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.

Sunday 31 May 2020

Apple & Strawberry Wine 2018 - First Bottle (5), 9th-10th November 2019

When choosing which wines to open for the Wine Party, I decided that I should generally pick those which were likely to be enjoyed. Apple & Strawberry made an appearance for that reason. However, people found it uninspiring and it came seventh of 12, with an average score of 2.85. Mark thought that he could detect fennel, which I will have to consider when we next open a bottle. Janet claimed that there was a 'Rotting Wood on the Palate' but that can't have been such a bad thing, because she awarded it a 3.

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

Saturday 30 May 2020

Apple Wine 2018 - Second Bottle (2), 27th December 2019

I have said many times before that I love having guests but that it is such a relief when they are gone, so I shall repeat that sentiment. Having the house to ourselves is wonderful - there is a particular quality of stillness. To celebrate, we got smashed on whisky macs and apple wine. This apple wine is a very good vintage: it doesn't taste like wine, but it isn't cider either. There is a rich sweetness to it and it slips down rather too well!

I didn't take any photos on 27 December, but here
is one of the Christmas Day Park Run instead.

Friday 29 May 2020

Halloween Wine - Third Bottle (2), 21st April 2020

This wine is as sharp as they come. I think that it is the mix of gooseberries and blackcurrants that make up the majority fruit in this flavour. The chilli was only noticeable when I remembered that I had put one in.

We drank the wine to a meal of sausages, baked potato and delicious gravy (like ordinary gravy, but better). Unusually for Lockdown, we hardly watched anything on television. I tried to get on with Mansfield Park but Jane Austen and half a bottle of wine are not the best of friends.

The inside of a gas gosvenor (I think)
taken on 21st April

Thursday 28 May 2020

Halloween Wine - Second Bottle (5), 23rd-26th December 2019

My office closed for Christmas on Friday and for most everyone else the atmosphere was all rather jolly. I went in on both Monday and Tuesday. On Monday, therefore (which is not a usual bottle of wine night) we shared most of this wine. I was feeling exceptionally glum and anxious about getting the last contract exchanged on Christmas Eve, and Halloween Wine helped my mood.

We finished it, sharing small glasses with Sooz and Andrew, on Boxing Day. Once I told them that the difference between this and Xmas Tutti Fruti was the chilli they claimed that they could taste this too. I think it quite obvious.

Oh - I did get the exchange on the 24th!

A photo I took on Boxing Day

Wednesday 27 May 2020

Elderberry Wine 2018 - First Bottle (A1), 29th April 2020

It is generally advised to read through all ingredients of a recipe before beginning to cook.

On Wednesday night, I was making a vegetarian moussaka a la Delia and all was going swimmingly until I got to the bit about adding several tablespoons of red wine. Ordinarily I would use real wine for cooking, but I don't think we have any, so I substituted elderberry instead. And once opened, it would be a shame not to finish the bottle.

This wine is an excellent elderberry - as dark and earthy as you would want. Claire thought that there was metal in its taste but I did not. And it worked well in the moussaka too, which turned out to be the best moussaka that I have done.

A photo of some gorse,
taken on 29th April
If you want to see how I made this wine, click here.

Tuesday 26 May 2020

Blackberry Wine 2018 - Sixth Bottle (A1), 23rd May 2020

I can't remember the last time that I had a clash in my social-engagement diary. It is not something one expects in this era of social-distancing. However, on Saturday night I had to cut my attendance short at a Zoom dinner party in order to join the Snarkalong Film Club at 8 with Jayne and Sooz. The film was St Elmo's Fire and on the whole was unengaging and very much of its time. Blackberry wine was served at both dinner party and film club, and was enjoyed by me.

Fox gloves in our garden

Monday 25 May 2020

Blackberry Wine 2018 - Fifth Bottle (B3), 16th April 2020

I thought this a terrific bottle of blackberry wine - all the earthy fruit that bramble wine should have. It was not an eventful day on which we drank it, but right at the moment so few are. I am struggling to stay motivated at work (at home, of course). Mostly because I don't have enough to do, but partly because I worry that there may not be a job at all when (if) all this is over. I don't know if it is apocryphal that it is a Chinese curse, but these are certainly Interesting Times. Curious that this does not translate to 'Interesting Days'.

