enough for a second round on Monday night. It being a bank holiday, we hadn't been at work and didn't have an orchestra rehearsal, so a perfect excuse to open a bottle of wine. Fig was chosen as it seemed fitting for North African food, and it really is a fabulous flavour. Exotic with a nutty aroma. We finished the bottle curled up on the sofa watching Doctor Who - a perfect end to our long weekend.

Thursday 1 June 2017

Strawberry Wine 2014 - Final Bottle (1), 27th May 2017

I have come to the conclusion that home made wine falls into two categories: those that age well and those that do not. Strawberry is in the latter group. This bottle was okay, but I wouldn't have wanted to leave it much longer. It has developed that generic country wine taste, which borders on the sherry but where the original fruit flavour is masked. This was no longer the delicious strawberry wine that I remember.

We drank it in Rachel's garden - she is about to let the house, so this was a way to say goodbye. Actually, we only drank half of it there. The weather has turned - our brief summer ended - so we scuttled indoors for the remainder.