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 30 December 2018

Xmas Tutti Fruti 2016 - Eighth Bottle (A1), 25th-26th December 2018

Looking back on my description of this vintage's first bottle, I think that Xmas Tutti Fruti 2016 has matured splendidly. This wine was better than the 2017 variety, and that was decent in itself.

We waited until the food was on the table before opening this bottle, and what a splendid meal it was. Judith was the chief cook with Andrew and Claire playing the role of sous-chef. It was, of course, the traditional Christmas meal and there was barely enough room on the table for our plates. By Boxing Day we had eaten less than half, so had it all again and this time finished the wine.

Saturday 29 December 2018

Xmas Tutti Fruti - First Bottle (A5), 25th December 2018

After a couple of Christmas Day cocktails (only one of which involved a Brussel Sprout garnish) I opened my first bottle of 2017's Xmas Tutti Fruti, serving it between all Taylors and me. I am pleased with this vintage. Whilst it does not reach the heady heights of 2014, it is still rather good. There is a slight fizz and it is both dry and fruity. On occasion, Tutti Fruti can be thin, but that is not apparent in this bottle. By the time we sat down to eat, this wine was a distant memory.

Thursday 27 December 2018

Rose Petal Wine - Third Bottle (A6), 21st December 2018

Blimey, that was a busy day! The sort of day that by the end of it only a take-out pizza and a bottle of rose petal wine will do. It being the last working day of the year, I had 15 house-completions, plus finalising a complicated land deal in Otley. It became apparent at about 6 p.m. that this was not going to happen, so I wished the two remaining people in the office a Merry Christmas and drove home, somewhat dazed by events.

The rose petal wine was less rose-y than usual, which made for a more rounded drink. It certainly slipped down nicely.

Sunday 23 December 2018

Prune & Parsnip Wine - Seventh Bottle (A4), 13th December 2018

I am not allowed to be ill, and therefore I am not ill. This sore throat and heavy cold are, at most, feeling not quite 100%. I must survive on adrenaline and will-power to keep me going until at least 21st December.

Work has been extraordinarily busy this week and will be more-so next. A whole bottle on Thursday evening, therefore, was medicinal. In fact, this prune & parsnip tasted different than usual - though Claire did not think so. I suspect that this not-illness is playing with my taste-buds. More research is needed.

Sunday 16 December 2018

Apple Wine - Third Bottle (3), 8th December 2018

Seeing as my parents could not come to the Wine Party, on account of Pop's slipped disc, I decided to take one of my better bottles to York with me. Guessing correctly that we would be having fish, I chose Apple. Pop, though, was mostly drinking beer and Mom really only drinks gin these days (not in the quantities that suggests). They both tried the apple wine, possibly to humour me, but both said they enjoyed it.

As ever, when staying over with the parents, we had a lovely, relaxed evening, full of conversation.

Wednesday 12 December 2018

Orange Wine - Seventh Bottle (B2), 6th December 2018

Claire and I both stayed late at work on Thursday evening. This is not an unusual state of affairs for Claire . For me, though, working until seven is a rare event indeed. Mostly it is down to the time of year - the run up to Christmas is ghastly for a property lawyer. Anyway, this meant that a full bottle of wine was inevitable. I chose orange to go with a camembert and tarragon risotto - the food was superb and the wine went down very nicely. Finishing the bottle took no effort whatsoever.

Sunday 9 December 2018

Xmas Tutti Fruti - Seventh Bottle (B6), 2nd December 2018

I needed Sunday. Whilst the previous week at work had been a busy one, Saturday was manic. It was the WYSO concert (Siegfried Idyll, Mendelssohn's Piano Concert No. 1 and Beethoven 6) and when I wasn't playing, I was organising things (keys, gifts for the soloist, rearranging the church, tea and coffee). The concert went brilliantly and we drank a bottle of real wine to celebrate. Consequently, Sunday was quiet and restful. I finished by book (The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner - excellent), did crosswords and ordered roses for the garden. Oh, and drank a bottle of Christmas Tutti Fruti, which is one of my better batches - as fruity as the name implies.

Friday 7 December 2018

Blackberry Wine - Fifth Bottle (C3), 25th November 2018

Ros was not able to make the Wine Party, or the day afterwards, during which we started hoovering up the dregs that remained. However, she came over on Sunday night because we have not caught up properly with her for an age. Claire cooked many delicious curries and I opened the winner of last week's party (after we had drunk a bottle of the real stuff) and a good time was had by all. Strangely, Ros refused my offer to serve her a small glass of each of the four remaining wines - which are the four that came last.

The vessel with the pestle...

Sunday 2 December 2018

Zucchini Wine - Second Bottle (4), 17th November 2018

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. Zucchini Wine lost the Wine Party. Out of sixteen bottles it came sixteenth and received an average score of 0.17 out of 5. I don't think I have ever had such an unpopular wine. Some mad fool awarded it a 2, but otherwise it had a mix of 0s and -1s. Actually, Lindsay gave it a quarter of a point for being liquid. Elsewhere I got "Horrid", "What a shocker", "Bleuurk", an unsmiley face and "Smells like perm solution". I have literally no idea how to get rid of the remaining four bottles.

Z is for Zero.

People's reaction when I offer them a glass of Zucchini Wine

Saturday 1 December 2018

Whitecurrant Wine - Final Bottle (3), 17th November 2018

This bottle did not even reach an average score of 1 at my Wine Party. It got 0.48, and my specific instructions were to rate each bottle 1-5. Whitecurrant wine, though, did not come last. I see from previous posts about Whitecurrant that I opened a bottle for my Wine Party in 2014, and this proves that Whitecurrant wine is one best drunk young.

One person (and I do not know who) wrote "Startling! Kerosene, Creosote, Vinegar" and awarded it a 0. Sooz could not even bring herself to rate it and wrote "The death of angels."

W is for Worst (but for Zucchini)

Friday 30 November 2018

Vanilla Wine - Final Bottle (1), 17th November 2018

We are into the bottom three wines for the Wine Party. This came fourteenth of sixteen, with an average score of 1.25 out of 5. It really was not a good wine (though with a dash of sugar syrup improved). Curiously, there were two people who enjoyed it - David and Anthony. Jayne, though, did not hold back on her comments: "Bloody awful. Smells bad, tastes worse and absolutely sod all like Vanilla." (I have censored the original comments for the purposes of this blog.) Two people referred to its industrial cleaner aroma, but it also got a surprising number of 3s and 4s (i.e. more than none).

