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.

Monday 29 April 2019

Blackcurrant Wine - Sixth Bottle (B1), 20th April 2019

One might argue that after a bottle of blackberry at lunchtime, early evening negronis and a bottle of rose petal to go with our meal, that we did not strictly need a bottle of blackcurrant wine. One might have a point. However, this wine is so delicious - my best ever blackcurrant vintage - and Claire did ask so nicely, that who am I to refuse?

Early evening negronis

Sunday 28 April 2019

Dandelion Wine 2019 - The Making Of...

I was very much in two minds about making dandelion wine this year: the Magnolia Petal wine was to be its substitute. But as I have been driving home the last three weeks, the road verges have been golden with dandelions. Each journey has been a temptation, and my resolve to give dandelion wine a miss has weakened with each one. Therefore, on Good Friday, I struck out with my jug and a plastic bag to pick flowers. I had intended to walk all the way to the fields by Potternewton Lane, but thought I should have a quick look at Allerton Grange before making that half-hour trip. I am glad I did: there were dandelions in abundance and, whilst it did my step-count no good, foraging for flowers round the corner meant that I spent an hour less of my day with wine-making activities.

It was a glorious afternoon, picking dandelions in the sunlight, listening to a competitive father beat his under-tens at football. An Indian osteopath was interested in what I was doing and I had a long conversation with him about wine-making. At no point did he look as if he wanted to back away slowly.

I measured 6 pints of dandelion heads in my jug and took them home to boil up in 7 pints of water, 2 lbs 12 oz sugar and the thinly peeled rind of two lemons and one orange. This was brought to the boil and boiled for 20 minutes. I squeezed the citrus fruits and put the juice and half a kilo of minced sultanas into my bucket, pouring the contents of the cauldron over this once the twenty minutes was up.

Next day I added the yeast and a teaspoon each of nutrient, pectolase and tannin. I pretty much left the wine to its own devices until Thursday evening, 12th April, giving it only the occasional stir.

On Thursday, after returning from a solicitors' event involving beer and pies, I put the liquid into its demijohn, straining out the solids. The amount of water I had used was exactly right - nothing spare was left.

Dandelion wine at this stage does not suggest its eventual golden colour - though it isn't quite as brown as the magnolia.

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

Saturday 27 April 2019

Rose Petal Wine 2017 - Fourth Bottle (B4), 20th April 2019

One of the reasons that we are drinking this vintage slowly is that the bottles are mostly stored in the crypt. This means that it is a hassle moving things out of the cupboard under the stairs so that I can lift the floorboards. However, this is a vintage of rose petal to be savoured: so much better than 2016's batch. The rose flavour is subtle rather than overpowering and it is closer to a white wine.

We drank it to a Moroccan chicken and chestnut tagine that Claire presented to her siblings. Absolutely delicious and from Claudia Roden's Arabesque - a superb cookbook.

Friday 26 April 2019

Blackberry Wine 2016 - Fourteenth Bottle (A6), 19th-20th April 2019

Another bottle of disappointing blackberry bites the dust. This really has been a dud vintage. There is little that is actively wrong about it, but it is far from interesting and has no depth or bite.

Apart from the glass that I had on Good Friday (which really was a glass too far), this bottle was shared with Andrew, Sooz and Claire for Saturday lunchtime (shocking!) sat in the shady part of the garden enjoying the spectacular weather we are having. This is how Easter Saturday's should be spent.

Our Garden

Thursday 25 April 2019

Dandelion Wine - Second Bottle (1), 19th April 2019

On a day that I started my next batch of dandelion wine, which was Good Friday where Andrew, Sooz and Jayne were all here, it seemed right and proper that we should drink this year's bottle of dandelion wine. This was after having an early (and floppy) gin and tonic, followed by Cosmopolitans in the garden. The weather has been idyllic over the last few days (though we do need some rain quite badly, just not this Easter weekend).

This wine was good without being outstanding: a medium-dry sherry with a definite hint of lemons. I wonder how next year's bottle will be.

