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 30 September 2017

Elderflower, Rhubarb & Mint Wine - Fourth Bottle (5), 29th September 2017

While I was baking 'Traveller's Biscuit Cake' on Thursday night, during a critical moment in the process, Rachael rang. I said I would ring her right back and went to save the cake. She was coming over on Friday, and could she stay? Friday morning I put this bottle into the fridge as Claire thinks it is my best, and we opened it an hour before Rachael, Paul & Myles arrived (their journey had been an hour slower than planned). When Rach tried the wine she described it as 'cheeky' and thought it the best of the three bottles we got through.

It was a delight having them over and I'm so pleased they came. Rachael was concerned about the short notice, but need not have been.

Wednesday 27 September 2017

Blackberry Wine 2014 - Final Bottle (B2), 24th September 2017

I wrote myself a list of jobs for the day. Saturday had been wasted arsing about on the computer and napping; Sunday had to be better. So I baked bread, made Mediterranean lemon squares for work on Monday, paid bills, tidied, cleaned and swept. Consequently I felt rather better about myself and opened this final bottle of blackberry wine as a reward. It was sausages, onion gravy and mash for tea therefore the wine had to be red. In fact, this wine has aged badly - and it was never the best vintage of blackberry anyway. It was drinkable with more than a hint of blackberry taste, but its flavour has started to decay and, unlike the day, the wine was disappointing.

Tuesday 26 September 2017

Rhubarb Wine - Seventh Bottle (B3), 23rd September 2017

I have discovered that Claire thinks my onion cooking technique is poor. Apparently I don't let them fry for long enough - particularly when making Boursin Noodles. My bacon cooking technique also has room for improvement. With this in mind, and a glass of rhubarb wine to hand, I made sure the onions were meltingly soft and that there was some browning to the bacon for the evening meal. We should have been at Music Club, but an evening in the company of rhubarb wine (which is excellent this year) and an episode of Torchwood on the sofa seemed preferable.

Here is an occasional recipe for Boursin Noodles (serves 2) - which are both easy and delicious:


1 onion
Large clove of garlic
Olive oil
3 or 4 rashers of bacon (maybe streaky, can be smoked or unsmoked)
several mushrooms
A good dollop or two of soft cheese (I used Philadelphia - the recipe says it should be Boursin)
Parsley if you have any and can be bothered.
Some pasta or noodles


1. Slice the onion thinly and fry it in your main pan in the oil for longer than you think is absolutely necessary, making sure your partner is happy with the result.
2. At some point during this frying, crush the garlic and add that
3. Cut the bacon into strips and fry that in a different pan until it goes brown enough to your partner's satisfaction.
4. Put the bacon into the pan with the onions and garlic. Let it fry a bit longer.
5. Slice the mushrooms and add them.
6. Cover the pan and let the liquid come out of the mushrooms
7. When it all looks like it might be done, stir in the one or two dollops of soft cheese and stir.
8. By now you should have been cooking the pasta or noodles.
9. When the pasta or noodles are done, add the parsley to the oniony-bacony-garlicky-mushroomy-cheesy mix.
10. Serve up the pasta and sauce.
11. Eat and enjoy.

Sunday 24 September 2017

Crab Apple Wine - Twentieth Bottle (B3), 21st-22nd September 2017

We have a new system for watching The Great British Bake Off. Now that it has moved to Channel 4 there are advert breaks, and advert breaks translate into 'Treats'. One of us will buy baked items on the way home from work (this week, it being 'Caramel Week', I bought Millionaire's Shortbread and Stroopwafels) and a bottle of wine goes in the fridge. Then, come first advert break (but not before) I open the wine. Second break is snack one. Third break is glass of wine two. Final break is snack two.

Crab apple wine doesn't go badly with caramel based treats, but is actually better by itself.

Thursday 21 September 2017

Fig Wine - First Bottle (3), 16th September 2017

Perhaps not quite as good as my previous batches of Fig Wine. But it is still a great bottle. The aroma and taste are distinctly figgy and my one complaint is that a certain depth is absent.

We drank it with Rachel and Duncan in Cambridge, having travelled down for Emily and Marco's wedding the following day. The evening started with rhubarb gin, before moving through a Prosecco and a Riesling before ending up with Fig Wine. As the wine flowed, so did the conversation and good humour and it was just a pleasant evening spent with close friends. Hard to be beaten.

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

Saturday 16 September 2017

Elderberry Wine 2017 - The Making Of...

On the 18th of August, as I was driving to Harehills to buy nectarines, I noticed what looked suspiciously like ripe elderberries near Gledhow valley. I reasoned that this was my imagination playing tricks. Elderberries do not ripen in August.

Elderberries do, in fact, ripen in August
After work on 31st August I went to inspect. I found clusters of ashen fruit, over-ripe and useless. There were a couple of patches of usable elderberries, so I picked what I could. This was ridiculously early for elderberries.

