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.

Thursday 30 April 2020

Orange Wine 2018 - Fourth Bottle (B5), 25th February 2020

Shrove Tuesday. I should really now give something up for Lent, but I never have previously, so why start on my fiftieth? Maybe I won't have any zucchini wine over the next 40 days.

This bottle of orange was lovely - smooth and orangey. Even though it was a Tuesday and we never have a whole bottle on a Tuesday, we had the whole bottle. I made pancakes (more successfully than anticipated) and stuffed them with ham, mushrooms, onion, garlic and parsley. I covered them with a white sauce and cheddar cheese. Baked in the oven for half an hour. Delicious!

This is just a still from a video that Claire and I did on
25th February - playing Happy Birthday arranged for
bassoon and viola, for a friend.

Wednesday 29 April 2020

Orange Wine 2018 - Third Bottle (A6), 28th December 2019

"Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without a hacking cough," grumbled Ben, lying on the sofa.

I spent the day feeling sorry for myself and washed out, and I didn't get out of my pyjamas. The plan had been to go to York for the afternoon, but instead I watched Worzel Gummidge  and read Dangerous Liaisons, both of which are excellent in very different ways.

In the evening we hoovered up pretty much all of the Christmas leftovers (there is still one helping of soup and some whisky sauce) and drank this bottle of orange wine. It probably isn't the tonic I need right now, but drinking to excess is as traditional as being mildly ill.

Can anyone spot why I have posted this photo?
There is a connection with the text.

PS - Just yesterday (28 April) and today, I have been getting more hits to my blog than usual, coming via Facebook. If anyone reads this who has come from there and can be bothered - can you direct me to the page where I appear? I'd love to know.

Tuesday 28 April 2020

Prune & Parsnip Wine 2018 - Eleventh Bottle (B3), 7th April 2020

I am starting to lose track of days. It is not clear why this should be the case. Weekends are being treated as such. I think it is because I have so little work to keep me busy that every day has a weekend element to it. Drinking a whole bottle of wine on a Tuesday did not help the day feel like a Tuesday - but it marked Claire's second day back at work testing Covid 19 samples. She was only required to do two days this week, so in some respects Tuesday was really Friday.

A photo I took on 7th April - Pilewort

Monday 27 April 2020

Strawberry Wine 2019 - The Making Of

On Tuesday evening, 2nd July, after work, I went to pick strawberries at the Horsforth Pick Your Own fields. At the weighing counter I was directed to a far away field and told that this was where the 'Superb' strawberries could be found. Maybe the adjective used was 'Magnificent'. The man behind the counter must have a different dictionary to me. I would have used the words 'Barely Adequate' myself. Mostly the fruit was unripe or gone over. However, if I was to end up with 4 lbs of strawberries, I could not afford to be fussy. My one requirement was that they were mostly red, but even then it seemed like every strawberry was an effort. I was not helped by feeling dizzy every time I stood up, occasionally seeing brown swirling patches before my vision cleared. It being past six, I was the only person in the field and fainting would have been a poor choice. Despite all this, I ended up with a basketful which, when weighed, came to over 6 lbs - so I have enough for apple and strawberry wine later in the year. I am dubious about the quality, though.

The Pick Your Own Field with 'Superb' Strawberries
Mashing 4 lbs of (hulled) strawberries took longer than it should and I don't think the fruit was ripe enough. If this wine turns out badly, this will be why.

My basket of strawberries
To the 4 lbs of mashed strawberries, I added 4 pints of boiling water. The following evening, 3rd July, I strained the liquid into a demijohn and stored the fruit in a sterilised bowl. I poured 2 pints of cold water over the fruit and let it sit for about an hour. Next I poured the strained liquid back into my (washed and re-sterilised) bucket and then strained the fruit again from the new liquid, pouring the liquid into the bucket and discarding the fruit. At this point I put 3 lbs of sugar into the bucket and a teaspoon each of yeast, nutrient, pectolase and tannin. Wednesday was a busy evening!

Giving the strawberries a wash
I left the wine until Saturday, giving it a daily stir. Saturday evening was meant to be spent playing in a concert, but the piece I was meant to play in - Fauré's Requiem - got cancelled at the last minute, so I put my wine into its demijohn instead. The wine is far less red than usual and this year it is brick-red rather than post-box red. I am not hopeful.
Strawberries in my bucket
I racked this on 15th August and by that point was became more hopeful as the small taste I got was fine. I added over half a pint of water with 2 oz sugar dissolved.

