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

Saturday 31 August 2019

Rhubarb, Mint & Elderflower Wine - Second Bottle (2), 24th August 2019

I took this bottle over to Angie & Phil's for a Bentcliffe Dinner Party. Summer has returned and it was warm enough to spend the entire evening in the garden. Angie cooked a Mexican meal, Liz brought a bottle of her elderflower champagne (superb) and a wonderful time was had by all. I barely noticed this bottle of wine - the conversation was flowing at such a rate that it was empty before I could ask what everyone thought.

We finished the evening looking up at the stars and half-naming constellations. A magical night.

The table set, and Liz's elderflower champagne

Friday 30 August 2019

Blackberry Wine - Eleventh Bottle (C2), 15th-16th August 2019

Claire is not particularly well at the moment. Her sinuses are giving her real problems. Being the loving husband that I am, I opened a bottle of blackberry wine to make things better. This is a fabulous vintage, and who wouldn't feel well again after a restorative glass? I also cooked on both nights - risotto on the first and egg & (posh) chips on the second, which may be have been of more practical benefit.

Wednesday 28 August 2019

Rose Petal Wine - First Bottle (B4), 11th-12th August 2019

This is not a good vintage of rose petal wine. It has a bitterness to it that is difficult to ignore. Whilst Drinkable, it is many stops away from Delicious and has only a nodding acquaintance with Nice. 2019 marks a year off making rose petal wine and on the strength of this bottle, that is the correct decision.

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

Tuesday 27 August 2019

Blackcurrant Wine 2019 - The Making Of...

Our garden has been abundant with soft fruit this year. We have had strawberries, redcurrants, raspberries, gooseberries and (most relevant to this post) blackcurrants. There are blueberries ripening and a tree laden with plums. Even our damson tree has fruited this year.

Our damsons - which isn't strictly relevant to this post
The blackcurrants have required careful picking - starting in mid-July and going all the way to early August. In the middle of this, of course, was Rydal week and that meant some fruit was spoiled. But I can't help the season. Picking blackcurrants is always fiddly: the individual berries each reach peak-ripeness at different stages, plumping up to be round and soft and juicy. You cannot grasp handfuls but instead must pluck single currants. It was rare that I would get more than half a pound in any single picking session. The most unpleasant occasion of gathering fruit was immediately before we left for Rydal, when the rain was incessant and I was quickly drenched.

From the near-month of picking, I got just over 5½ lbs of blackcurrants. Whilst a single batch recipe calls for 3 lbs, I decided that this was enough for a double batch. On Saturday morning, 10th August, I took the fruit from the freezer and let it defrost in a large bowl. In the evening I poured these into my small bucket and mashed them while boiling 12½ pints of water with 5½ lbs sugar dissolved. Actually, I lost count with the water because I was being distracted by John Finnemore on Radio 4 and couldn't remember if I had put 2 pints extra into the pan. (I hadn't, as it turns out.)

When I poured the boiling water into my bucket, it became apparent that my small bucket is only good for single batches. I transferred everything into the large bucket, cursing the extra washing that I had created.

I put a teaspoon of yeast, nutrient and pectolase in on Sunday morning, then transferred the wine into its two demijohns on Thursday 15th August. It is a deep, dark red-purple colour and bubbling away merrily.

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

Monday 26 August 2019

Gooseberry Wine - Fifth Bottle (6), 4th August 2019

Claire spent all of Sunday at work, this being our first full day home after another riotous week at Rydal. I got the better deal and spent most the day with Bridget and her family at Brodsworth Hall near Doncaster. It was just lovely to see them again and Bridget's children are a delight.

One of the day's tasks was to select a nice bottle of wine that would go with curry and put it in the fridge. My wife is very demanding and works me too hard. Anyway, gooseberry wine was my choice - it is splendid and has matured nicely.

Brodsworth Hall seen through a Cypress

Sunday 25 August 2019

Blackcurrant Wine - Eighth Bottle (A6), 26th July 2019

I really should not have finished this bottle. I had already had a glass of rose petal & orange and a negroni. But my day in the office was over 11 hours long and we are now on holiday. Therefore drinking lots in a short space of time was always going to happen. It is now Saturday morning and I feel somewhat the worse for wear. But we had a nice evening - eating cheesy wotsits followed by pizza in the garden and then an episode of Mad Men. In my defence, if we had not finished the bottle, it would have remained half open whilst we were away at Rydal. And that would have been a waste.

