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.

Wednesday 30 January 2019

Gooseberry Wine - Fourth Bottle (2), 23rd-24th January 2019

I think that this Gooseberry Wine has improved with keeping (even thought it is less than a month since our last bottle). There was not the one-note sharpness to it. Gooseberry (of course) dominates the flavour but there was something more besides. If we can up our gooseberry production I will continue to make this.

On Wednesday, when it was opened, I had taken the day off work due to a heavy cold and spent much of the day asleep. It is a rare event that I am off ill, but Claire sent me back to bed in the morning, despite my protestations. By Thursday I was starting to feel like me again.

The Gooseberry Wine in question

Tuesday 29 January 2019

Elderberry Wine - Seventh Bottle (A3), 20th January 2019

This was a post-concert bottle. Airedale Symphony Orchestra played Roman Carnival by Berlioz, Beethoven's Violin Concerto and Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony in Saltaire. The concert went well, but for me it will be remembered as 'The one where I had a coughing fit'. I was trying my best to supress a cough during the violinist's cadenza and ended up turning purple, nearly choking with tears streaming down my face. It was awful. Anyway, back at home I restored myself with a bottle of elderberry wine - which is particularly fine, and a venison sausage and red cabbage casserole.

A view from the stand, during the rehearsal

Sunday 27 January 2019

Rhubarb Wine - Seventh Bottle (B2), 18th January 2019

Claire cooked a spicy mackerel sauce over pasta and wanted a white wine to go with it. Of all the wines I have, I think rhubarb is the natural choice. It is dry and subtle enough to be a cool, refreshing drink.

We had a pleasant and relaxed Friday evening, though I started it grumpy. Probably I was just hungry and my blood-sugar levels were low. A plateful of spicy mackerel over pasta followed by large amounts of chocolate and an episode of Midsomer Murders fettled that.

Friday 25 January 2019

Prune & Parsnip Wine - Eighth Bottle (A6), 16th-17th January 2019

On Wednesday and Thursday I really should have done some bassoon practice. There is a concert on Sunday and my lip has yet to recover from the Christmas lull. Instead, I drank prune and parsnip wine. It is a tasty bottle, but not a true substitute for getting those tricky semi-quavers under my fingers. Still, there is always Friday - so plenty of time to prepare. Nothing remarkable happened either day; the most exciting thing was seeing two cars collide in slow-motion outside work.

Wednesday 23 January 2019

Blackcurrant Wine - Fourth Bottle (B6), 13th January 2019

This bottle of blackcurrant wine rounded off a splendid weekend. Saturday was a many-pleasure day, involving viola master-classes, art galleries, dim-sum, the twenty-first floor of a hotel and cocktails in Harvey Nics. Dom (the bar manager there, and also Ros's son) extended our range from Margaritas to Cosmopolitans and Negronis, and I will visit those again.

Sunday we were back in Leeds and had an afternoon rehearsal with the Airedale - shortly after which I opened this bottle and sank gently into the evening.

A Negroni and Cosmopolitan at Harvey Nics

Saturday 19 January 2019

Muscat of Alexandria - The Making Of...

When I was in America last year, I received a Facebook message from Nick's brother-in-law, who I had met in May. Would I be interested in sharing his bumper harvest of grapes? I replied that I would be more than interested. Could I collect them in 48 hours? Being in San Francisco, about to travel to Nebraska, presented a problem. I suggested that he give a bag or two to Nick, who could store them in his freezer until my return. This was somewhat presumptuous, but no-one raised any complaints, so that is what was done. And there the grapes remained. Every now and again I would say "I must collect those grapes" but nothing was organised until last week.

On Tuesday, 8th January, Nick took the grapes into work and I collected Claire and them that evening. I had not realised quite how many there would be. It was an entirely full freezer-box. Claire and I spent that evening stripping frozen grapes from their stalks. It was finger-numbing work and in total there were 20 lbs and 10 oz. These went into my large bucket and I left them 24 hours to defrost.

The uncrushed grapes
On Wednesday I took a potato masher to the grapes and spent about 20 minutes crushing them. The bucket was too narrow and my feet are too disgusting to do it in the traditional manner. It is clear why wine is made from grapes - they produce so much liquid and do not require any water.