A photo I took on 16th April

Sunday 24 May 2020

Rhubarb Wine 2020 - The Making Of...

I have been concerned about rhubarb stocks for wine this year. On the basis that non-essential travel is at best frowned upon and at worst illegal, getting rhubarb from Nick - who lives in Morley and is my usual rhubarb source - wasn't really an option. Whilst we have plenty of rhubarb plants in both front and back gardens, many are junior and a bit weedy. Those that are not are mostly used to make porridge more interesting. I managed to persuade Claire that there would be enough for me to make a single batch of pure rhubarb wine and then, in June, a batch of rhubarb, elderflower & mint - but really I wanted to do a double batch of the former. In years gone by, I have done a triple.

One of our less weedy rhubarbs
It was fortuitous, then, that a couple of weeks ago there was a stormy night (no rain, just wind) that wreaked havoc on our neighbour Liz's rhubarb plant, but which left ours pretty much unscathed. Liz did a batch of wine herself but asked whether I would like any too and brought round 3 lbs in return for a teaspoon of yeast. I chopped these stalks and left them in the freezer for a week or so, getting them out to defrost on Sunday morning, 17th May. Later that day, I negotiated carefully with Claire about which rhubarb plants from our garden could donate another 3 lbs of stalks and once collected I washed and chopped these too.

All rhubarb pieces, including the recently defrosted ones, went into my bucket along with all the sugar I had - 4 lbs 12 oz - and 12½ pints of boiling water. I really needed to put in 6 lbs of sugar, but thought that putting in the remainder later would probably be fine.

On Monday morning I added a teaspoon each of yeast, nutrient and pectolase, and on Tuesday I ventured out for sugar. Baking products are scarce in this era of Covid 19 and all Sainsburys stored was dark brown sugar (though I did manage to grab a bag of white bread flour, which has become as rare as the Siberian Tiger, and don't talk to me about bread yeast!), so I used this instead. Brown sugar is far bulkier than white and I am concerned that it will affect the flavour - it has certainly altered the colour - so I only used 1 lb of this.

I put the wine into its demijohns on Friday 22nd May. There was more sludge that usual, and I think this is because I froze half the rhubarb. The wine is more orange than pink.

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

Saturday 23 May 2020

Blackberry Wine 2018 - Fourth Bottle (A3), 18th-19th March 2020

We should have been at WYSO on Wednesday for our final rehearsal of La Villi before Saturday and Sunday's performances. Instead we were at WYSO collecting the music in to return to the publishers. It is only a small sacrifice to have made to the Corona Virus pandemic, but a miserable one. Artistic life is going to be devastated over the coming months.

At home I opened a bottle of blackberry wine and we had a take-out pizza. The pizza was somewhat less disappointing than the wine. Curiously, the wine had improved the next day.

Some mushrooms - I took this photo on 18th March

Friday 22 May 2020

Blackberry Wine 2018 - Third Bottle (B4), 9th-10th November 2019

This bottle is where I and the Wine Party disagree. I thought that this wine was disappointing - much less than blackberry wine can be. My guests voted it into second place, with an average score of Very Nearly 4. Mary was particularly effusive about it. She awarded it a 10 out of 5 (for scoring purposes I reduced this to 5.5) and christened it 'The Badgers'. Duncan, however, agreed with me, giving it a 2 and commenting on its thinness. I don't think that 2018 will go down as a classic Blackberry Year.

Thursday 21 May 2020

Blackcurrant Wine 2018 - Eighth Bottle (B2), 24th April 2020

Just because we are on Lockdown doesn't mean that Claire and I cannot go on holiday. Last night we had a mini-break and camped in the back garden, underneath the apple tree, in our two-man tent. Our meal was (mostly) cooked on a camping stove and we drank the local wine - a splendid bottle of blackcurrant. As night fell we played Scrabble and increased the number of layers worn. Whilst we have camped in colder (north rim of the Grand Canyon), I was in four layers plus fleece hat. It was a lovely evening, though not the best night's sleep. I woke to the Dawn Chorus and bumble-bees collecting nectar.