V is for Vile.

Thursday 29 November 2018

Ugli Fruit Wine - Final Bottle (5), 17th November 2018

I had expected Ugli Fruit Wine to come well down the rankings at the Alphabet Wine Party. My citrus wines are often unpopular. However, this came an entirely respectable sixth out of sixteen, with an average score of 3.22 out of 5. Someone said it was Divine, another person commented on its waxy taste and Amy slandered it by writing "Smells like dog food" - so a whole range of opinions.

U is for Unexpected.

Strawberry Wine - Second Bottle (3), 17th November 2018

Before the Wine Party began, I predicted that Strawberry Wine would be the winner. In fact, it came third of the sixteen, beaten by Blackberry and Dandelion. Personally I would have also put Apple higher after tasting them, but this is still a great bottle. Claire, though, continues to think that it tastes of burnt plastic.

We had our youngest ever guest this year - Elizabeth, aged five. I'm pretty certain she stuck to the fruit juice.

S is for Scrumptious.

Wednesday 28 November 2018

Quince Wine - Final Bottle (2), 17th November 2018

Seeing as it was Quince Wine that gave me the idea of making a wine for every letter of the alphabet, it was entirely appropriate that I bring out the final bottle for my Alphabet Wine Party. I have never kept a bottle of my own this long - seven years from the making - and I was interested to see how time had affected it. Maybe it was smoother than before, and certainly age had not harmed it. There was still an interesting perfumed and floral taste. However, it needed the extra sugar to make it pleasant and it was far from popular at the Party - coming 11th out of 16 with a score of 2.64 out of 5.

I invited Jenny, who provided the quinces in the first place, and Glenda & Fozz who live next door to the quince tree, which was pleasing circularity. Jenny, though, thought this wine was 'challenging'.

Q is for Questionable.

Prune & Parsnip Wine - Sixth Bottle (B1), 17th November 2018

Prune & Parsnip inched into the top half of the bottles I opened for my Wine Party, coming eighth out of sixteen and scoring a respectable 2.9 out of 5. It was the last bottle opened and thus was the one that fewest people tried. I had worried that 16 bottles would not be sufficient, but there were only three finished and there is plenty to keep us going for the remainder of the week.

Lindsay composed an ode:

Hello Prune & Parsnip, my old foe;
Once again down the sink you go.

and awarded it 0.5

P is for Poem

Tuesday 27 November 2018

Nectarine Wine - Second Bottle (2), 17th November 2018

Nectarine is where the Wine Party and I disagree. I think this is a rather decent bottle of white wine: fruity, light, pleasant. My guests, on the whole, disagreed. It came twelfth out of sixteen with an average score of 2.58 out of 5. This just shows how flawed market research can be. Someone complained of its slightly bitter note, another thought there was an unpleasant aftertaste and someone else wrote "For emergency use only".

N is for Not As Good As I Thought.

Mango Wine - Final Bottle (4), 17th November 2018

Our final bottle of Mango Wine (phew!) was opened for my Alphabet Wine Party. It was in the bottom four (of sixteen) bottles and there was a huge jump between this bottle and the top twelve. It scored an average of 1.48 out of 5. The most positive comment was "Unexpectedly bland" and my favourite (from Sooz) was "There are many flavours. None of them are nice. Or mango." It is a shame, because Mango Wine should be nice. And it really isn't. It was a fabulous party, though. As ever I tried to spend time with everyone and I think I nearly managed.

M is for Musty

Monday 26 November 2018

Ginger Wine - Fourth Bottle (4), 17th November 2018

Before the Wine Party started I wrote down where I thought each bottle would come in the voting stakes. I thought Ginger would be in the top three. It came seventh and I am genuinely surprised as I think it is an excellent bottle of wine. Three people commented that it needed whisky and a further two compared it to cleaning products. I agreed with the person who wrote "Warming and rounded".

One feature of the party was the vast amount of cake that people brought. Tons of the stuff. This, though, is not a complaint!

G is for Gallons of Wine and Cake.

This is not the Actual cake, but
gives a good impression.

Sunday 25 November 2018

Fig Wine - Final Bottle (2), 17th November 2018

I saved my last bottle of Fig for the Alphabet Wine Party, and the party was a great success. The Fig Wine was less so, coming ninth of sixteen with an average score of 2.87 out of 5 (which I see is 0.01 of a better score than 2017's party!). Again there was a difference of opinion, with one score of 5 ("Lovely colour, pleasingly dry and the all the best flavour of fig") and another of 1 ("Yuck").

F is for Fair to Middling.

Elderberry Wine 2014 - Final Bottle (A2), 17th November 2018

I decided to open my oldest elderberry for the Wine Party on the basis that elderberry wine just gets better as it ages. On the basis of this bottle, that might be an urban myth. It opened with a 'pop' and its dry fizziness only served to make it weird. Someone wrote that it was 'subtle' and I disagree with that. Jayne preferred it to Strawberry and I disagree with that too. Lindsay may have gone too far the other way, calling it 'Fizzy Vomit'. It came tenth overall with an average score of 2.7 out of 5. As someone else wrote:

E is for Evil.

Saturday 24 November 2018

Dandelion Wine 2013 - Fifth Bottle (4), 17th November 2018

Dandelion wine is an alarming colour. Rather than a golden shine, it has the colour one would expect to piss if badly dehydrated. That said, it is delicious. It came a close second at this year's Wine Party, and was only one of three bottles finished (out of 16). Its average score was 3.98 out of 5 and many people remarked how sherry-like it was. Rachel is desperate to use it as the base for a trifle, but that would be a waste. Jenny awarded it 6 out of 5, which I think means she liked it.

D is for Delicious.

Crab Apple Wine - 27th Bottle (D5), 17th November 2018

Crab apple wine did rather better at the Wine Party than I had expected. It was fifth - and only just below 'Apple' in its average score. Amy wrote that she would have necked it as a teenager, which hints at its resemblance to cider: my teenage tipple of choice (until I was violently ill one night).

I chose 'Crab Apple' as my C wine in preference to 'Clementine' on the basis that I knew there were several awful wines at this party and I needed to up the quality. I think Crab Apple achieved that.

C is for Cider.