A few tiny strawberries from our garden that I put in
On bottling, which happened on 12th March, this wine has turned into something rather good. Maybe a less distinctive strawberry hit than usual - but definitely akin to wine.

Brick-Red Strawberry Wine

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

Sunday 26 April 2020

Prune & Parsnip Wine 2018 - Tenth Bottle (A2), 20th March 2020

Today marked Claire's last day in her lab until Covid 19 has passed (and it will pass). However, she has volunteered to test for the disease and received an email saying 'More details to follow'. So, she may be back at work before we know it.

At my work I said my goodbyes and 'see you on the other side's to the large number of colleagues who are now to work from home. It has been a strange day.

We rounded it off with a bottle of Prune & Parsnip and an episode of Mad Men. The films Twelve Monkeys, Contagion, and Shaun of the Dead all seemed inappropriate.

A photo (of sloe blossom) that I took on 20th March

Saturday 25 April 2020

Prune & Parsnip Wine 2018 - Ninth Bottle (A1), 10th-14th January 2020

I have been dilatory in the extreme in writing up this bottle. It is 9 days (and possibly 10) since I opened it and I have no memory of the evening of Friday 10th January. I know that I walked home from work, but thereafter nothing. I can't even swear that it was Friday when I opened this bottle. It might have been Thursday. This is quite worrying. No, it was definitely Friday because I was wine making on Thursday. Oh - I think that I may have watched Dangerous Liaisons - our Book Group Book. Obviously the wine made little impression: it will have been bog standard Prune & Parsnip.

The book and the film

Friday 24 April 2020

Prune and Parsnip Wine 2018 - Eighth Bottle (B6), 24th November 2019

Sunday was a lazy day rounded off with baked fish and a bottle of Prune & Parsnip Wine. I'm not certain that this is the best of wines to go with fish, on account of its relative sweetness, but it is what Claire chose when I put the available options to her. We needed a lazy Sunday - Saturday had been extremely busy, taken up almost entirely by our WYSO concert. From letting the piano-tuner into the church at 9:15 a.m. to having put all pews and altars back in their proper place by 9:45 p.m. and fitting in a rehearsal and concert in between, there was little time for rest.

The entrance to the church in which we played

Thursday 23 April 2020

Prune & Parsnip 2018 - Seventh Bottle (B4), 9th-12th November 2019

I like Prune & Parsnip Wine. My guests, on the whole, did not. It came ninth at the Wine Party, getting 2.56 out of 5. Nick was kind and called it "Not Actually Revolting" and bizarrely Janet detected chilli and banana flavours.

Mark brought a homemade cheese to the party which he described as being of 'dubious quality'. I thought it was very good - it was a hard cows' milk cheese and about the size of a rusk. It took 3 gallons of milk to make it. Cheese-making is a hobby that I feel no need to acquire.

My Prune & Parsnip comes from this book

Wednesday 22 April 2020

Ginger Wine 2018 - Fourth Bottle (6), 29th December 2019

We had an impromptu pizza party last night. The occasion was 'Magnolia Petal Wine Bottling', to which I invited Phil and Angie as owners of the magnolia tree. Bottling a wine produces two glasses for immediate consumption so I knew something else would be required, and ginger wine is seasonal. Also it is one of my Good Ones - and Suitable For Guests. Claire made four delicious pizzas, and only three of us ended up with hot cheese and tomatoes down our clothes. It was a lovely evening: unplanned and laughter-filled.

Seven Swans a Swimming 
(and yes, I know that 29th December 
is not the seventh day of Christmas)

Tuesday 21 April 2020

Apple Wine 2017 - Fifth Bottle (5), 13th April 2020

I have made the error of not writing up this bottle immediately, and when all days start to merge into one, this is a mistake. It being a Tuesday, I was directed to open something not too nice, but actually this Apple Wine is rather good. Claire is now working, two days on, two days off, in processing Covid 19 samples and Tuesday was the second of two days. I struggled a bit to stay motivated working from home and that is going to be an increasing problem over the next few months.

A photo I took on 13th April

Monday 20 April 2020

Elderflower, Mint & Rhubarb Wine 2019 - The Making Of...

Weather-wise, June has been a terrible month. The last June that I remember being this wet and cold was the year we got married - 1998. It has been continuous grey skies and hardly a dry day. Whilst some rain is good for the garden, sun would be helpful too. This is all a long winded way of explaining why, for this wine, I was not able to use only rhubarb that we had grown.