The more disgusting of my disgusting feet
For the first time in many years I regretted not having a hydrometer as I did not know if any sugar would be required. All I could do was take a sip and guess. I added a pound. Having consulted my wine making books, I though it wise to add 2 crushed Camden tablets to stop any natural yeast fermenting,

The crushed grapes
The next evening - so 10th January - I added a teaspoon each of yeast, nutrient and pectolase. I left the wine until 16th January before removing the grape skins and putting the wine into its demijohns. That huge number of grapes resulted in only a demijohn and a quarter, which is less than I would have guessed. I will give away 4 bottles of this: one to Nick and three to Rick. I will not, however, make any promises about its taste.

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

Thursday 17 January 2019

Apple Wine - Fourth Bottle (4), 6th January 2019

I do like this apple wine and it is one of the three reasons why our apple tree is allowed to stay, despite its ridiculous height and unreachable apples.

We drank this bottle on Sunday, which was exactly how a Sunday should be. I spent some of my time collecting horse poo from the local stables and some more of my time digging it into the front garden. Otherwise, I made bread, started my ginger wine and ate many vegetarian curries. How else should a Sunday be spent?

Sunday 13 January 2019

Ginger Wine 2019 - The Making Of...

We are only six days into the New Year and already I feel like an old man. My back is aching and I know that I shall be stiff tomorrow. This is the result of barely two hours gardening. All I was doing was shovelling horse manure into bags and then digging it into our front garden, plus some low-level weeding. Gardening is meant to be a healthy activity, so why do I feel like I have been given a thorough pummelling?

A selection of dried fruit ingredients
The other thing I have done this weekend is to begin my ginger wine. I had already decided that Ginger will be my regular January wine, but the bottle we drank on New Year's Day confirmed this choice - it was excellent. I bought all my 'fruit' ingredients: 5 oz root ginger, 4 lemons and 1 lb sultanas: from the Continental Supermarket in Harehills. Though they sell every type of pulse and flour that you can think of and many more besides, the only sultanas they had were 'Golden Sultanas' which had a best-before date of April 2018. I bought them anyway. It makes this wine the yellowest of all wines that I make.

On Saturday (yesterday), I shaved the ginger of its skin and sliced it as thinly as possible before putting it into the bucket. Next I minced the sultanas in the food processor and put those in. Then I peeled the lemon-skin as finely as I could, doing my best to avoid the pith, and put this in, followed shortly by the juice from all lemons.

The ingredients in the bucket
I poured over 3½ pints of boiling water, making our kitchen smell citrussy and left the wine until this afternoon. During a break from gardening I poured in 2½ lbs sugar and another 3½ pints of boiling water. Several hours later I put in a teaspoon each of yeast, nutrient and pectolase.

I waited until Friday evening, 11th January, before putting the wine into its demijohn. This was done before Book Group (Treasure Island - our 'winter classic') so I had to be quick. Happily this was not a drawn out process, and I now have a demijohn full of pale yellow, ginger-flavoured liquid.

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

Friday 11 January 2019

Ginger Wine - First Bottle (1), 1st January 2019

This bottle of wine was rather splendid. The ginger is fiery but not overpowering, and the wine is both dry and light. I think I have got the quantities in perfect balance. Seeing as this is the wine that I shall make this month, that is a Good Thing.

We have had a jolly first of January in Cambridge with Rachel and Duncan. I spent the morning reading Treasure Island - the classic Boy's Own Adventure - and then went for a seven mile walk in the afternoon, which involved tickling pigs and climbing (insofar as one can climb in Cambridgeshire) to an obelisk.

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

Wednesday 9 January 2019

Strawberry Wine 2016 - Final Bottle (3), 31st December 2018

New Year's Eve is traditionally a time to drink in excess, and I am happy to report that we kept that tradition.

We have spent the New Year in Cambridge with Rachel & Duncan, which is always a pleasure. A cup of tea was presented on our arrival but soon this was followed by gin & tonics, a gin fizz cocktail and too many bottles of wine (of which this was one and delicious). At nine o'clock I was convinced that, like most years these days, I would fail to see midnight and 2019 arrive. Claire went to bed at 10:30, but by then I had got a second wind and stayed up to hear the chimes of Big Ben and watch fireworks explode over the Thames.

Monday 7 January 2019

Blackberry Wine - Sixth Bottle (C5), 29th December 2018

We have done the Taylors and now it is the turn of the Hardys. Christmas really is an opportunity to see as many people in as short a time as possible. Our visit to York has coincided with Chris, Rachael, Paul and Myles being here - and I saw Keith and family on the 27th. It has been fabulous to catch up with everyone and I had not seen Chris since early June.

