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.

Friday 31 July 2020

Rhubarb, Mint & Elderflower 2018 - Fourth Bottle (5), 20th May 2020

It was such a lovely evening on Wednesday that we ate supper in the garden. I cooked salmon with leeks, cous cous and a red pepper sauce, and we sat under the apple tree as the night darkened. Previously we had finished the apple wine (more than a third of a bottle) so finishing this bottle too was not the best of ideas. Certainly I regretted it Thursday morning. However, it is delicious and went so well with the food. Claire thinks that I need to start dialing back on the mint, but I'm not sure I agree. It was an excellent evening.

Our Rockery - taken on 20th May

Thursday 30 July 2020

Rhubarb Wine 2018 - Eighth Bottle (A5), 7th-9th June 2020

This bottle was opened to test a hypothesis. The last bottle we had of this vintage was rejected by Claire on her first sip with a great deal of fuss being made. I, however, thought it was fine. Therefore, I presented this bottle to Claire without reminding her of February's experience, and exactly the same thing happened. This means that there must be something in Rhubarb 2018 that Claire can taste and I cannot.

I fetched an Xmas Tutti Fruti for Claire to drink whilst I had this bottle over the next couple of nights. I must test Demijohn C!

Taken on 7 June
Another door I like

Wednesday 29 July 2020

Kiwi Fruit Wine 2018 - Fourth Bottle (5), 9th July 2020

My mood on Thursday matched the weather. It pissed it down all day. I cancelled my morning walk and went out after work instead. The rain was only moderately less heavy. At Sainsbury's, I bought some salted caramel cookies and barbecue sauce pop-chips thinking that unwholesome food might cheer me up. This was partly successful. Better, though, was an evening being companionable with Claire and this bottle of kiwi fruit wine. It really isn't bad at all. Maybe a tad sweet, but certainly a long way from "Never again". It may be my April wine next year.

Taken on 10th July - I didn't get
my camera out on 9th July.

Tuesday 28 July 2020

Orange Wine 2018 - Seventh Bottle (A4), 21st July 2020

A Tuesday night bottle. You can tell that we are still on Lockdown. When Mary came over on Sunday, she asked whether Covid 19 had turned us into a Chunk, a Hunk, a Monk or a Drunk, and for us the answer is "a Drunk". Not an ideal thing to be, but right at the moment life could be significantly better. Having opened the bottle at 6:30, it was inevitable that we would finish it, and I do make a splendid bottle of orange wine.

Taken on 21 July
Kato explaining how life could be better

Monday 27 July 2020

Blackcurrant & Raspberry Wine - The Making Of...

We very much need a larger freezer. And we need to defrost the current one. At this time of year, when soft fruit is abundant, a deep and empty freezer is what one requires. Ours is standard-sized and full. This wine is a direct result.

On Saturday 12th July, Claire and I went round to Lindsay and Antony's house to pick blackcurrants. It was an afternoon well spent in their garden, enjoying the sunshine and seeing friends somewhere other than on a computer screen. We mostly attained social distancing, but we were still in their company, and that was lovely. Their blackcurrants were not as plentiful as in previous years - I suspect that the pruning shears have been out - but we came away with 2 lbs 6 oz.

Our blackcurrants are later, and my original intention was to keep Lindsay and Antony's fruit in the freezer until ours were ready. However, this gave no room for freezing bread and therefore Something Needed To Be Done. I decided that instead of pure blackcurrant, I would bulk up what we had with 10 oz of raspberries. Our raspberry canes have been prolific this year, requiring a daily pick, and the fruit that we cannot have on our porridge, we freeze.

On Friday 17th July I took the blackcurrants and raspberries out of the freezer and left them to defrost in a bowl. I mashed them that evening, poured over 6¼ pints of boiling water and added 2 lbs 12 oz sugar (I think - I am writing this a week later). On Saturday morning I put in a teaspoon each of yeast, pectolase and nutrient.

Over the week I was particularly dilatory in stirring the wine - maybe it got three stirs - and really I should have put it in the demijohn on Wednesday. But it has been a busy week at work, so I left this until Thursday evening. This process was unremarkable - neither pleasantly speedy nor stultifyingly, arse-achingly slow. I have ended up with a demijohn full of purple-bordering-on-the-black wine. I suspect that our blackcurrant bushes will not supply enough fruit this year for a pure blackcurrant wine.