Cosmopolitans in the garden

Wednesday 24 April 2019

Rose Petal Wine 2016 - Fourteenth Bottle (B6), 17th-18th April 2019

On Wednesday I did my best to rescue a hedgehog. Walking from work to the car, I saw an extremely ill-looking hedgehog with flies landing on its eyes. After ringing 'hedgehog rescue' I wrapped it in my coat and drove it to the vet. In the waiting room were two rats, a snake and a tortoise. I handed the hedgehog over, left my number and was rung a couple of hours later to be told that it had been put down, which is what I had expected - at least it died in a painless and clinical way, rather than starving to death whilst being consumed by maggots. Still sad, though. Claire and I raised a glass of rose petal wine in its memory. It is what the hedgehog would have wanted.

Tuesday 23 April 2019

Kiwi Fruit Wine - First Bottle (2), 14th April 2019

"If I was served this in a pub, I would be disappointed but I wouldn't complain."

This was Claire's verdict on Kiwi fruit wine. The main problem is that this wine is too sweet. Otherwise, it is mostly bland. Beautifully clear, though, despite my misgivings when making it. We drank the bottle after a Sunday spent in York, partly to see Mom & Pop, and partly to have a wander round York Open Studios - where I bumped into may people connected with my teenage years.

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

Monday 22 April 2019

Apple & Strawberry Wine - Third Bottle (3), 12th April 2019

After last weekend's excesses (particularly Friday) I decided to have a week off alcohol. I managed Sunday to Wednesday. But, Thursday was Cornelia Gruntfuttock's birthday, so a bottle of champagne was obligatory. Then Friday night wouldn't be proper without at least part of a bottle. We had a whole bottle instead.

Have I mentioned how good apple & strawberry wine is? It is so light, so refreshing and the fruit flavour is present without being overwhelming.

Sunday 21 April 2019

Prune & Parsnip Wine - Second Bottle (B5), 6th April 2019

When I asked Mary what bottle I should bring, she asked if I had any parsnip wine. She remembers a relative from her youth making this. Prune & Parsnip was deemed close enough, so this is what I took over. It was the night before our Airedale Symphony Orchestra concert and we stayed over in Ilkley. It was an entertaining evening and all woke with headaches the next morning. Mary was particularly impressed with the prune & parsnip wine, which we drank with an Amaretto and White Chocolate cheesecake. As this was the last bottle drank, I blame it for Sunday's grogginess.

Sunday 14 April 2019

Blackberry Wine - Eighth Bottle (A6), 31st March - 2nd April 2019

Having started our Sunday evening with negronis, we exercised some self-control and only drank half a bottle of blackberry wine. According to my step-counter, I had had a sedentary day (fewer than 3,000 steps) and this was because I spent the morning reading The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy - trying to get it finished in time for Book Group. Therefore, I could not justify having additional wine due to an active and exhausting day.

The blackberry was as good as ever and accompanied a slow-cooked lamb stew. I didn't get a look-in for the remainder of the bottle. Claire had a glass in the garden to celebrate her first Monday off work and then finished it on Tuesday whilst I was out playing Glinka trios with Madeleine.

Saturday 13 April 2019

Rhubarb Wine - Fourteenth Bottle (C3), 30th-31st March 2019

There are bits in this wine. Small flecks of brownness. At time of writing, there is still an inch left in the bottle and nearly all the bits remain in that. Tonight I shall be brave and will drink what is left, but to avoid foolhardiness, I will be aided by a sieve.

The majority of this wine was drunk on Saturday night whilst eating nut loaf and the first asparagus of the season (at great expense). Earlier in the day I foraged for magnolia petals for an experimental wine.

Aided by a sieve

Tuesday 9 April 2019

Rose Petal Wine - Thirteenth Bottle (A3), 29th March 2019

After a busy, stressful, yet ultimately successful and interesting week at work, what better way to relax than a Cosmopolitan cocktail followed by a bottle of rose petal wine? Our alcohol consumption was sponsored by the colour pink on Friday night.