Friday 23 November 2018

Blackberry Wine - Fourth Bottle (C4), 17th November 2018

This won the Wine Party. Blackberry was the only flavour (of sixteen) to get an average of 4 out of 5. Quite right too. It was my personal favourite.

It was a larger party than usual - I think there were 25 people in the house - and I think everyone had a good time. However, the morning after I was somewhat jaded and in need of a snooze.

B is for Best.

Apple Wine - Second Bottle (2), 17th November 2018

My Wine Party this year had an alphabetical theme, so of course I opened a bottle of Apple Wine. In total 16 letters were represented and this flavour was a very respectable fourth, with an average of 3.83 out of 5. Jayne thought there were hints of Calvados and it was Claire's favourite of the evening.

A is for Absolutely Acceptable.

The sixteen bottles opened (in alphabetical order)
NB - As I have 16 bottles to blog about I will endeavour to do two a day.

Tuesday 20 November 2018

Rhubarb Wine - Sixth Bottle (C2), 16th November 2018

On Wine Party Eve, Claire and I asked each other whether we should open a bottle of wine. Claire said that if we opened one, we wouldn't have to finish it. We then both fell about laughing.

I chose Rhubarb on the basis that it won't appear at the Party - and also that it is a good one. Claire guessed that it was apple wine on tasting it, and I see what she means - there is a sharp cox tasted to it.

We spent the evening waiting for Sooz to arrive from Dublin, watching old episodes of Inside No. 9 and Doctor Who - Zanzibar and Turn Left respectively (and both excellent). By the time that Sooz actually arrived, I had gone to bed.

Sunday 18 November 2018

Blackcurrant & Gooseberry Wine - Fifth Bottle (3), 13th-14th November 2018

This bottle was shared between Tuesday and Wednesday nights where very little happened. I chose Blackcurrant & Gooseberry as one that will not appear at the Wine Party and it was a tasty choice.

On Tuesday evening we watched an old and ridiculous (is there any other sort?) Midsomer Murders and on Wednesday we had an entirely satisfactory WYSO rehearsal. The concert is not far off and we are beginning to sound like we mean it when we play Beethoven's Sixth.

Friday 16 November 2018

Mint, Elderflower & Rhubarb Wine - Third Bottle (2), 10th November 2018

Having most of the Rydal Committee visiting, I decided to open what is probably my best white. Everyone enjoyed it, though there was some discussion about which flavour came through strongest. I think it is clearly elderflower but Jane argued for mint.

Because four people were staying over, each needing a separate bed, we put Matt on the sofa-bed in the dining room. Except, when I folded it out, it was clear that it either was, or had recently been, home to a mouse. Areas were chewed over and it was covered in droppings. I briefly considered turning it over and pretending all was fine. Luckily, Matt had brought an air mattress so disaster was avoided. I suspect that we will not be getting a 5-Star Rating on TripAdvisor.

Thursday 15 November 2018

Blackcurrant and Raspberry Wine - Eighth Bottle (A4), 10th November 2018

I thought that a bottle of wine closely associated with Julia would be a suitable one for a Rydal committee meeting at our house. It is strange that she died four and a half years ago - it seems like both so much more recently and so much longer at once. We raised our glasses to her and got on with the business of the evening - which was idle gossip and laughter. In theory, Matt, Jane, Jayne, Nick and I were meeting to plan Rydal 2019 and discuss issues arising from that. In practice we did little of the sort (though not none). It was a fabulous evening and this bottle emptied quickly.

Wednesday 14 November 2018

Rose Petal Wine - Twelfth Bottle (C5), 9th-10th November 2018

Friday nights are generally for staying home, opening a bottle of wine and catching up with the week gone by. This Friday, though, I was out playing wind octets in Wetherby and admiring badger skulls. Claire was left at home with a bottle of rose petal wine and I was pleased to see more than half of it left on my return. I made a good go at emptying it, but did not quite succeed.

I had remembered this batch of wine (2016's) to be poor, but this bottle was rather good.

Tuesday 13 November 2018

Blackberry Wine - Third Bottle (B2), 8th November 2018

This really is an excellent bottle and I predict that it will win the Wine Party in just over a week's time. Thursday was our only night in together over the week so we celebrated with sausages and a bottle of blackberry wine. By the time the sausages (and mash, onion gravy and a squash stuffed with apple) were ready, the bottle was close to empty and we were both more than a little tiddly. This is shocking behaviour for a School Night, though Claire does not work Fridays, so she is excused.

Monday 12 November 2018

Apple & Strawberry Wine - First Bottle (6), 2nd-3rd November 2018

I have mad a decent batch of wine. This bottle is light, and has a slight fizz and a beneficial sweetness to it. The flavour is clearly both apple and strawberry and it is really very drinkable. Attractive too - with a pink blush.

I opened it on Book Group night, where we were discussing The Bloody Chamber - a series of disturbing Fairy Tales written by Angela Carter. I loved it: her writing is exquisite and the tales are dark and inventive.

Claire and I finished the wine on Saturday to a splendid dish (cooked by me!) of Red Snapper in a Creole sauce. Just delicious.

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

Sunday 11 November 2018

Damson Wine - The Making Of...

Two years ago, Claire and I planted a damson tree sapling in the front garden. Where Claire had images of damson jam and damson gin, my thoughts were of wine. We both looked forward to branches weighed down by their fruit. So far it has produced not a single damson. Therefore, when Emma mentioned at work that her mother had been storing damsons in her freezer and I was welcome to have a bag, I indicated that I would be a glad recipient.

Our damson tree
On Thursday 1st November, Emma brought the damsons in and it was important that I turn them into wine that evening - defrosting fruit never lasts beyond a day. I was busy with wine-making duties anyway - racking my elderberry and putting apple wine into its demijohns.

3 lbs 2 oz damsons
On consulting four recipe books only one told me to de-stone the fruit, so I ignored that one. One told me to put chalk into the wine, another advised wheat or barley and a third talked about sultanas. This is my first time of making damson wine and advice is there to be ignored. So I went for the simplest option - using only damsons, sugar, water and yeast.

The recipe books I ignored
There were 3 lbs 2 oz damsons, which is a little under the 4 lbs advised by recipe books (to which I was paying no attention anyway) so I declared this sufficient and put them into my bucket. They mashed easily. I put in 1 lb of sugar and then found I had no more sugar in the house. (A further 1 lb 12 oz went in on Saturday morning.) This was covered by six and a half pints of boiling water, stirred and left over night to cool. I then put in 1 teaspoon each of yeast, nutrient, pectolase and citric acid.

