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 29 July 2017

Rhubarb Wine - Sixth Bottle (A1), 28th July 2017

As I walked through the door, Claire handed me a glass of cold, bronze rhubarb wine. I was in need of it. Work had been particularly busy and I didn't leave until seven. My concentration levels were shot, but good humour was restored by a sit down, rhubarb wine and a vegetarian curry. We are now on holiday and will be at Rydal Hall tomorrow for a week of sheer joy. I know I shall sleep badly tonight - the night before Rydal I am like a boy on Christmas Eve, albeit somewhat fuller of rhubarb wine.

NB - As I am about to be away for a week, there will be no posts until I am back. Have a good few days.

Friday 28 July 2017

Blackcurrant Wine 2014 - Final Bottle (B5), 26th-27th July 2017

It has been a year since I last had a bottle of this vintage. Has it improved through age? Difficult to remember. The wine was possibly more rounded, less one-note blackcurrant. I opened it while putting my Blackcurrant 2017 into its demijohns, but was restrained (on account of it being a Wednesday) and only had a glass and a half.

On Thursday I drank some of my portion while watching a stylish Spanish thriller on BBC4 - I Know Who You Are. If it has subtitles, it must be good. Or is that elitism in action? Claire was upstairs in the attic playing chamber music and claimed her fair share when the rest of the quartet had gone.

Thursday 27 July 2017

Blackcurrant Wine 2017 - The Making Of...

Though you would not think it looking out of the window this last week, we have had a proper summer this year. Whole weeks of long hot days with no rain clouds to be seen. It has resulted in early ripening fruit. I don't think I have ever made blackcurrant wine in July before. And the majority of currants were picked on 2nd July in Lindsay's garden. She was having a clear out and needed someone to store the WYSO percussion - a snare drum, triangle and tambourine. In return for this duty I was paid in blackcurrants - about 4 lbs - though I provided some of the labour in picking.

Lindsay's blackcurrants were stored in our freezer whilst the blackcurrants on our bushes ripened, which they did in stages. Every few days I would go out and collect another 4 oz, until my grand total (on Thursday 20th July) was 6 lbs - enough for a double batch.

I put the blackcurrants in my bucket and enlisted Adam, who happened to be staying, in the mashing duties. He is (much) younger and (much) fitter than I am and is planning on an army career. Meanwhile, I measured out 5 lbs 8 oz of sugar and poured this into a pan holding 12 pints of water. It took an age to dissolve this and then a further age to boil it, before I poured it over the (expertly mashed) blackcurrants.

Adam mashing blackcurrants
Next morning, when adding the yeast and a teaspoon each of nutrient and pectolase, I realised that I had missed a box of blackcurrants. My wine is 12 oz short of fruit - that is an ounce a bottle, and describing it in those terms it doesn't sound too bad. I'm still cross about it, though, and I hope it makes little difference to the wine.

More mashing action
On Wednesday 26th July I put the liquid into its two demijohns, straining out the fruit first with a colander and then a sieve. It turns out that I could have used more water - about half a pint. The wine is its usual attractive light aubergine colour and is in my bathroom bubbling away quietly to itself.

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

Wednesday 26 July 2017

Rhubarb Wine - Fifth Bottle (C6), 22nd-23rd July 2017

Our only weekend bottle (unless one counts Friday) and thus unusual. I opened this wine after depositing Adam in Holmfirth to watch his father's Madness Tribute Band (we heard a sound check that was painfully loud). Earlier I had taken Adam to see the Arlom graves in Almondbury - I'm sure every 16-year-old's idea of a good time is visiting their great great great great grandfather's tomb.

Back at home we drank warm rhubarb wine (not quite as good as cold) and read our books. Claire is on a Dalziel and Pascoe kick and I am enjoying A Desert in Bohemia by Jill Paton Walsh. The remnants of the wine were finished on Sunday before we went to a concert in the Rawdon Friends' Meeting House in aid of Amnesty International. It was bassoon and flute trios played brilliantly by the Meltemi Trio, and a good night out.

A Special Kind of Madness - the said Tribute Band

Tuesday 25 July 2017

Strawberry Wine - First Bottle (2), 21st July 2017

Adam was very enthusiastic about this bottle of strawberry wine, and rightly so. It is a classic strawberry - on the right side of dry and full-bodied. Extremely easy to drink - I needed to make an effort not to treat is as lemonade. Rachel is also staying and between the four of us we got through this, a bottle of Cava and huge steak & onion pie. I'm not sure whether Adam was more impressed by the wine or the pie - he had the lion's share of the latter, which is right & proper for a growing 16 year-old. Whether or not plying him with booze was a responsible thing to do remains open to debate.