This is my favourite ever photo of Claire and me.

Wednesday 20 May 2020

Blackcurrant Wine 2018 - Seventh Bottle (A4), 28th March 2020

This social distancing and lockdown regime does mean that one has to be more inventive with both communication and entertainment. I opened a bottle of blackcurrant wine during a virtual drinks party, where three of my colleagues and I appeared on my phone screen using WhatsApp. Whilst not a perfect success, it was entertaining. Lots of laughter. Then Claire and I finished the bottle whilst watching a concert put together by suggestions from our Newcastle friends, using YouTube. There was a collective enjoyment (though I fell asleep during Shostakovich 5). Despite the circumstances, a good day.

A photo I took on 28th March - it is a good book.

Tuesday 19 May 2020

Blackcurrant Wine 2018 - Sixth Bottle (B1), 8th March 2019

What a literary weekend we have had: a Poetry Walk in Roundhay Park on Saturday and today an 'Adventure Walk' around Leeds where at points actors would perform monologues to us up close. I found it exciting, surprising, exhilarating. It was all part of Leeds Literature Festival. Afterwards we came home and drank a bottle of Blackcurrant Wine - smooth and delicious but not any of exciting, surprising or exhilarating - to a nut roast and onion gravy.

The Leeds Lending Library

Monday 18 May 2020

Blackcurrant Wine 2018 - Fifth Bottle (A1), 12th-14th December 2019

This last week has been busy with evening engagements, not to mention how much there is to do at work. Next year I must remember to keep the last three weeks of December free of anything that requires thought process and energy after about 6 p.m.. Anyway, on Thursday I was at Pat & Peter's, and on Saturday I was depping for Leeds College of Music's Christmas Concert. Claire took the opportunities to neck a bottle of blackcurrant wine. Actually, that is unfair. I had a much-needed glass after Pat & Peter's. Peter has started talking about performing again at Leeds Music Club.

At the College of Music concert

Sunday 17 May 2020

Xmas Tutti Fruti 2019 - The Making Of...

This year I did not think that I had gathered very much extra fruit with which to make Xmas Tutti Fruti. I cheated on both blackberries and elderberries, picking extra after I had made those flavours of wine. The blackberries came from the new park, just north of here, rather than York Victorian Cemetery, and the elderberries were exclusively from trees on Bentcliffe Drive (I think). My quince was found one morning when I was walking to work; a windfall on the pavement. Otherwise (apart from the satsuma) all ingredients came from our garden.

The fruit, frozen in its bucket

In total I had 10 lbs 2½ oz fruit - which is rather more than I have had before to the extent that I have made a triple batch for the first time. My worries about not having enough fruit were entirely groundless. That fruit was made up of 2 lbs 3 oz blackberries, 8 oz quince, 13½ oz elderberries, 1 lb plums, 2 lbs 5 oz gooseberries, 1 oz damsons, 1 oz red gooseberries, 1 oz rose petals, 3 oz redcurrants, 1 lb 2 oz strawberries, 1 lb raspberries, 8½ oz blueberries and a satsuma weighing in at 4 oz.

The fruit once it had defrosted
I took the fruit from the freezer on Sunday morning, 22nd December, put it in my bucket, stirred it around so that it looked pretty (for this blog) and left it to defrost. On Monday evening - after a full day of work (the firm was officially closed for Christmas), I gave the fruit a good mash, poured in 8 lbs of sugar and covered it with 16 pints of boiling water, again giving it a good stir. I could have added at least another pint of water - but that didn't become obvious until I put the wine into its demijohns.

Giving the wine a good stir
This I did on Sunday 29th December - I am in that stage of Christmas where I have to concentrate really hard to remember what day it is. Towards the bottom of the bucket, the mixture became gloopy, meaning that it took quite some time to extract all liquid. I currently have 20 demijohns full of wine and am using all my air-traps. This wine has the scuzziest of them all, but that shouldn't make a difference to the end product.