The wine with the yeast having been sprinkled in
The wine went into its demijohn on Tuesday 6th November, even though I was out all evening playing quintets in Ilkley. This meant that I had to be organised, so I got everything ready to sterilise before I left for work that morning. On my return I took time only to feed the cats before setting to and covering all equipment with a sodium metabisulphite solution. Putting the wine into its demijohn took about half an hour and I now have my first ever batch of Damson Wine bubbling away.

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

Thursday 8 November 2018

Orange Wine - Sixth Bottle (A2), 31st October 2018

Warning. Tenuous Connection Alert.

One of the two colours associated with Halloween is Orange. On the basis that I don't have a 'Black Wine', I opened this bottle instead. We finished it in one sitting - never a great idea for a Wednesday night. Claire had sent me a text earlier in the day saying that it had been 'Bloody'. By this she meant that she had received an overwhelming number of blood samples to analyse and did not stop for 10 hours. Hence an entire bottle of Orange Wine whilst distributing sweets to neighbourhood children.

Monday 5 November 2018

Elderberry Wine - Sixth Bottle (A1), 28th October 2018

After a Sunday playing octets, a lazy evening was in order. I warmed a bottle of elderberry wine by the stove and we drank it to cannelloni. The wine has now had a year to mature and is all the better for it. The rest of the evening was spent either watching an episode of Doctor Who about giant spiders (me) or hiding in the kitchen due to arachnophobia (Claire).

It wasn't this episode, or this Doctor

Saturday 3 November 2018

Apple Wine and Apple & Strawberry Wine 2018 - The Making Of...

Our apple tree
Autumn has settled into the year and has yet to give up her seat for Winter. Leaves have mostly fallen to the ground whereas apples mostly remain on the tree. Not entirely, however. I had a free Saturday on 27th October so decided to start both my Apple and my Apple & Strawberry wine that day. For each I needed 4 lbs apples. Finding 8 lbs of usable apples on the lawn was easy, though I rejected those that had been gnawed by squirrels or suggested that they hosted a whole community of invertebrates. In fact, for the pure Apple wine I denuded our crab apple tree of the 12 oz fruit it produced this year, therefore needing only 3 lbs 4 oz of windfall apples.

Out of the cold, I first of all put 1 lb of defrosting strawberries into the bucket for 'Apple and Strawberry' wine and gave this a good mashing. I then cut the apples into pieces, rejecting anything bruised or manky, and whizzed them through the food processor using the 'slice attachment'. Half went into the 'Apple' wine bucket and the other half went into the 'Apple and Strawberry' wine bucket. Next the 'Apple' wine bucket got a pound of minced sultanas (again using the food processor for mincing, but this time on the regular attachment).

Our crab apple tree
I added 3 lbs sugar and 6½ pints of boiling water to each bucket, giving them each a vigorous stir. On Sunday morning I added a teaspoon of yeast, of nutrient and of pectolase to each.

The fruit ingredients, gathered together
I then left the wine (stirring once each day) until Thursday 1st November, when I spend the entire evening doing things with wine (these two, elderberry and damson) whilst listening to old episodes of Desert Island Discs. I put each wine into its demijohn, removing much of the fruit with a colander before using the jug, sieve and funnel method. I had to squeeze the discarded fruit at the end of the process to retrieve enough liquid for the Apple wine.

The sliced apples
The Apple & Strawberry is an attractive dark pink. The Apple is an unattractive slime-brown. Both have a large yeasty foam head which I am hoping will not escape its demijohn.

If you want to see how the Apple Wine turned out, click here.

If you want to see how the Apple & Strawberry Wine turned out, click here.

Tuesday 30 October 2018

Jasmine Tea Wine - First Bottle (4), 26th October 2018

On my first sip of this wine I thought "This is strange. I wonder if I like it." There was a certain heaviness and something cloying. Jasmine Tea Wine is some distance from being a crisp white. My second and subsequent sips proved that yes, in fact, I did like it. As well as its weight, there is a perfumed taste on top, which will be the Jasmine Tea, and that makes all the difference. It is certainly better than straight Tea Wine.

We drank the bottle while watching the Rosa Parks episode of Doctor Who, which I loved. I'm still getting used to the new Doctor, though. I think she's fine but I need familiarity.

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

Sunday 28 October 2018

Rose Petal & Orange Wine - Second Bottle (5), 24th-25th October 2018

Wednesday evening was dominated by Beethoven. We are playing his Sixth Symphony at WYSO, and it is a long, high blow for first bassoon. By the end of the evening my lip had collapsed and a restorative glass of wine was welcome. Rose petal & orange is a great mix: complex and interesting. Towards the end of my glass I added a dash of whisky and I thought that worked too (though Claire tried it and disagreed).

On Thursday we finished the bottle to The Great British Bake Off's semi-final - which had been ruined for me earlier in the day by a colleague who revealed the result. I told him "Actually, I'm very cross about that". He is only new to the firm, and young - so maybe I overreacted.

Saturday 27 October 2018

Halloween Wine - The Making Of...

Summer Soft Fruit

The summer of 2018 produced a bonanza of soft fruit. I stored much of our garden's harvest in the freezer. Claire would argue too much. There has been little space for anything else. Of course I exaggerate, but certainly two of the four drawers have become jam-packed. Therefore, at Claire's suggestion, rather than wait until Christmas to do a double batch of Tutti Fruti, I have done a single batch of mixed fruit wine now and will do another in late December.

A freezer bursting at the seams
On Saturday morning, 20th October, I pulled out about half the fruit from the freezer, weighed it and left it in a large mixing bowl to defrost. I made careful notes about how much of each fruit I used and, irritatingly, in the intervening six days those notes have gone missing. I know that the dominant fruit was blackcurrant - at 2 lbs 2 oz - and that I used 6 lbs fruit overall (which may be too much). Otherwise, all I can tell you is that the wine also contains raspberries, strawberries, gooseberries, sloes, an apple or two and a handful of white rose petals.