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

Sunday 23 July 2017

Rose Petal Wine - First Bottle (B3), 20th July 2017

We have been invaded by visitors. Rachel has a meeting in Leeds and no longer has a house, so she is staying in the large front bedroom. Adam, my 16 year-old first-cousin-once-removed, has come to paint walls, so we have put him in the attic. Our first bottle on Thursday evening (I fear I am a Bad Influence for the teenager) was Rose Petal, and this batch has turned out nicely. The colour is an attractive light red and it has a dry, substantial taste dominated by rose. Claire thinks this may be the best rose petal I have made - and if it is, I think that is down to using sultanas rather than grape juice.

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

Saturday 22 July 2017

Crab Apple Wine - Nineteenth Bottle (D3), 16th July 2017

Drinking the entire bottle tonight may have been a mistake. I have work tomorrow and we started this evening with two glasses of real wine at David and Liz's. Because real wine is a rarity, I now find it surprising when the last glass of wine from a bottle is as clear as the first. The suspicion that drinking the whole bottle was an error was exacerbated by our lateness of eating. Our meal was not ready until 9:15. Whilst alcohol has plenty of calories, a bottle of wine on an empty stomach does not make one full, only pissed*. Still, it was a good wine - full of crisp apple flavour - and is not as if I am flat-out at work.

*This has a different meaning in the UK (drunk) to the USA (angry), and I know quite a lot of my readers are from the USA. I don't get angry when drunk - I'm a genial inebriate.

Thursday 20 July 2017

Christmas Tutti Fruti - Sixth Bottle (A1), 15th July 2017

I have discovered how to improve this wine: chill it, and stop thinking of it as a bottle of red. Despite its colour, this Christmas Tutti Fruti is a rosé and chilling it removes the accusation of thinness. Full bodied red - Begone! Welcome to a crisp pink.

The day has been lovely, if lazy. I did an hour's bassoon practice (the Mozart continues to improve), visited an Open Garden (lots of potential, not realised) and finished The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Carson - a lovely book set in 1976 about growing up and the dangers of community and 'belonging'.

Wednesday 19 July 2017

Prune & Parsnip Wine - Sixth Bottle (A4), 14th July 2017

This was a quiet Friday evening bottle, in which nothing remarkable happened and I was asleep by 10:30. There actually isn't that much else to say about it. We drank the wine to a risotto and then to an episode of QI, and commented on its golden colour.

This has to be the dullest entry ever, and so I will write no more. Let us never speak of this again.

Monday 17 July 2017

Orange Wine - Fifth Bottle (B4), 12th-13th July 2017

Shortly after I opened this bottle, Claire gave her second shriek in as many days. Nothing to do with the wine and everything to do with invertebrates in the kitchen. On Tuesday there was a wolf-spider in our lesser used pan drawer and on Wednesday it was a slug on a pan lid. Orange wine was required to calm frayed nerves. And judging by how little was left for Thursday, they required considerable calming.

On Thursday, there was cause for celebration. Claire has a new job in immunology and it is a huge relief. A quarter of a bottle of orange wine was not a sufficient celebration, so we had a bottle of Prosecco as well.

Sunday 16 July 2017

Rhubarb Wine - Fourth Bottle (B5), 9th July 2017

The last Sunday night of a holiday is never great. Anticipation of what is waiting for you at work is at the front of your thoughts. I tried to move it back a place or two with the aid of rhubarb wine. I have said it before, and I will say it several more times, but this wine is excellent - what one wants in a bottle of white.

We spent much of the day in Skipton, watching the Sedbergh Orchestra play in the Somme 100 concert that we played in a week ago. It was a good experience, seeing how film and music fit together, and a wonderful project for the Arts Council to have funded.

A blurry photo of the concert we attended

Friday 14 July 2017

Rose Petal Wine and Rose Petal & Orange Wine - The Making Of...

When Claire and I were married, 19 years ago, Betty Rumsby gave us rose vouchers as a wedding present. We bought two, both white. One was a rambler which produced a fine array of blousy roses and it was with sadness that we had to leave this when we moved house. The other was a bush. We planted this in the front garden that had no sunlight and dreadful soil. It put out the occasional rose but mostly sat and sulked. We took this with us and finally it is happy. This year it produced several white roses with a scent of sherbet and as they faded I collected the petals for my wine.

Our Rose

This and the photo on the top
left are two of my mother's roses
Meanwhile, Mom was also busy snipping roses from her garden - a mix of pink and red - freezing them and handing them over when our lives coincided. By Wednesday 5th July I had enough for my wine making plans.