The elderberries were scant
The following week I took plastic bags with me to work and during a couple of lunchtimes I went out, hunting for elder trees. The most fruitful was in someone's garden, but its branches were overhanging the pavement, so I figured that it was fair game. Elsewhere the berries were scant.

Kennel Lane

Nettles protecting fruit
On Sunday morning, 10th September, I drove to Kennel Lane near Hetchell Woods and walked to my usual field, trusting that things would be better there. In the row of trees where I usually pick, the berries were distinctly thin and protected by a wall of nettles. I took what I could (again) and pretended that I could not feel the nettle stings through my trousers. The top field boundary was far better - here were elderberries (and nettles) in abundance, so I started filling my bags, vaguely aware of a white jeep heading my way. As the farmer slowed down and lowered his window, I gave my most charming smile, which said "I recognise I'm trespassing, please don't shoot me," and asked if it was okay if I picked elderberries. He said it was and continued on his way. Phew.

Elderberries in abundance
In total I got more than 10 lbs elderberries, so have used 9 lbs to make a triple batch and the rest are in the freezer. As always, stripping them was tedious, but it is worth it. I crushed them in my bucket with a potato masher and added 8 lbs sugar and 18 pints of boiling water. On Monday morning I put in the yeast and two teaspoons each of nutrient and pectolase.

Normally I would wait until Friday to put the wine into the demijohns, but we are going on a bat-spotting walk tomorrow, so I have done this tonight, 14th September. Straining out elderberries is quicker than straining blackberries, and Claire kept me company in the kitchen, crocheting quietly. I have left a gap in each demijohn to prevent the wine bubbling over, and have filled one and a half bottles for topping-up purposes. So far the wine is behaving itself.

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

Thursday 14 September 2017

Orange Wine - Sixth Bottle (B5), 10th-12th September 2017

Sunday night was sponsored by Orange Wine. Not only did we drink most of this bottle, I also bottled 2017's vintage, and thus had three glasses of that between us. This older version is both darker and better, but there is little in it.

Claire had rather too much on an empty stomach and marched up to bed before the baked fish came out of the oven, leaving me to eat alone.

Tuesday 12 September 2017

Elderberry Wine - First Bottle (B3), 9th September 2017

My one criticism of this wine is that it is too young. It shows promise. There is a rich, dark flavour without any hint of metal. It is dry without being overly so. But the wine's youth means there is a lack of balance and there is a certain rough quality.

I opened this bottle because I have had an 'elderberry wine weekend', spending the late afternoon on Saturday picking a disappointing quantity of elderberries. Apart from our weekly grocery shop that was my only jaunt outdoors ad it was one of those days where I felt guilty for doing nothing of any substance.

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

Sunday 10 September 2017

Blackberry Wine 2017 - The Making Of...

I heard rumours of ripe blackberries as July became August. For the last few weeks I have been aware of bramble clusters turning black and juicy. Blackberry, though, is a September wine so I have resisted foraging until today, Sunday 3rd September. This has also allowed me to spend time with my parents, who are only just returned from Mexico.

Mom and Claire foraging

As always, I went picking blackberries in York Victorian Cemetery, taking Mom and Claire with me. Usually we split up when picking and meet back at the car at a prearranged time. Today we picked together - I wanted to hear all about Mom's time in Nebraska, how the uncles were and whether Keith and family had a good time over there. Picking blackberries was the ideal time to hear all the news and it made ninety minutes pass quickly. At the end of this our hands were sticky with blackberry juice, our arms were covered in nettle stings and bramble scratches, and between us we had picked 13 lbs 3 oz (Claire, as always, was the winner).

I made sure some fruit came from Thomas Douthwaite's grave, and otherwise I made a note of Albert Dowsett, John Hardy Ellis (all good family names), Fred Dealtry and the delightfully named Vera Higginbottom. I will raise a glass to all when the time comes.

Our haul
Back at home I measured 12 lbs blackberries, putting the excess into the freezer, and mashed these in my bucket. This was a quick and easy job because the fruit was so ripe. I added 7 lbs 12 oz sugar (it may need more on racking) and 15 pints of boiling water (I should have added at least 16 - see below). The yeast, two teaspoons of nutrient and what was left in my tub of pectolase (more than a teaspoon) went in on Monday morning.

The blackberry pulp floating at the top of the wine
On Friday evening, 8th September, it was Book Group (The Trouble with Sheep and Goats, which got mixed reviews) so I did my best to be efficient in getting the wine into its three demijohns. Including sterilising everything, it took me somewhat less than an hour. Taking out the bulk of the floating fruit detritus with a colander helped. I stored the discarded pulp in a large plastic bowl (also sterilised) and this was a Good Thing. There was at least a pint too little liquid, and I pressed the pulp to extract all additional wine I could. The demijohns are still not full, but it is close, and they are all bubbling away enthusiastically.