The fruit defrosting in a bowl
I chopped the apple into small-ish chunks and then waited until the evening, when everything was mostly defrosted, put the fruit into my bucket and gave it all a good mashing. I boiled 6 pints of water, poured this over and added 2 lbs 12 oz sugar, giving it all a good stir. On Sunday morning I put in one teaspoon each of yeast, nutrient and pectolase.

The fruit once mashed
Once I was certain that this was fermenting, on Monday evening 22nd October, I sliced some of a red chilli thinly, making sure that I got at least a couple of seeds, and put this into the mix. I have read that chilli peppers can block fermentation, hence the wait - and the small quantity. There is probably too little chilli to give this wine a kick in any event. However, in honour of the chilli and the time of year I have named this mix 'Halloween Wine'.

I put in just a little bit more chilli than that sliced
I had a rare night in on Thursday 25th October and used the time to put the wine into its demijohn. This was a longer job than anticipated. Due to the amount of fruit and its ratio to the water, the mixture was thick and took an age for each jug-full to drain through the sieve. The wine is the colour that I had expected (maroon) and the sediment could end up being a third of the demijohn.

The wine in its demijohn plus the discarded fruit
If you want to see how this wine turned out, click here.

Wednesday 24 October 2018

Rhubarb Wine - Fifth Bottle (C6), 21st October 2018

I opened this bottle on Sunday night after returning from a terrific concert in Leeds Town Hall. We were playing crowd-pleasing patriotic guff and the 1812 Overture (though no actual cannons) and the audience loved it. A great cheer arose as we finished - and I think not a cheer of relief. My parents and Nancy Voynow were in that audience and returned to ours for a meal. Nancy asked for a glass of white wine so I gave her a glass of rhubarb without telling her what it was. When she was several sips through I confessed all - though rhubarb (oddly) is quite close to real white. Nancy said she enjoyed it - and let's face it: what's not to like?

The interior of Leeds Town Hall - a ridiculous wedding cake of a building

Saturday 20 October 2018

Blackberry Wine - Twelfth Bottle (C5), 18th-19th October 2018

Back to normal life after a fortnight in America. It hasn't been a bad week, all told. Okay, the cats have returned from the cattery with fleas and work has been busy (though not awful), but both of those were foreseeable. Claire returned home late on Thursday so I opened her a bottle of blackberry wine before dashing out to Pat & Peter's (where we played particularly untunefully - they were on C clarinets). I had a glass on my return - there was an initial blackberry hit before sinking into ordinariness. Claire finished the bottle on Friday whilst I was out for curry and beers with the boss, introducing him to Gujarati vegetarian cuisine.

Monday 15 October 2018

Blackcurrant Wine - Third Bottle (A4), 24th-28th September 2018

I do reckon this is the best blackcurrant wine that I have made. Whilst there is a definite kick to it, there is something rounded about it too. More judo than karate.

The bottle has lasted the entire week, and what a frantic week (from a work point of view) it has been. Tonight I was there until gone seven, trying to get everything done before I went on holiday. Mostly I have been successful and I will attempt to avoid thinking about my job over the next fortnight. America - here we come!

One of my favourite photos taken whilst in America:
on our way to Alcatraz.

Friday 28 September 2018

Ginger Wine - Third Bottle (3), 27th September 2018

It is not often that we open and finish a bottle on a Thursday night. But it is not often that we are less than 48 hours from a transatlantic flight. Also, it has been a busy day full of noise and a bottle of Ginger wine just seemed like the right thing to do. Claire and I have spent much of the evening in the kitchen pottering - Claire cooking, me washing up - and it has been lovely. We are both a little anxious about our upcoming holiday and a bottle of wine helps, particularly when it is as delicious and gingery as this one. Tomorrow I have 16 house completions to do, which in itself is quite daunting.

NB - This will be my last post for over a fortnight. Have a great couple of weeks, and tune in on my return.

Thursday 27 September 2018

Prune & Parsnip - Fifth Bottle (B4), 21st September 2018

I spent much of Friday driving. There was a dull meeting about pensions at Henry Boot's head office in Sheffield, all about 'nudging' people to get involved in planning their retirement income. In ordinary circumstances I could have done without it, but this being a week before I go on holiday and I am busy anyway, doubly so. I missed the last meeting, though, so it was important that I attend. The meeting lasted an hour, the driving three and a half. A bottle of wine was welcome and it was prune & parsnip because it doesn't need to be chilled. This was a good accompaniment to a delicious butternut squash risotto and then an evening on the sofa watching telly.

Tuesday 25 September 2018

Xmas Tutti Fruti - Eleventh Bottle (A5), 20th-21st September 2018

After a summer where I wondered if it would ever rain again, Autumn has landed with a vengeance. On Thursday water poured from the sky as if it would never stop. Being the Good Husband That I Am, I picked Claire up from work and agreed she could open a bottle of wine, even though I would spend the evening at Pat & Peter's. To consolidate my votes for the 'Best Husband' Award, I then made a superb Toad in the Hole. The wine itself was disappointing (I had a glass before dashing off to play trios). It is too light to be a red and its over-riding adjective is 'insipid'.

My superb Toad in the Hole

Sunday 23 September 2018

Apple Wine - Fourth Bottle (1), 16th September 2018

When making a pork in cider casserole, the only bottle to choose is Apple Wine. It has a crunchy sweetness to it, just made for pork. Claire asked me to cook, suggested a casserole and I consulted Delia's Winter Collection which has the best recipes for stewed meat. And very fine it was too.

Sunday was a warm autumnal day and I spent some of it wandering around Roundhay Park, just to ensure that I did not spend the entire day indoors. In the evening Claire and I watched the second episode of Bodyguard, which is currently 2018's most talked about television programme. It is certainly gripping and we will be lucky to get to the end without spoilers.

Swans in Roundhay Park

Saturday 22 September 2018

Orange Wine 2016 - Tenth Bottle (A2), 15th September 2018

Something quite wonderful has happened to this orange wine. Since last having a bottle (February this year) it has smoothed itself out and developed a hint of sherry to its taste. Orange wine is always good, but this maturity has improved it beyond the merely 'good'.

Claire and I had a lovely evening with this wine. We spent much of it in the kitchen - Claire cooking, me sitting and chatting. Our fortnight in America is rapidly approaching and we are both excited and nervous in equal measure. Making plans is always fun and whilst we know what Nebraska will be like, San Francisco will be entirely new (unless one counts the day I was there aged 11).