 For this recipe I needed 3 lbs of rhubarb and only 1 lb was available. (This year, mostly our rhubarb has been stewed and in porridge.) Happily, Liz and David have a monster rhubarb in their garden and did not object to me stealing many butch stalks on Sunday morning, 16th June.

Liz and David's Monster Rhubarb

The elderflowers mostly came from the elder tree in the Synagogue, overhanging our back fence. This is the first year that I have noticed this, and it is a tree to be encouraged (unlike the enormous sycamore which keeps our garden in shade). However, I needed more so walked up and down Bentcliffe Drive, taking at least one head of elderflowers from each elder that I passed (all four of them). I stripped the flowers from their stalks outside during a rare break from the rain and ended up with about a pint (and a black thumbnail).

The mint came from our garden and was a handful of pepper- and spearmint combined.

In the kitchen I sliced the rhubarb into thin pieces and put it  into the bucket with the elderflowers and the mint, roughly chopped. I poured over 3 lbs sugar and 6.5 pints of boiling water. It is always a good perfume when the boiling water hits these ingredients.

The ingredients before the water hit them

The mix had cooled enough by the evening to add the yeast, pectolase and nutrient (a teaspoon of each). I made intermittent attempts to remember to stir this through the week, until Thursday evening, 20th June, when it all went into its demijohn. This was the usual method: colander first to fish out most the solids, followed by funnel, sieve and jug into the demijohn. My backing track throughout was Cardiff Singer of the Year on Radio 3. The resulting wine is just as pink as the pure rhubarb.

The ingredients after the water had hit them

By racking on 20th July, the wine was still just as pink and had mostly cleared. The taste was promising and it did not need much additional sugar. I added 1 oz, dissolved in half a pint of water.

I bottled this on 7th March and I am just a little disappointed with the end result of this wine. It has not cleared entirely and isn't as splendid as previous years. Claire thinks I have overdone it on the mint.

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

The wine in its demijohn

Sunday 19 April 2020

Xmas Tutti Fruti 2017 - Final Bottle (A1), 25th-26th December 2019

This was the third bottle of Tutti Fruti opened on Christmas Day and the least good of the three. But 2014's vintage is the best wine I have ever made and 2018 is excellent, so this is no criticism. Andrew said that it needed time to mature, which is a shame, seeing as this is the last bottle.

It was lovely having the Taylors to stay, even if Bob and Judith were both ill with hacking coughs.

The Park Run on Christmas Day

Saturday 18 April 2020

Xmas Tutti Fruti 2017 - Eleventh Bottle (B6), 29th November 2019

Claire requested Tutti Fruti as our second bottle of the evening, despite having had a bottle less than a week ago. Still, we had guests and this is a fine tipple - rich and fruity. After our meal we moved to the front room where a fire was burning and spent the evening listening to comic songs (Andrew's choice was the particularly sophisticated Detachable Penis) and singing along to Joseph and his Technicolour Dreamcoat. Lots of fun.

A Photo I took on 29th November

Friday 17 April 2020

Xmas Tutti Fruti 2017 - Tenth Bottle (B4), 22nd-23rd November 2019

This bottle was one of those rare creatures that we opened on a Friday and finished on a Saturday. Even more unusual, unless one counts a Negroni each on Friday, we didn't have anything else to drink either night. This is mostly explained by the presence of a WYSO concert on Saturday. I didn't want a hangover on the day and by the time we finished it was rather late.

The concert went brilliantly and I was stood up for particular applause for the bassoony bit in Alborado del Gracioso by Ravel. In case you hadn't noticed, I thrive on being centre of attention.

The altar in the church we performed
 (and taken on 23 November 2019)

Thursday 16 April 2020

Jasmine Tea Wine - Fourth Bottle (6), 19th March 2020

We ae going to have to be careful not to drink a bottle of wine a night in this new world of self-isolation. However, that can come later. On Thursday we stared down the future with a bottle of Jasmine Tea Wine and second half of Midsomer Murders. Neither was particularly satisfactory. The wine has a heavy feel to it: too much flavour and sugar. Still drinkable, mind.

The day's personal news was that I will not be home-working next week: until the end of this month I am one of the key skeleton staff who is required in the office.

