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

Friday 30 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.