Friday 21 September 2018

Zucchini Wine - First Bottle (5), 14th September 2018

I have a rule. I will not write up a bottle of wine until it is empty. I am breaking that rule. In front of me is a bottle of Zucchini Wine with only two small glasses having been taken from it. The remainder will not pass human lips (or any other species' come to that). It is foul. There is a hint of vomit to both its aroma and taste. Claire couldn't finish her glass. I manfully struggled on with mine, but only as a punishment for making the stuff in the first place. This is quite definitely the worst wine I have made for an age.

The Offending Bottle
If you want to see how I made this wine (just in case you feel like having a go, because, let's face it, why wouldn't you?) click here.

Wednesday 19 September 2018

Blackberry Wine - Second Bottle (A5), 14th September 2018

Not quite as good as the first bottle of this batch, but still a pleasure to drink. I think demijohn A is not as sweet as demijohn B, and for blackberry wine that makes a difference. It was our Friday night bottle (unless one counts the Zucchini, which frankly one should not) and we drank it to home made pizza whilst watching The Great British Bake Off  before an early night. I do love this programme but find it hard to explain why it is so engaging: pleasant people making bread under timed conditions? Sounds dull. And it is the same every year. But it is all done with humour and love, and it makes you care.

Tuesday 18 September 2018

Orange Wine - Fifth Bottle (A6), 8th September 2018

Saturday was one of those days taken up by wine making and chores. I put my blackberry into demijohns, racked my rose petal and picked elderberries. When not doing all that I was washing up, shopping for food and cooking fish pie. I fit in an episode of Doctor Who (all are currently on i-player and I am working my way through Matt Smith) and cut my finger badly when slicing a lemon. Plus we had a bottle of orange wine. So a thoroughly unremarkable Saturday and none the worse for it.

Sunday 16 September 2018

Elderberry Wine 2018 - The Making Of...

Having left it nearly too late to forage for blackberries, I did not intend to make the same error with elderberries. Some years I have left this wine to the end of September. That would not have worked this year. On Saturday 8th September I walked to the open space off Gledhow Valley Road to find that the Council had wreaked havoc on the copse of elder trees. There had been some recent and enthusiastic pruning and no fruit to be obtained. I wandered back, picking elderberries from such trees that I could find, resulting in a respectable 1½ lbs.

Next morning I drove to my usual spot at Kennel Lane and walked to the field that I always use. There was fruit in abundance hanging from trees and I did not feel like I was thieving from the birds in taking two carrier bags' worth. The nettles were neither as high nor as fearsome as the previous year and I was only stung the once.

Much of the rest of Sunday was spent stripping the berries from their stalks, a task enlivened by listening to Radio 4 Comedy on the BBC i-player radio app (which wins the 'Best App on My Phone' Award by a streak). I had a quick jaunt out to look at the eighteenth century bathing lodge in Gledhow Woods, it being open for World Heritage Open Day, but otherwise spent the day on elderberry wine. My total elderberry haul proved to be a little over the 6 lbs needed for a double batch so I have frozen the remainder.

I put the fruit in the bucket and crushed it with a potato masher. I put in 5 lbs 4 oz of sugar and 12 pints of boiling water (exactly the right amount, it proved) and left the mixture overnight to cool. On Monday morning I added a teaspoon each of yeast, nutrient and pectolase, stirred it around and then ignored it (save for the occasional stir) until Saturday 15th September.

Getting this into its two demijohns was quicker than blackberry - there was less sludge to bung up the sieve. The wine is the darkest that I make and is currently stored in the bath in case the fermentation is too eager. For the moment, it appears to be behaving itself.

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

Saturday 15 September 2018

Elderberry Wine - First Bottle (B3), 5th-6th September 2018

I am never ill. Except this week I have been. I started feeling grotty on Tuesday and then took the day off work on Wednesday. It has been more than five years since I missed a day through illness (unless one counts recuperating from a general anaesthetic, which personally I don't). Accordingly, I tested the healing powers of elderberry wine on Wednesday and was back at work on Thursday.

As ever when trying my first bottle of elderberry wine from a new batch, it was too young, though promising. The taste has all sorts of sharp corners and angles that time will smooth.

If you want to see how I made this wine, click here (though my next blog post is very likely to be about how I made Elderberry 2018)

Wednesday 12 September 2018

Blackcurrant Wine 2015 - Twenty Second Bottle (D3), 31st August - 3rd September 2018

This started life as a Friday night bottle, but on the basis that we had cocktails and the remainder of a bottle of Prune & Parsnip to finish, it would have been disgraceful to empty it. We were two inches away from Disgraceful. But blackcurrant wine is so drinkable.

It was Monday when Claire finished this wine. I was at the Airedale's first rehearsal of this season bashing my way through patriotic nonsense written by Elgar & Walton. It was only ever so slightly disappointing to find the bottle empty on my return.

Tuesday 11 September 2018

Mint, Elderflower & Rhubarb Wine - Second Bottle (4), 1st September 2018

I took this over to York as a Saturday evening bottle. Pop was cooking mackerel so I wanted something white. Both parents loved the wine and one of them (Mom, I think) said it was the best of my wines they had tasted. It really is an excellent white wine, even by objective standards.

We had a lovely evening with my parents, not doing anything in particular, and that makes a dull tale. However, there is much to be said for comfortable and companionable co-existence that creates a happy and worthwhile life. God, that sounds smug. It isn't meant to!

Sunday 9 September 2018

Something a little bit different ...

So, I have a new toy - a Smart Phone. I know that most people have had these for nearing 10 years, but considering I didn't get my first mobile until 2011, I think I have joined the party remarkably quickly.

Anyway, I have today recorded four videos: two on sterilising equipment (it was meant to be one, but somehow the recorder got cut off), one on racking your wine and one on putting wine into demijohns once it has been in the bucket for a suitable length of time.

Sterilising Equipment

Here is video number 1: 

Here is video number 2:

Racking your wine

Apologies for the lack of comic timing with my joke, but here it is:

Putting your wine into demijohns

And finally, this is how I put my wine into demijohns (though the moving picture cuts out too early):

Blackberry Wine 2018 - The Making Of...

One should always listen to one's mother. Mothers are generally right about things and those who don't listen will live in a permanent state of regret.