By racking (on 10th February), all demijohns had cleared and none had a huge deposit. I fit in just over a pint and a half of water with (I think) 5 oz sugar dissolved. I have yet to bottle this flavour.

The three demijohns on 29 December.

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

Saturday 16 May 2020

Rose Petal & Orange Wine 2018 - Second Bottle (5), 12th-13th March 2020

I think that this wine has improved a little through keeping: there is a hint of butter to its taste. The rose petal is dominant but the orange is there and helps.

I was home along on Friday night and drank half the bottle to the series finale of Doctor Who, which was actually quite good. The country is currently in the grip of Pandemic Panic - supermarket shelves are empty of pasta and toilet paper. The only thing that I am stockpiling is wine.

One of our cats, unbothered by Pandemic Panic

Friday 15 May 2020

Rose Petal Wine 2018 - Fifth Bottle (A1), 26th-27th April 2020

Much worse! After being relatively pleased with the previous bottle, this one has reverted to its bitter and overly-floral self. I can't explain the difference - both bottles were from the same demijohn.

Claire was out again on Sunday night, waiting to process samples in the lab, hence opening a bottle that she doesn't much like (mind you, nor do I). Much of it, though, was drunk on Monday night while trying to watch happy things on telly to lift the mood.

A photo I took on 26th April, capturing how I was feeling

Thursday 14 May 2020

Rose Petal Wine 2018 - Fourth Bottle (A4), 24th-25th March 2020

Much better! I opened this bottle on a Tuesday and that is traditionally the day to choose something nasty. It was something of a surprise that this was entirely drinkable - pleasant even. There was nothing bitter at all.

Both Tuesday and Wednesday were strange days. Tuesday because it was my last day in the office (and for most of that it was only me and Stewart); Wednesday because it was my first day working from home. That went far better than I had expected (similar to the wine), but ask me again in a month of this quarantine.

A not-very-good photo of a sparrow hawk
sitting on our fence on 24th March

Wednesday 13 May 2020

Rose Petal Wine 2018 - Third Bottle (B6), 5th December 2019

This really is a poor vintage of Rose Petal Wine. There is an overall bitterness to it and its best quality is its colour - a bronzy-pink. But praising a wine just for its colour is no praise at all. Even its clarity leaves something to be desired.

We drank the whole bottle on a Thursday night, which is never the best of ideas, but neither of us is having a great time at work. Claire's machinery keeps breaking and Christmas is always the most awful time of year for me. However hard I try, it seems that some contracts just won't exchange.

A photo I took on 7th December - so even 
more unrelated than usual.

Tuesday 12 May 2020

Cherry Wine - Fourth Bottle (6), 31st March - 1st April 2020

Claire described this Cherry Wine as thin and underwhelming. I suspect that is an improvement on previous bottles. But a Tuesday night bottle is never meant to be one of the good ones. Also, I think that Claire was a little unfair.

There really isn't much to report about either Tuesday or Wednesday. Days are becoming rather samey, to the extent that I have to think carefully about which day it is. Wake at 6, rise fifteen minutes later, cup of tea, long walk, breakfast, work, wash up, open bottle, eat, watch something mindless, go to bed, repeat.

Upper Lake at Roundhay Park - taken on 31 March

Monday 11 May 2020

Cherry Wine - Third Bottle (4), 21st December 2019

I took this bottle to York with me as something a little bit different to foist onto my parents. They claimed to like it, but I think it has a vaguely poisonous aftertaste and Claire refuses to drink it. I hope Mom and Pop don't think that I am trying to speed up the inheritance! We didn't quite finish the bottle and there is still a glass or so lurking in my parents' fridge.

It was a lovely evening in which Mom served duck in rice and I recorded Pop telling the familiar tale of how he and Mom met on a train to San Francisco. This included the events immediately before that, which I had not known - how he travelled to America by boat and where he changed trains.

At a Chamber Music Party, the day after I drank this bottle

Sunday 10 May 2020

Mixed Flower & Nettle Wine - The Making Of...