That day I measured out 8 pints of rose petals, the amount required for a double batch, and put them in my bucket with 1 lb of minced sultanas, the juice from two oranges and 5½ lbs of sugar. I poured over 15 pints of boiling water (releasing a fabulous perfume), left it over night and added the yeast and a teaspoon each of nutrient, pectolase and tannin.

This year, at Claire's suggestion (and she is Always Right), I have also experimented by making a Rose Petal & Orange wine single batch. On Saturday 8th July - a day on which I have done little but enjoy the summer weather - I thinly peeled three oranges, avoiding the pith, and covered their peel with a pint of boiling water. I measured out 4 pints of rose petals and put these in the bucket with the juice from six oranges (nearly a pint of liquid) and 3 lbs sugar (so no sultanas this time, hence the increased sugar ratio). I poured over 5½ pints of boiling water and left it over night. Next morning I added the water covering the peel (though not the peel itself, which was discarded), the yeast and a teaspoon of each of the chemicals.

I put the Rose Petal Wine into its demijohns on Monday 10th July and the Rose Petal and Orange into its demijohn on Thursday 13th July, fishing out a dead beetle before I did so. The overall colour of both wines is a pinky-orange, but the Rose Petal & Orange has a lighter house-brick colour and is the more attractive.

The Rose Petal & Orange is on the left - but
it is difficult to discern the colour difference.
If you want to see how the Rose Petal & Orange turned out, click here.

Thursday 13 July 2017

Ugli Fruit Wine - Second Bottle (3), 8th July 2017

Claire was in a curry making mood, and this is when I like her best of all. We needed something sharp that would hold its own against hot and flavoursome food, and Ugli Fruit Wine fit this description nicely. Despite its name, it is a decidedly pleasant drink.

We had spent a lazy Saturday pottering: Claire gardening and viola practice, me wine-making and bassoon practice. This summer we will be playing Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante in Eb at Rydal (the version for wind quartet as soloists) and I'll be doing the bassoon solo.  I am both excited and terrified, and I need to get the semiquavers under my fingers.

Monday 10 July 2017

Blackcurrant Wine - Sixteenth Bottle (C3), 4th July 2017

My parents have kittens. I wonder if this is a wise investment. They are 76. (The parents, not the kittens.) Their names are Rufus & Abbie and they are adorable (the kittens, not the parents). Rufus is ginger and Abbie dark tortoise-shell, and their interests include "Beating each other up", "Purring loudly" and "Attacking paper balls". I had wondered whether visiting kittens was mistimed, on the basis that Aggie's lifespan can now be measured in hours, but it was better than 'Fine'.

We drank blackcurrant wine as our first bottle of the evening, and it was as good as ever. Mom experimented on us with fennel, fried chicken and aubergines, and I gave Pop a quick lesson on Facebook.

Blackberry Wine - Eighth Bottle (A5), 5th July 2017

We needed something nice to drink on Wednesday evening. Not only had it to go with a lamb curry, but it had to cheer us up. Wednesday was Aggie's last night and we put her down (which sounds better than 'we killed her') on Thursday morning. She was a very old cat - probably 19 but possibly 20 - and it has been clear over the last week that she was fading fast: toppling over, excess dribbling, dragging her hind legs, not yowling (which under other circumstances would be welcome). I have shared my life with her for 17 years and Goodbyes are always sad. We are now catless. I miss them.

Sunday 9 July 2017

Strawberry Wine 2017 - The Making Of...

It is the first week of July and we are on holiday. Our holiday will not involve exotic locations, unless one counts Hull, or extensive travel. This is a vacation for gentle pottering and catching up on some sleep. Our first holiday job was to take Aggie to the vet to find out if it was time for the Big Sleep (answer: no, but she is unlikely to last the month). Since then, fun levels have only improved. I spent time in the garden harvesting fruit (blackcurrants & gooseberries mostly - Claire won't let me near her raspberries) and after lunch we had a jaunt out to York Gate Garden. It being a sunny day, I packed picking baskets and from York Gate we went to the Horsforth Pick Your Own. Generally I go to Wharfedale Grange Farm near Harewood, but when I went past last week I saw no signs declaring it was open for fruit picking. Also, it has got so expensive that I thought I would give Horsforth a whirl. This pick-your-own is cheaper: about £2 a pound for strawberries and it was surprisingly busy for a Monday afternoon (2nd July).

Claire picking strawberries
The strawberries are 'Florence' variety and were huge and plentiful. The picking in Horsforth was easier than Wharfedale Grange - there was no searching and little rejecting involved. We wanted 5 lbs - 4 lbs for this wine and 1 lb for a wine later in the year - and came away with six strawberries too many.
Six strawberries too many
At home I washed and hulled the fruit, put it in the bucket and mashed until I had a container of gore. I added 3 lbs sugar and 4 pints of boiling water, giving it all a thorough stir.