Saturday 24 August 2019

Rose Petal & Orange Wine - First Bottle (2), 25th-26th July 2019

Thursday was the hottest July day this country has ever had. It broke 38 degrees in Cambridge, though was five degrees cooler in Leeds. Claire had a piano quartet around and they had been due to play in the attic, but the heat would have been unbearable. Instead they played in the dining room and when I returned home from Pat & Peter's, they were in the garden enjoying the balmy night and drinking rose petal & orange wine.

This vintage is not as good as last year's: there is a touch of the bitter and it feels too heavy. Not a bad wine, just not a special one. However, the colour is glorious.

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

Friday 23 August 2019

Blackcurrant Wine - First Bottle (B4), 21st July 2019

I have made another damn fine batch of blackcurrant wine. This is smooth, fruity and delicious. It wouldn't want to be much drier, but I think it is at least as good as 2017's batch - and that was my best ever vintage.

Some of Sunday was spent at my work summer party, which involved an inflatable assault course, a tug-of-war and less beer than I had planned. In the evening (as well as drinking this bottle) Claire and I watched a dark episode of Morse. I had not noticed, when watching them 30 years ago, how stagy and slow they were. Not bad, by any means - just dated.

Me and two colleagues at the work summer party
If you want to see how I made this wine, click here.

Thursday 22 August 2019

Prune & Parsnip Wine - Fifth Bottle (B1), 20th-22nd July 2019

Writing this three days later, I can't remember why we did not finish the bottle on Saturday. It may have had something to do with Negronis. Anyway, we had most of it after I returned from a chamber music party in Wetherby where I mostly played in decets and ate three sorts of pudding.

The prune & parsnip wine was unmemorable - but that can be a good thing. We finished it on Monday, where the most exciting thing to happen was that Claire found a newt in our garden.

This is not THE newt, but it is A newt

Monday 19 August 2019

Strawberry Wine - Fourth Bottle (6), 19th July 2019

This was a Friday night bottle of wine. The day had been unremarkable and so was the bottle. Generally I think strawberry an excellent bottle to be saved for special occasions. This, though, was in the realms of 'alright' and more of a midweek bottle than anything. Claire disagreed and said that it had nothing of the burnt plastic about it.

We spent the evening watching Mad Men. It really was a completely unexciting day.

Saturday 17 August 2019

Rhubarb Wine - Third Bottle (A4), 14th July 2019

About half an hour before Claire returned from painting pottery in Northallerton, I remembered to put a bottle of wine in the fridge. Consequently it was still pretty much room temperature when I opened it. By the time we were eating (the Egg and Pepper Thing), it was gone. I do like my rhubarb wine, though, and I think it the best white I make. (Oh, rhubarb, mint & elderflower is better.)

After drinking the bottle (and eating) we went for a neighbourhood stagger, each taking turns to choose the direction. It was a lovely evening and a pleasant way to catch up with each other. It also had the added bonus of increasing our step counts to a respectable level!

Claire's painted pottery (or some of it)

Thursday 15 August 2019

Xmas Tutti Fruti - Seventh Bottle (A3), 13th July 2019

Rachael and Myles were in York on Saturday evening and Claire had abandoned me to paint pottery in Northallerton. Rather than spending an evening alone, I went to York (the second time in a week) and took a bottle of Xmas Tutti Fruti with me. The wine was good: dry, interesting: and I drank most of it. My favourite part of Saturday night, oddly, was doing the washing up with Rachael helping. It is rare that the two of us are together by ourselves and when we are we generally have intense conversations. Saturday was no exception.

Wednesday 14 August 2019

Apple & Strawberry Wine - Fourth Bottle (2), 7th July 2019

We live on a wonderful street. Last year a group of neighbours organised a few 'play days' where the street was closed to traffic and children could play out. This has been done again this year, and Sunday was a Street Party. I opened a bottle of Apple & Strawberry Wine for it, on the basis that this is one of my best, and it was quickly emptied. I spent much of my time chatting to Number 10, who I have not met before but who have been here for 36 years. It was a lovely occasion and I hope we do it again next year.

Tuesday 13 August 2019

Cherry Wine - First Bottle (1), 6th-7th July 2019.