Corona Virus may be a disaster in many ways, but it is doing wonders for my step-count. Ever since I started working from home, I have gone on a long walk before work, anywhere between seven and ten kilometres, as part of the government-sanctioned exercise. There are three standard walks I do involving Roundhay Park, Gledhow Valley Woods and Meanwood Park, but even within these I try to vary the route every time. From late March I used these walks to look out for magnolia trees, and then from mid-April my eyes were caught by different shades of lilac.

Magnolia Tree outside St Edmund's
After I had made last month's Magnolia Petal wine, I still had a bag of petals in the freezer, mostly foraged from St Edmund's Church in Roundhay and this gave me the idea to do a mixed flower wine. Dandelions are abundant in our garden and there are two nettle patches in the back, so I had a couple of sessions picking from these and freezing the results. (For the nettles, I only used the tips.)

Lilac Petals
As April reached its end, I would pluck a head of lilac flowers from trees that I passed, hanging over pavements. I found a couple of gorse bushes off Tongue Lane and plucked some petals from these. I even managed to get a couple of wallflowers.

Gorse flowers on Tongue Lane
Quantity-wise, I must remain vague. Probably two pints of magnolia petals, about the same of dandelion heads, a pint each of nettles and lilac, and only lip-service to gorse and wallflowers.

Flowers & Nettles defrosting in my pan
I started making the wine on Saturday 2nd May. I boiled the flowers and nettles, together with the thinly peeled rind of two lemons and half a grapefruit, and 2 lbs 10 oz sugar in 7 pints of water for 20 minutes. Whilst this was going on I squeezed both lemons and the whole grapefruit and put the juice (plus pips and excess flesh) into my bucket with 8 oz minced sultanas. After the 20 minutes was up I poured everything into the bucket.

The mix in the bucket
On Sunday I added a teaspoon each of yeast, nutrient, pectolase and tannin and stirred it once a day. Then on Friday 8th May, after a week's walking holiday spent in north Leeds, I put the wine into its demijohn. It is a pleasing orange colour, but I have my doubts as to how it will taste!

The end result in a bed of nettles

If you want to see how this wine turned out (surprisingly good!), click here.

Saturday 9 May 2020

Strawberry Wine 2018 - Third Bottle (6), 14th March 2020

By special request, I took this bottle to David and Liz's, where we spent the evening eating Mexican food. The chilli and guacamole were fabulous, but I found the wine rather less so. It is too dry and doesn't taste much of strawberries. Liz, however, said that she really liked it.

Most of the evening was spent discussing the impending storm of Covid 19/the Corona virus. Having been entirely blasé about it, I am now worried about how much impact it will have on my life - physical, emotional, professional, financial - over the next several months. Wish us luck.

Our kitchen - taken on 14th March.
I had just got a brand new phone, and this 
was the first photo that I took with it.

Friday 8 May 2020

Strawberry Wine 2018 - Second Bottle (1), 28th November 2019

On the basis that strawberry wine is Richard's favourite, I opened this bottle for Thanksgiving. As with the previous bottle, this one had a distinct fizz. Unlike the previous bottle, I removed its cork. It was with some trepidation that I asked Richard whether it was acceptable. Happily it was more than: it was actively nice. Rather drier than previous bottles of strawberry wine and perhaps a little less strawberry flavoured. The fizz is entirely beneficial, apart from giving the wine a tendency to explode.

Our Thanksgiving Table - before the food!

Wednesday 6 May 2020

Rhubarb, Mint & Elderflower Wine 2018 - Third Bottle (6), 31st December 2019

As has been our practice for the last several years, we spent New Year's Eve in Cambridge with Rachel and Duncan. And continuing the tradition we had all gone to bed before midnight. This year I'm not sure that we made it up much past 10:30. It was a lovely evening, though, and this bottle of Rhubarb, Mint & Elderflower was one of the three drunk. Claire thinks that I need to dial back a little on the mint, to avoid any more of a mouth wash feel. I think that I have it about right.

Duncan, Claire and Rachel cooking on New Year's Eve

Tuesday 5 May 2020

Rhubarb Wine 2018 - Seventh Bottle (B3), 11th-16th February 2020

Claire opened this bottle because I had finished the whisky in a whisky-mac and she also wanted something to drink. Her first sip rapidly turning into gagging, which then became a stream of invective about how awful this wine was. I remember something about 'cheese' and 'sweaty men'. Personally, I thought the wine was entirely acceptable and could not see what the fuss was about. This meant I drank the bottle slowly over the next several days. Claire had one more sip some days later to see if exposing the wine to oxygen had helped. It very much had not.