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

Saturday 9 September 2017

Blackberry Wine - First Bottle (C2), 3rd-5th September 2017

This wine has a distinctive blackberry taste, is dry enough to make a fine partner for most food, is entirely clear and a splendid colour. Why, then, am I just a little disappointed? I think it is because 2015's vintage was so good that I know I can make better. Blackberry 2016 is perfectly drinkable, but it should be more than that. Never mind.

I opened it on Sunday following a day of picking blackberries for 2017's batch and drank a toast to the people whose graves I had picked from for this wine (Frank Roberts, George Zimmerman, Elijah and Rose Copley, and Ethel Metcalfe). Claire had a glass on Monday - she is really suffering from the job cock-up and telling her that worry is a choice won't help. We finished the bottle tonight after Bake Off.

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

Thursday 7 September 2017

Zucchini Wine - The Making Of...

Back in the early summer, I freecycled a stack of roof tiles that had been in our garden, gathering spiders and snails, since we bought the house. The woman who collected them gave us a courgette plant in thanks and Claire planted it in our front garden. It did not seem to be particularly fruitful and we mostly ignored it. This is a dangerous strategy when it comes to courgettes. The smallest fruit will, when you turn your back, grow into the most enormous marrow. And so it came to pass.

Our innocent looking courgette plant
Claire went out on Wednesday to harvest what we knew was a large courgette and staggered into the house with a seven pound, twenty inch monster. This was too big to cook and I was given permission to turn it into wine. In honour of my half-American heritage I feel justified in naming this brew 'Zucchini Wine'. Because of my Wine-Alphabet odyssey it is a wine that I had always planned to make, being the natural choice for Z, but I wanted it as my last letter. I have yet to tick off J, so that hasn't quite worked.

Anyway, I consulted my recipe books and have adapted C J J Berry's recipe for Marrow Wine. On Friday 1st September, I grated the zucchini (must not call it 'marrow') using the food processor, only discarding the very ends. I put this in my bucket, along with the juice of two oranges and 2-and-a-bit ounces of grated ginger. I added 2 lb 12 oz sugar and poured over 6½ pints of boiling water. At this stage what I have made is a sweet zucchini soup.

The grated zucchini
On Saturday morning I put in two teaspoons of citric acid (the recipe book asked for four), a teaspoon of tannin (not mentioned in the recipe), a teaspoon each of nutrient and pectolase plus the yeast and gave it all a good stir.

Tuesday (5th September) was my only night in this week, so that is when I sieved the liquid into its demijohn. Once I had removed the bulk of the vegetable matter with a colander, this was a quick job. It is probably not worth noting that I should have used a pint less water (it is highly likely that I won't be making this again). The taste at this stage is unpromising and its colour is dishwater grey-green. I will deem anything better than 'nasty' for this wine as a monumental success.

If you want to see how this wine turned out (and I recommend that you do so if you are thinking of following this recipe), click here.

Tuesday 5 September 2017

Elderflower, Rhubarb & Mint Wine - Third Bottle (4), 2nd-3rd September 2017

I needed no wine on Saturday evening. Lunchtime was spent with Rodney in the Olive Branch. Between the two of us we polished off two bottles of an Italian red. I do like going for lunch with Rodney.

Claire asked what flavour she could have with our meal of quiche and spicy beet tops and I told her to take her pick. Naturally she chose the best.

We finished the bottle between us tonight. It is a fabulous wine; there is a complex yet refreshing taste where no single flavour is prominent. I can tell that the remaining three bottles will not be collecting much dust.

Sunday 3 September 2017

Apple Wine - First Bottle (5), 31st August - 1st September 2017

I had anticipated something underwhelming when I opened this bottle. Apple wine is one I have found difficult to get right. My most successful attempt was that batch that used 24 lbs of apples, and that was only really good when young. Therefore I was very happy with this wine. It was a light, pleasant drink that had a real taste of apples and (now we have an apple tree) one that is destined to become a regular.

The opening coincided with the new series of The Great British Bake Off. This has newly moved to Channel Four and I was worried that it would suffer as a result. As with the apple wine, I was pleasantly surprised; two things in one evening better than expected.

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

Saturday 2 September 2017

Rose Petal Wine - Third Bottle (C2), 28th August 2017

I left this bottle with Catherine in Leamington Spa. She cannot make the Wine Party this year, mostly on account of having acquired two Jack Russells - Betty & Arthur - so I wanted to give her something nice for having put us up on short notice. I have had a Facebook message this evening to say that it tastes like sherry, is not particularly yellow and does not taste of roses. I am surprised at the last of these comments.

It was lovely staying with Catherine - she is besotted by her dogs, and having met them, that is not surprising. We did have to take precautions from their French kisses though!