Myles is squarely into his dinosaur phase and three quarters of his presents - socks, books, toys, Bingo - were dinosaur related.

There was plenty of booze in the evening and I contributed this bottle of blackberry. It was rather better than the Parma-Violet flavoured gin on offer.

Sunday 6 January 2019

Gooseberry Wine - Third Bottle (1), 28th December 2018

Well, this is tart. Not unpleasant by any means, but you wouldn't want it any drier. The gooseberry flavour powers through and I have been given permission by Claire to make it again in years where there is a gooseberry glut.

We drank the wine on Friday night (how can it be Friday already?), enjoying being at home with no entertaining to do. I had spent the day watching Christmas television, planning a trip to Coll in March and reading Treasure Island - one of those books that I have never read, but has seeped into my consciousness. There is barely a character's name that is unfamiliar, though the story is unknown.

Saturday 5 January 2019

Prune & Parsnip Wine 2015 - Final Bottle (A4), 27th December 2018

That time between Christmas and New Year is always strange. I lose track of the days and the drinking hour creeps forward. By the time I opened this bottle it was around 7 and Claire, Sooz and I had already polished off a whisky mac each and a bottle of mulled wine.

This Prune & Parsnip was approaching four years old and has lost the over-riding sherry taste. It was still recognisable, but just a tad drier and maybe not as good. Therefore, Prune & Parsnip, unlike Elderberry or Dandelion, is not one to save into its old age.

Thursday 3 January 2019

Rose Petal & Orange Wine - Third Bottle (4), 26th December 2018

Boxing Day should be spent walking vigorously over bleak hills in the cold air. Mostly I spent it sat on a sofa reading And Then We Came To The End by Joshua Ferris (an excellent book - my second time through). Claire, Sooz and I managed a sojourn to Seaton Sluice where Claire spent her time looking for shells and I slithered around on the rocks, but where very little energy was expended.

Seaton Sluice
Back at 3 The Alders, Claire opened this bottle and everyone enjoyed it. Bob detected licorice, but no-one else got that. Sooz identified the citrus but failed to pick up on the rose, whereas I think the rose is dominant.

Wednesday 2 January 2019

Xmas Tutti Fruti 2018 - The Making Of...

Though I pretend not to, and despite being distinctly grumpy at work, I do enjoy Christmas. More accurately, I enjoy the feasting, the friends and family, and the sheer laziness of it. Today, Sunday 23rd December, has emphasized the last of these. I got up late and, other than a jaunt out to pick up provisions from Harehills, I have done very little. Or 'very little' unless one counts wine-making, which personally I don't. A hobby does not fall into the category of 'chore' (though rinsing and sterilising equipment is never exciting).

This afternoon I began my Christmas Tutti Fruti, though this has only consisted of digging fruit out of the freezer, weighing it and putting it into my bucket to defrost. In total I have 8 lbs and ¾ oz of fruit, which is enough for a double batch. Taking the fruit in the order that I added it I have:

Quince - ¾ oz
  • Elderberries - 6 ¾ oz
  • Blackberries - 7 ½ oz
  • Strawberries - 10 ½ oz
  • Rosehips - ¾ oz
  • Sloes - 12 ½ oz
  • Blackcurrants - 3 lbs, 3½ oz
  • Redcurrants - ½ oz
  • Raspberries - 4 oz
  • Gooseberries - 1 lb 6½ oz
  • Apple - 9 oz
  • Satsuma - One (weighing in at 2 oz)

I left the fruit overnight to defrost. That evening, my Christmas started in earnest with Christmas carolling round the neighbourhood, organised by Angie for St Gemma
's Hospice. This is the event which marks the beginning of Yuletide for me - it is a pleasure to sing carols half-remembered from my youth, in a group where virtually everyone else can sing in four-part harmony.

The crushed fruit, with sugar added
On Christmas Eve I waited until 3 p.m. and the strains of Once in Royal David's City from King's College, Cambridge before mashing the fruit. I added 5½ lbs sugar and 12 pints of boiling water and gave it all a good stir, crushing any whole gooseberries I found with the back of the wooden spoon. The yeast, nutrient, pectolase and a small quantity of tannin went in on Christmas Day.

The fruit, fermenting in its bucket
I left the wine mostly unstirred (on account of being in Newcastle and York) until Sunday, 30th December, when I put the wine into demijohns. The wine has the most sludge that I can remember and made the process long and sticky. The following morning I weighed the discarded fruit. From the original 8 lbs, it now weighs 3½. The rest must be juice.