Well, this is a strange bottle of wine. There is both a lovely, fruity taste and vaguely poisonous flavour fighting for dominance. The fruity taste wins out - and that is an excellent one, and distinctly cherry. Next time I should make the effort to remove the stones.

I opened the bottle after Claire had returned from a choral concert in Bradford. The piece was new and confusing for all concerned. I made the last 10 minutes of it at the point everything was collapsing. The conductor knocked his music to the floor and Claire wondered if this was on purpose to allow a regroup.

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

Monday 12 August 2019

Rhubarb Wine 2019 - The Making Of...

On a wet Wednesday evening in late May, Claire and I drove to Nick's house in Morley to gather rhubarb. In previous years, Nick has delivered rhubarb to us but we were curious about his allotment and so made arrangements to visit. Nick lives within the Rhubarb Triangle and he has an impressive patch. His rhubarb originated from our garden and, whilst our plants are fine, his are flourishing. Giving rhubarb away in vast quantities helps Nick control his stock but it threatens to take over. The remainder of his allotment is well-ordered and lush and the rhubarb is kept in one (large) corner.

Between us we pulled up 6 lbs of stalks, concentrating on the pinker variety, and this was not a difficult or lengthy task. One cup of tea later we were on our way home with our haul, plus some chard plants for the garden.

I started the wine on Friday night, 31st May, whilst Claire was out rehearsing string quartets for Saturday's party. 6 lbs of rhubarb stalks is what is required for a double batch. I washed these, chopped them into slices of about 1 cm in thickness (only spilling one bowl over the floor and swearing loudly) and put them into my bucket. I added 6 lbs sugar and 12-and-a-half pints of boiling water. Rhubarb wine is really very easy!

Saturday morning I added a teaspoon of yeast and pectolase and a teaspoon and a half of nutrient. Ordinarily I would have put this into demijohns on Wednesday, but Wednesday night is WYSO night, so I did this on Thursday instead. I fished the rhubarb pieces out with a colander as far as I could and kept these in a sterilised bowl. I then used the jug, funnel and sieve method to get the (now striking pale pink) liquid into its demijohns. There was quite a gap in each demijohn by the end so I washed my hands and squeezed down the saved rhubarb, pouring the released liquid into my jug. This went into my spare bottle for topping up the demijohns.

With either great foresight or luck, I emptied the jug into the bottle after getting about three-quarters of a pint. When the jug had another half pint in, I knocked it over, spilling its contents all over everything. There was much swearing at this point, followed by a concerned wife coming into the kitchen and some frantic mopping. Not a great disaster in the grand scheme of things, but intensely annoying.

I racked this on 3rd July, less than a month from putting it into its demijohns. It got half a pint of water and 3 oz sugar divided between the two demijohns.

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

Sunday 11 August 2019

Prune & Parsnip Wine - Fourth Bottle (A5), 4th-5th July 2019

This was a true midweek bottle which two days later I can barely remember. I started Wednesday evening with a beer before moving onto the Prune & Parsnip and then finishing the night with just a snifter of whisky. It is little surprise, then, that I woke on Thursday with a minor headache, which I failed to shake all day. This meant that my plans to walk into work were rapidly shelved. It only makes my behaviour slightly more reputable to note that there was still some wine left in the bottle for a taste on Thursday.

Saturday 10 August 2019

Ginger Wine - Final Bottle (1), 29th June 2019

After a rotten June, we achieved summer for one day. The weather was properly hot and sunny and we spent much of it in the garden staring at frogs and drinking beer. By the time evening came around we agreed that more booze was needed. Claire cooked 'Hot & Spicy Marine Invertebrates' and a bottle of ginger wine seemed like the right thing to have. It is an excellent bottle of wine - not so gingery as to be a novelty wine, but enough for a kick. Afterwards I watched The Day After Tomorrow which was ridiculous and two hours that I won't see again. Claire sensibly went to bed half way through.

Sunday 4 August 2019

Blackberry Wine - Sixteenth Bottle (A3), 15th-16th July 2019

NB - Bottles will not be appearing in the order I have drunk them for quite some time!

Roast duck legs should be a real treat. Particularly on a Monday night. It was disappointing, then, that these were as tough as wizened horse-flesh. The taste was fine, but the meat took some getting into. And all that chewing! As a perfect accompaniment, I opened a bottle of underwhelming Blackberry, which was okay. Leaving half the bottle for Tuesday night was not a hardship.