A few weeks ago Mom said that I should come over to pick blackberries because they were now ripe. This was early August and therefore too early. The correct weekend to go brambling is, of course, the first weekend in September. So today (2nd September) Claire and I set off for York Victorian Cemetery. It was a glorious morning - bright sunshine, birds singing, only a hint of Autumn - and I was looking forward to an abundance of blackberries.

As is our practice, Claire and I split up to forage. After about 20 minutes, when my basket was somewhat emptier than it should have been, I got a text from Claire complaining that the blackberries were mostly mummified and asking how I was doing. We met up and decided we would be lucky to pick 4 lbs between us, enough for a single batch. This was frustrating and I regretted not heeding Mom's advice. However, fairly quickly we both found better patches and came away with about 6½ lbs.

Graves to mention are (for Claire): Margaret Nicoll and her sister Eva Barley, S. F. Elliott (a wireless operator in the RAF) and Ivy & Fred Foster. I picked from Sallie Allen, James W W Hughes and his mother Frances Grace Hughes, and Henry Ridgway Hodgson. We will raise a glass to them when the time comes.

A sculpture along the old railway track
Back at my parents' I went brambling along an old railway track and got over a pound. Though I was six ounces short of 8 lbs, this was enough for a double batch.

The wine after a stir

At home I mashed the fruit, added 5 lbs 6 oz sugar and 11¼ pints of boiling water. Next morning I added a teaspoon each of yeast, nutrient and pectolase. I left this until Saturday morning, 8th September, before putting the liquid into its demijohns. This was a slow task and I tried to film the process for the blog - now I have my super duper new camera phone thing. Irritatingly, the film is too large to attach to this and I don't know how to shrink it (any advice gratefully received!). The amount of water I used in this recipe was exactly right and the wine is looking how it should.

The demijohn in the background is Rose Petal

Wednesday 5 September 2018

Prune & Parsnip Wine 2014 - Eleventh Bottle (B4?), 30th-31st August 2018

Hurrah! The Great British Bake Off is back. For the next 10 weeks we can indulge in comfort television involving people making cakes. What could be more entertaining? Because we are entitled to treats at each advert break, I opened a bottle of ancient Prune & Parsnip. This has aged extremely well - it is entirely smooth with a depth of flavour that makes it more interesting than its younger brethren. And there is still one bottle to go, hidden somewhere in the depths of this house.

Tuesday 4 September 2018

Strawberry Wine - First Bottle (4), 26th August 2018

Abbey Brew, the shop that sells me all my wine making stuff, had a tasting afternoon at which we were encouraged to bring our own creations. On the basis that I wanted to impress, I took a bottle of strawberry. And impress it did - lots of people said quite how good it was, though curiously did not have a strong taste of strawberries.

I spend much of the afternoon getting horrendously drunk, tasting all sorts of wine (mostly kit red) and a few spirits, with some beer and cider for good measure. I must not get that drunk again. But I also met some good people, including Glenda and Foz (Ian) who I have invited to November's wine party. I wonder if they will come.

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

Sunday 2 September 2018

Clementine Wine - Fifth Bottle (4), 25th-29th August 2018

Claire spent the weekend in Oxford playing Ravel's String Quartet. Obviously I was going to have a bottle of wine whilst she was away, but as a loving husband I decided to open something nasty. In fact, Clementine Wine has improved from nearly undrinkable to nearly drinkable. I did not see this as a punishment (though I will still never make it again).

Bank Holiday Monday was a grand day. I took the opportunity to meet up with Vicky Butler, who kept me sane in my second year at Warwick and who I have not seen since 1994. We walked six and a half miles round Curbar Edge and it felt like only a week had gone by.

Curbar Edge, in Derbyshire

Friday 31 August 2018

Blackberry Wine - First Bottle (B5), 24th August 2018

This is more like it! Blackberries 2015 and 2016 were both disappointing vintages. 2017, however, is excellent. It tastes properly of blackberries, but still has depth and a roundness to it. There is a sweetness but not one that is cloying. At its best, blackberry wine is one of my favourites of all that I make and this is close to being at its best.

Otherwise, I had a quiet Friday and an unremarkable Friday evening (though there is nothing wrong with that!). Much of it was spent curled up on the sofa watching the final episode of Lewis - which is a terribly middle-aged and middle-class thing to do. I do not pretend to be other.

The actual bottle and wine

If you want to see how I made this wine (and I recommend that you do), click here.

Wednesday 29 August 2018

Rose Petal Wine - Second Bottle (B3), 21st-22nd August 2018

Claire says that she likes my rose petal wine better in theory than in practice. I'm the opposite way round: Turkish Delight is nasty and that tastes of roses.

As ever, Claire is working too hard - hence opening a bottle of wine on a Tuesday evening. Currently, I'm not working hard enough. This is mostly because it is August and things slow down when the country is on holiday, but I hate not having enough to do. The days pass slowly and I have a low boredom threshold.

Monday 27 August 2018

Elderberry Wine - Fifth Bottle (B1), 19th-20th August 2018

With only a 'Bread Sauce Master Class' from Claire to help me, I did a whole roast dinner yesterday: chicken, roast spuds, onion gravy, bread sauce and strangely shaped cauliflower. The unexpected thing was actually how easy it all was (if time consuming). Keith, Jaki and Ellis turned up during the beginning stages of the onion gravy - they were passing and dropped by. It was lovely to see them. Oh - the wine. It was elderberry and good. (Sufficient description?)

Thursday 23 August 2018

Crab Apple Wine - 26th Bottle (E5), 18th August 2018

So, most of Saturday was spent getting to grips with my new phone. I have managed to install a Tuner and Metronome App, and I have been listening to classical music on Spotify. It is like having a Sony Walkman all over again. Claire thinks I'm already obsessed. I managed, though, to eat an entire meal without looking at my phone once. We had smoked mackerel, for which a sharp white wine was required. Crab Apple fit the bill nicely. We are nearing the end of this batch and it will be at least another couple of years before our new tree produces sufficient quantities. I will savour this flavour whilst it lasts.

Monday 20 August 2018

Blackcurrant & Gooseberry Wine - Fourth Bottle (5), 17th August 2018

Something has happened to this wine. It has become delicious. Before, Blackcurrant & Gooseberry was fine, but this bottle was excellent. Far smoother than before, which meant it slipped down rather too quickly. I was disappointed to discover at eight o'clock that there was only one glass each left.