On Tuesday afternoon, following a jaunt into town in which we bought a standard lamp, two guides to Corfu and a large yellow rug, I removed the pulp from the liquid (storing the liquid in a demijohn) and covered it with 2 pints of water. I then washed and re-sterilised my bucket and other equipment used (jug, spoon, sieve, colander, funnel) and removed the pulp from its new liquid, this time discarding the pulp. All liquid (including that in the demijohn) went back in the bucket and I added the yeast and a teaspoon each of nutrient, pectolase and tannin.

The stage where some liquid is in the demijohn and the pulp is covered in 2 pints of water
I put the wine into its demijohn on Saturday 8th July but as there was nothing to filter out this was very quick. It is a beautiful, solid red.

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

Saturday 8 July 2017

Strawberry Wine - Fourth Bottle (2), 2nd July 2017

No more concerts until November. In the last eight days Claire has played in four and I have done three. All have been excellent, though. Tonight's was Airedale and we played Laura Rossi's score to a film shot in 1916 recording the Battle of the Somme while the film played behind us. During rehearsals I was able to watch some and the experience veered from exhilarating (a crash of percussion as cannons fired) and moving (all those young men, many of them shown dead). We came home to a bottle of strawberry wine and the season finale of Doctor Who. The wine is wonderful - full and rich and stuffed with strawberry. Doctor Who was confusing. I'm often left at the end thinking "What just happened there?".

Wednesday 5 July 2017

Gooseberry Wine 2017 - The Making Of...

On returning from work on Thursday, having had an alcohol-free Wednesday, I thought a small whisky would be in order. First, though, I checked my diary to ensure I had no engagements for the evening.  "Quintets in Harrogate," it read. "Bugger," I thought, and shelved the whisky idea. I grabbed my bassoon and headed to Esther's. The evening was a lot of fun and the Taffanel Quintet particularly so. At the end, Esther asked if anyone wanted any gooseberries because she had rather more than she needed. I decided to push my luck and asked if she had 6 lbs. She did. Esther has been stock-piling gooseberries for years because no-one in her family likes them, so she fished around in her freezer and came back with bags labelled '2015' and '2016'. I defrosted these overnight and began the wine on Friday evening, 30th June.

Our gooseberries untouched by pigeons
It has been several years since I have made gooseberry wine. We have plenty of bushes at home and this year I hoped I would be self-sufficient. However, we also have a family of three fat pigeons in our garden who are partial to the fruit. Oh, for a shot-gun and a good aim!

Anyway, I put the gooseberries in my bucket and spent ten minutes mashing them. Having been frozen and defrosted, they mashed easily and gave out a lot of liquid. I added 2 lbs 12 oz sugar and poured over 6 pints of boiling water, giving it all a thorough stir. Next morning, 1st July, I added a teaspoon each of nutrient, pectolase and tannin as well as the yeast.

Gooseberries fermenting
On Wednesday afternoon, 5th July, I put the wine into its demijohn. I am on holiday this week, but had had nothing specific planned and an afternoon of solid wine-making (after an hour and a half's nap) is a relaxing way to spend time away from work. I removed the gooseberries from the liquid firstly with a colander and then using a jug, sieve and funnel - making sure not to fill the demijohn too full. The wine is a pleasing light green and bubbling away.

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

Tuesday 4 July 2017

Rhubarb Wine - Third Bottle (A6), 29th-30th June 2017

This has to be the best rhubarb wine that I have made and, irritatingly, I don't know what I did differently. It has a wonderful sharp white wine taste to it and has a pleasant fullness.

I left Claire with the bottle on Thursday night as I went to play wind quintets in Harrogate and came home to a giggly wife plus a less-than-half-full bottle. On Friday I finished the bottle before starting a Gooseberry wine making session - my first one in years. Esther (of the Harrogate Quintet) supplied the gooseberries, and this was a suitable way to start a week's holiday. Work has been rather busy of late and I think I will spend much of the forth-coming week asleep.

Monday 3 July 2017

Xmas Tutti Fruti - Fifth Bottle (B2), 24th-25th June 2017

A two-concert bottle. I opened this Tutti Fruti after we had returned from WYSO's annual Prom Concert at Pontefract Castle. My adrenalin was on high alert and sleep was not an option. It had been a beautiful evening, the orchestra had played well and the audience was the largest I have seen - approaching 2,000, including five pirates. Each year I have a musical highlight and this was probably it for 2017.

Then, on Sunday we returned equally late from ASO's Tchaikovsky Fifth Symphony concert, which again was tremendous. Wine felt like our due rather than a treat (and it would be stretching things to call this vintage a treat).

Our Audience on Saturday Night