A photo I took on 19th March

Wednesday 15 April 2020

Elderberry Wine 2017 - Sixth Bottle (C6), 15th March 2020

This elderberry wine is splendid. It has the depth of a proper red and was a perfect bottle to go with shepherd's pie. The day had been a quiet one; the most exciting event was going to Sainsburys and failing to buy either eggs or bread flour. We are in a time of panic-buying, fuelled by both traditional and social media. The supermarket felt like it was in a state of chaos and certain sections were bare. I did manage to buy some Herbs de Provence, though, so that's alright.

A photo I took on 15th March

Tuesday 14 April 2020

Elderberry Wine 2017 - Fifth Bottle (B4), 29th December 2019

Our second bottle of the evening, not counting the Negronis or the glass of Magnolia Petal wine. We did have company; Angie and Phil; so it isn't quite as shocking as it sounds. By the time this bottle was open we were full of pizza, more than a little tiddly and sitting in front of the fire. The wine was okay, but it is still too young to be thoroughly satisfying.

A photo I took on 29 December

Monday 13 April 2020

Elderberry Wine 2017 - Fourth Bottle (A3), 9th-10th November 2019

Exploiting the theory that elderberry wine needs time to mature, I did not open a 2018 elderberry for my Wine Party, but instead fished out one made two years ago. And it did alright, coming 5th out of 12 with an average score of 3.64. It was still my least popular red of the evening. Nick described it as lighter than expected and Mary was most effusive, writing 'Fabulous', scoring it 5.5 and quoting Monty Python and the Holy Grail on her score card.

As ever, the Wine Party was an excellent evening, though Claire flaked out early, at a point where I had been wondering if I could go to bed. That would have made us Terrible Hosts, so I manfully kept on drinking.

Sunday 12 April 2020

Rhubarb Wine 2017 - Eleventh Bottle (A2), 9th-10th April 2020

On Thursday nights, whilst the country is in lockdown, people have started applauding the NHS and Key workers at 8 p.m. from their front doors. Rainbows drawn by children are appearing in windows at an alarming rate. Hence on Thursday this week I found myself at the foot of our drive playing Somewhere Over the Rainbow with Claire-From-Over-The-Road, a violinist at Opera North. We had a street separating us, so maintained the government approved 2 metre distance. The street applauded and I went inside for a much needed glass of Rhubarb Wine.

Saturday 11 April 2020

Blackberry Wine 2017 - Sixteenth Bottle (C6), 3rd April 2020

This was a Book Group Bottle. The month's book was A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman and I loved it, despite its shaky start. It has been a while since I read the last chapter through tears. Book Group was a little different to normal, what with social distancing and being confined to our houses. We managed it virtually, however, using Zoom and it worked rather well. Seven of us met up and we tried to make it as normal as possible. So, Claire and I ate crisps, pizza and cake, and shared this rather delicious bottle between us. Life in Lockdown isn't so bad.

Friday 10 April 2020

Blackberry Wine 2017 - Fifteenth Bottle (A1), 7th-8th February 2020

Bizarrely, after reading the above two entries, I was a little disappointed with this wine - certainly on the Friday evening. By Saturday I thought it had improved. But I did not get the mouthful of blackberries sometimes experienced. Both nights the wine followed performances of Don Giovanni done by Leeds Youth Opera, where I was playing second bassoon in the pit. It has been an exhausting week but one thoroughly worth doing. There are some talented youngsters in Leeds. It has left me with a head full of music, which is lovely unless I am trying to sleep.

First and Second Bassoon in the Pit

Thursday 9 April 2020

Blackberry Wine 2017 - Fourteenth Bottle (B3), 1st January 2020

Our first bottle of the decade - and a good one to welcome in the 2020s. This blackberry wine is so smooth and tastes so much like blackberries that I think it is one of my best vintages. As usual we were in Cambridge and had a short-ish walk round Hemingford Grey. Cambridgeshire looks like it abounds with multi-millionaires, judging by the size of many of the houses that we walked past.

I spent much of the day being anti-social reading Bad Blood - given to me by Duncan, about a fraudulent Silicon Valley start-up dealing with blood tests: it was fascinating and gripping and told a story of ego, lies and misplaced optimism.

This was on the walk we went on

Wednesday 8 April 2020

Blackberry Wine 2017 - Thirteenth Bottle (B4), 26th December 2019

Of the four bottles sampled on Boxing Day (two of which, I must point out, were leftovers and so not full bottles), this Blackberry was the best. It had a roundness and fullness to it, and the blackberry taste was overwhelming in an entirely good way.