The main news of the day is that my Smart Phone has arrived, and I find it entirely baffling. I can see that one day I won't, but for the moment I don't know how to do anything on it, or once I have turned something on how to turn it off again. The weekend will be one of screaming frustration.

Sunday 19 August 2018

Xmas Tutti Fruti - Sixth Bottle (A6), 15th-17th August 2018

Xmas Tutti Fruti does a decent job at being a midweek bottle: perfectly pleasant, nothing to write home about. I asked Claire to save me a glass on Thursday for my return from trios at Ann & Alan's. This was a wise precaution. Alan is insistent that we prepare a set for Music Club but we are no longer good enough. Despite having to stop twice in every movement to regroup, Alan thinks we are near performance ready. By the time I got home I needed a large glass of wine.

Saturday 18 August 2018

Rhubarb Wine - Fourth Bottle (C1), 12th August 2018

I think this must qualify as the laziest Sunday ever. I did not set foot outdoors. Mostly I lay on the chaise-longue reading Miss Marjoribanks by Mrs Oliphant - a mid-nineteenth century comedy of manners. I cannot decide whether I find the book charming or massively irritating. Certainly the main character deserves a good slapping. It is not clear whether the author thinks so too. I only chose the book because I enjoyed the entirely unrelated Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine so much.

After such an exhausting day I opened this bottle to drink with the baked hake. It came as a relief to have a chance to rest my weary body whilst drinking rhubarb wine.

Wednesday 15 August 2018

Fig Wine - Fifth Bottle (6), 11th August 2018

A meal of Lebanese food require a bottle of fig wine. There is something about fig that suggests the Middle East - in look, in colour, in taste. Despite its colour, this is not a red wine: fig does not have the depth for that, but this is not a criticism.

I spent some of the bottle listening to the Proms performance of West Side Story on Radio 3. This is such a good piece of music - I first encountered it in Miss Chancellor's music lessons in 1982 and I still know most the words. I think it is up there with Rite of Spring and Rock Around the Clock as the most important music of the twentieth century. (Discuss.)

The Jets (or maybe The Sharks)

Monday 13 August 2018

Orange Wine - Fourth Bottle (B5), 8th-9th August 2018

This bottle had all the appearances of one about to explode. Its cork was protruding from the neck and I thought it wise to remove this under controlled conditions. In fact, the wine was flat with no danger of firing its contents out. But drinking a bottle of orange wine is no sacrifice. Claire and I are both working hard and a couple of glasses of Orange on Wednesday night were most welcome. Neither of us had the energy to cook so we took full advantage of the take-out pizza place round the corner. Our lentil moussaka was saved, instead, for tonight and it was fabulous. A red wine would have gone better but the orange was fine.

Saturday 11 August 2018

Cath Wadsworth's Damson Wine - 8th August 2018

How irritating! Cath Wadsworth's damson wine was delicious on first taste and rather better than most the wine I make. It was rounded and fruity, clear and attractive in colour. I have been given the recipe - 3 lbs damsons and 3 lbs sugar for a single batch. Once our damson tree produces enough fruit for both jam and wine (so far we haven't had a single damson, but it is only two years old) I will give this flavour a go. I'll cut down on the sugar, though. This wine fell very much into the dessert-wine category, and so a bottle between two would be a bit much. Emma (the wine-maker's daughter) has now earned her spot as "Best Colleague Ever" and can secure this place by bringing me more of her mother's wine.

Thursday 9 August 2018

Nectarine Wine - First Bottle (6), 5th August 2018

From my previous experiences of Peach, I had expected Nectarine wine to be average at best and disgusting at worst. This bottle exceeded my expectations, and in a good way. There is a taste of nectarine, certainly, but it is subtle. It hangs there from the first sip, but the overall taste is a medium-dry white wine. In years when nectarines are plentiful and I have not already made too much wine, it is worth repeating this one.

We drank the bottle on the Sunday after Rydal, which is always a little melancholy - with a heavenly week having just gone and the expectation of work to come.

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

Monday 6 August 2018

Apple & Strawberry Wine - Third Bottle (3), 27th July - 4th August 2018

Two Fridays ago I had just started a week's holiday and opened a bottle of Apple & Strawberry wine to celebrate. It was a delicate, fragrant wine but two glasses in Becky shouted over the garden fence inviting us to come look at her new kitchen. It was certainly impressive and one new feature appeared to be the 'Never Ending Glass of Wine'. Whenever I looked down, there it was - full again. Consequently I woke the next morning feeling rather more (less?) than fragile and there was still half a bottle of Apple & Strawberry. I stoppered it and left it in the fridge whilst we were at Rydal having a marvellous (if wet) time. On our return the wine was still drinkable, so we polished it off, despite not planning to drink that Saturday.

Saturday 4 August 2018

Blackcurrant Wine 2018 - The Making Of...

Blackcurrants seem to enjoy this long, hot, dry summer that we are having. Our bushes are laden with plump, ripe fruit and I will struggle to pick half of it. Despite having several blackcurrant bushes in our garden, I sent a Facebook message to Lindsay in early July asking how hers were getting on. An invitation to come over and pick fruit came back immediately. Lindsay says we are doing her a service, and she gets a bottle of wine out of it, so everyone's a winner.

Claire and I went over on 8th July, were joined by Lindsay and Anthony and we picked blackcurrants in the sunshine for less than an hour. Over the course of the next fortnight I selected the ripest fruit from our bushes (which are later than Lindsay's to ripen), freezing them as I went. By Thursday 19th July there was virtually no room left in our freezer and Something Had To Be Done. I removed the blackcurrants and measured out 6 lbs for a double batch, allowing them to defrost overnight. On Friday night I put these in the bucket and gave them a good mashing. This involved more effort than I had anticipated and the result was a sludge rather than lots of liquid.

I boiled 5½ lbs of sugar in 12 pints of water - and it turns out that an extra half pint of water would have been useful. Once this was boiling I poured it over the blackcurrants and left it all overnight to cool down. I put in a teaspoon each of yeast, pectolase and nutrient on Saturday morning - I have bought a tub of yeast rather than using individual sachets on the basis that this is far cheaper and I suspect the yeast variety makes little difference to the end result.

I left the wine until Tuesday evening, 24th July, stirring at least once a day, and then put it into my demijohns. There proved to be not quite enough water, but not by a huge margin. The wine is now bubbling away noisily and looks entirely happy.

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