A Quince Tree planted on 16th February

Monday 4 May 2020

Rose Petal & Orange Wine 2019 - The Making Of...

This year I have scaled back my rose petal wine production. I think that I have more bottles of rose petal in the house than any other flavour and 2018's vintage was poor. Going cold-turkey, though, was never the plan so I have made a single batch of rose petal & orange.

The Rose Petals
Obviously November is not the time of year to be gathering rose petals. In anticipation of this flavour, I started freezing roses past their first flush of youth from June. Mostly they were white roses, as that is our most prolific bush, but I did manage to get a few reds in there as well.

Oranges are available all year round so I left this wine until November and I decided to buy my oranges from the Fruit Stall in Chapel Allerton, albeit that this meant the wine is about 80p more expensive than it might otherwise be. They were large and juicy oranges, though, and I only needed five of them.

On Saturday evening, 2nd November, I thinly peeled one orange and covered its peel with a pint of boiling water, leaving this to one side. I then juiced all five oranges, which gave me a pint of juice, and put this in my bucket. Next I measured two pints of frozen rose petals, which is half what I used last year, and put these into the bucket with 3 lbs of sugar. I boiled 5-and-a-half pints of water and poured this in, releasing a heady aroma. On Sunday morning I added the water that had been covering the peel (but not the peel) and a teaspoon each of yeast, nutrient and pectolase.

The wine in its bucket
Ordinarily I would have put this in its demijohn on Thursday or Friday, but I was out both nights, so it waited until Saturday morning, 9th November. It was a quick job and I am left with a peach-coloured liquid.

The colour on racking was beautiful - a light dusky orange - and the wine has cleared entirely. I couldn't tell from my tiny sip, however, whether this was going to be any good or not. It didn't need much sugar, but I dissolved 2 oz in half a pint of water and poured that in.

The wine when first in its demijohn

If you want to see how this wine turned out (hint: very well indeed), click here

Sunday 3 May 2020

Rhubarb Wine 2018 - Sixth Bottle, 24th November 2019

I gave this bottle to Paul & Becky in lieu of a statutory declaration fee. My firm is taking a lease of a compound at Cawood which is to be outside the provisions of Part II of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1954. This requires a statutory declaration in front of a solicitor and they generally cost £5. A bottle of rhubarb wine is probably a good deal, possibly for both sides.

I put on my best shirt, thinking that the occasion (6:30 p.m. on a Sunday night) might mean the bottle would be opened there and then and would become a social affair. It wasn't and it didn't.

A not very interesting photo I took on 23rd November

Saturday 2 May 2020

Kiwi Fruit Wine - Third Bottle (1), 23rd-24th January 2020

Well, this wine was unexpectedly good. The secret? Set your expectations low. The wine had a buttery taste to it and was not dissimilar to a proper white wine. Claire had the first half of the bottle whilst I was at Alan and Audrey's (here, setting my expectations low did not produce a musically satisfying evening). I had the second half of the bottle on Friday whilst Claire was out playing string quartets. It was a lazy evening where all I did was watch things on the internet and drink copiously. In other words, a thoroughly satisfactory Friday night.

A really dull photo that I took on 23 January 
(work related, to check on boundaries of one
of the houses that my firm built)

Friday 1 May 2020

Kiwi Fruit Wine - Second Bottle (2), 9th-12th November 2019

This was not a popular wine at my Wine Party. It came in equal 10th (or second-to-last) place, with an average score of 2.5 out of 5. However, the fact that one of the worst wines of the evening was comfortably above 2 indicates that my overall quality has improved. Two people said that Kiwi Fruit wine was bland and I am inclined to agree.

One notable thing of the Wine Party was Claire's Rabbit Pie. It was a raised pie, looked amazing and tasted sublime. She used redcurrants in the mix and their sharpness really set off the rabbit flavours.