Boxing Day Night consisted of leftovers, Christmas pudding with whisky sauce and measuring our blood pressures. Mine came out lowest at 106:74 with a heartbeat of 62. Despite my nascent cold, I am officially healthy!

Our Christmas Decorations

Tuesday 7 April 2020

Blackberry Wine 2017 - Twelfth Bottle (A2), 1st December 2019

I shouldn't leave it five days before writing up a bottle of wine, because I can never remember what I was doing the day I drank it and certainly there is no recollection of its taste.

I spent the morning exploring Beckett Street Cemetery, opposite Jimmy's Hospital. There are some fabulous gravestones there. The Victorians were very good at Death. The evening escapes me, though it obviously involved a bottle of blackberry wine. In other news, I am spending much energy worrying about a breach of copyright demand for several thousand pounds. I have employed solicitors.

Monday 6 April 2020

Blackcurrant Wine 2017 - Ninth Bottle (A5), 30th January 2020

Thursday night bottles should generally be disappointing. At best they should be ordinary. And we certainly shouldn't finish them in one sitting. This bottle of blackcurrant wine did not fit a Thursday.

It was excellent - smooth, fruity with a hint of vanilla. Of course we drank the lot, most of it whilst I was cooking a tortilla, but some whilst watching an excellent and intriguing episode of Doctor Who. This series feels like it is back on form and finally, finally Jodie Whittaker does seem to be The Doctor.

A photo I took on 30 January.

Sunday 5 April 2020

Elderberry Wine 2016 - Tenth Bottle (A5), 4th April 2020

The National Theatre is releasing plays on YouTube whilst the entire country is required to stay indoors. Last night, Claire and I shared a bottle of elderberry wine whilst watching One Man, Two Guv'nors. It was a light-hearted farce; patently silly with some excellent physical humour and just what is required in strange times like these. Great bottle of elderberry too.

I had spent much of the day working in the garden: digging out clay to form a vegetable bed. Gardening is much like bassoon practice: I never want to start, but once I am doing it, I actively enjoy it. I haven't touched my bassoon for nearly two weeks.

Hellebores in our garden

Saturday 4 April 2020

Rose Petal & Orange 2017 - Final Bottle (2), 9th-10th November 2019

This was one of those bottles that improves on having been opened for a day. I served it up at the Wine Party, where it came a disappointing 8th out of 12 with an average score of 2.8. Cornelia wrote that it was inoffensive, and I was inclined to agree. However, on Sunday David and Liz came over to help us polish off what remained and this wine was transformed. It had become fuller, more buttery and far better as a result. And there I was thinking that oxygen ruined wine.

Friday 3 April 2020

Strawberry Wine 2017 - Fifth Bottle (1), 22nd December 2019

Sunday was a two party day. In the afternoon we went to Ilkley for 'Mendelssohn and Mince Pies', where Claire played in an octet and I played board games. Then in the evening we went to Phil and Angie's, where I took this bottle of strawberry wine. I sang carols at both. This year we were unable to go carolling around the neighbourhood due to new red-tape regulations about collecting money (we hadn't given the requisite 28-day notice) so stayed in and drank strawberry wine instead. It was a bottle universally enjoyed - as it should be!

Thursday 2 April 2020

Gooseberry Wine 2017 - Final Bottle (5), 26th December 2019

Gooseberry is a fine bottle of wine: as sharp as fruit wine gets with an absolutely distinct gooseberry taste. I decided that I should share my final bottle of this with company. We had a house full of Taylors and all the chaos that implies. It also implies a continual battle with the washing-up, which refused to stay done. So many mugs in such a short space of time!

A photo I took on the same day as this diary entry

Wednesday 1 April 2020

Rhubarb Wine 2017 - Tenth Bottle (C3), 19th-20th December 2019

Rhubarb wine is such a reliable white. Crisp and flavoursome, and my favourite bog-standard white.

This bottle drew a difficult week to a close. Work has been frantically busy and it is not yet over for the year, I have had to pay £1,500 for using a copyrighted photo on my blog (and I don't know what my legal fees are yet) and someone I love dearly has been diagnosed with probable Alzheimer's. This last is obviously the most significant but not a surprise. When they rang to tell me, they were sanguine about it. I told them that I loved them and I managed not to cry.