At the beginning of the week, the Quarter One Target at work was hanging by a thread. By 3 o'clock on Friday I got the last completion and everyone got their bonus. Being the last piece in a jigsaw puzzle brings its own problems. Anyway, the cocktail was better than the wine, but the wine improved the more of it we drank. We then both fell asleep to Midsomer Murders.

Sunday 7 April 2019

Blackcurrant & Gooseberry Wine - Final Bottle (1), 26th March 2019

Tuesdays tend not to be a full bottle of wine night, but (unless one counts Friday) (or, indeed, Saturday and Sunday) it was the only night that we had in together this week. Both Claire and I had stressful Mondays and it seemed right to mark the better Tuesday with a bottle of blackcurrant and gooseberry, which was a very slurpable bottle of wine. We drank it to a venison sausage casserole - which was meaty, dark and delicious - and then watched an episode of Celebrity Bake Off. Maybe not the most memorable or interesting of evenings, but it was what we both needed.

Saturday 6 April 2019

Ginger Wine - Second Bottle (3), 24th March 2019

I had expected to drink vast quantities of this bottle as an anaesthetic after Music Club Orchestra on Saturday night. However, my need for numbness was rather less than expected and it was late, so I went to bed instead. Ginger wine was therefore the flavour of choice at a fabulous meal round at Richard and Linda's. Only Richard and I were drink and I had more than was seemly (or so my head told me on Monday morning). It is a good wine, though. The lemon is a hint of a flavour, tempering the ginger.

Richard was chief cook and we had all sorts of delicious things: sardine and mushroom pate, cheesy risotto, Mary Berry's coleslaw (generally I can take or leave coleslaw, but this was great) and apple tart.

Friday 5 April 2019

Magnolia Petal Wine - The Making Of...

On Friday evening, 29th March, I posted a photo on Instagram of a magnolia tree in Horsforth Hall Park. [If you want to follow me on Instagram - my 'name' is @benswinemaking.] At this time of year (and I think particularly this year) magnolias are stunning. They are an attractively shaped tree anyway, with sparse branches at angles designed by architects, and their flowers are individual vases in delicate pink and cream. After posting my photo I received a comment from Lucy [@lajmmm] "Flowers are edible!". This, of course, made me wonder about turning them into wine.

I did a Google search, just to make sure that Lucy was not trying to poison me - she wasn't - and e-mailed Angie and Phil, who have a splendid magnolia tree in their front garden, to ask if I could collect their fallen petals.

Magnolia Petals on Angie and Phil's lawn
On Saturday morning I collected my first small bag of petals after biting into one - it had an odd but not unpleasant taste - took them home, put most of them into the freezer and made magnolia tea out of a couple. The tea had a subtle flavour, but again was not unpleasant. Therefore, I returned on Saturday afternoon, caught up with Angie and Phil's news and collected a larger bag - concentrating on the freshest, most recently dropped petals.

Back at home I followed my dandelion wine recipe entirely. I measured six pints of petals (those in the freezer turned brown on defrosting) and put them in our large pan with the thinly peeled peel of two lemons and an orange. I put in 2 lbs 12 oz of sugar and 7 pints or water, brought this to the boil (a long process) and let it simmer for 20 minutes. Meantime, I squeezed the lemons and orange and put the juice into my bucket with half a kilo of minced sultanas.

Me, looking pleased with my creation
When the magnolia mix had finished its 20 minutes simmer I poured all of it into the bucket. At this stage all the petals had gone brown and the wine looked unappetising (for which, read 'like vile dishwater'). I'm not certain about the smell either (though as the week has gone on, this became more floral with an element of spice, which makes me hopeful about the end result).

Vile dishwater, or something rather exotic?
I added a teaspoon each of yeast, nutrient, pectolase and tannin on Sunday morning, 31st March. On Thursday evening I put the liquid into its demijohn, sieving out all the solids. One might expect Magnolia Petal Wine to be white with a hint of pink. I can report that it is a rather nasty brown. This, however, will be a temporary state of affairs and it will (honestly) clear to a golden yellow.

This will clear to a golden yellow
If you want to see how this wine turned out (and if I was lying about it clearing to a golden yellow), click here.