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

Sunday 26 July 2020

Orange Wine 2018 - Sixth Bottle (B3), 27th-28th May 2020

After having a rare night off the booze on Tuesday, we opened a bottle of orange wine on Wednesday to drink with smoked haddock in a parsley sauce. And we didn't (quite!) finish it. Now Claire's work patterns are 12-7 two days on, two days off, I do the cooking on the days on, and Claire does it on the days off. She says that it is lovely to come home to dinner having been cooked for her.

Neither Wednesday nor Thursday had any particular event of note. Which is about par.

To relieve the boredom, however,
I dressed up as Michaelangelo's David

Saturday 25 July 2020

Orange Wine 2018 - Fifth Bottle (B6), 5th May 2020

Whilst I am on holiday this week, Tuesday was a day to be idle. On Monday I had walked nearly thirty thousand steps, so a day of doing little was excusable.

We drank this orange wine after a lovely Zoom conversation with Mary. Social isolation is all well and good, but I do miss my friends. We chatted for nearly an hour and a half, covering everything from Jane Austen to haircuts, and then Claire and I shared this orange wine.

Taken on 5th May - 
Socially distancing outside a shop

Friday 24 July 2020

Prune & Parsnip Wine 2018 - Final Bottle (A4), 7th-8th July 2020

There is little to say about this bottle. Prune & Parsnip is never a flavour about which to write reams of loving prose. It was fine - a pleasing colour with a distinctive sherry taste.

Both Tuesday and Wednesday were unremarkable, bordering on the dull. Things feel so stagnant at the moment - take each day as it comes and never mind if it was exactly the same as the one before. Damn this virus.

In somewhat better news, we now have hot water to our kitchen.

Taken on 7th July - a virus testing unit

Thursday 23 July 2020

Ginger Wine 2018 - Fifth Bottle (4), 27th June 2020

I found this bottle curiously ungingery. Claire said she could taste the ginger, but I could not. It was perfectly pleasant, if a little towards the sweet sherry borderline. My biggest problem, according to Claire, in respect of this and our evening meal - another go at Pineapple Chicken, because the last had been so successful - was having rather too high expectations.

We drank much of the bottle whilst watching I, Tonya about the ice-skater involved in knee-capping her rival. Highly recommended.

Taken on 27th June - I did some sweeping.

Wednesday 22 July 2020

Apple Wine 2017 - Final Bottle (6), 19th-20th May 2020

It has been lovely weather for the whole of May (we do need rain quite badly) and this bottle of wine mostly accompanied Claire and me wandering round the garden inspecting things. Our irises are in full bloom and are looking particularly beautiful. 

The apple wine was good - full-bodied yet still refreshing and I think one of my better vintages.

Our irises

Tuesday 21 July 2020

Elderberry Wine 2017 - Eighth Bottle (B5), 2nd July 2020

Delia Smith's moussaka recipe requires half a glass of red wine, and I (correctly) identified that elderberry would be the right flavour. The resulting moussaka was fabulous - there were no leftovers - as was this wine (also no leftovers). That some of it went into the food meant that we had pretentions of respectability: we did not drink an entire bottle of wine on Thursday night.

Whilst making the moussaka, I was also playing (remote) Scrabble with Mom. I had terrific luck and my favourite words were RELATING, DILATION, SABOT and (best of all) HOMINIDS

Taken on 2nd July on my morning walk
This is the street on which we used to live

Monday 20 July 2020

Elderberry Wine 2017 - Seventh Bottle (A5), 31st May - 1st June 2020

It was Sooz's birthday on Sunday and to celebrate we had a Taylor family Zoom meeting, though Andrew didn't make it - Zoom not really being his thing (I imagine). I haven't seen any of the Taylors since Christmas and it was lovely having an hour or so with them as we got gently sozzled on cocktails and then elderberry wine. Afterwards Claire and I ate lasagne but did not quite finish the bottle. That was saved for Claire on Monday, but the last half glass was rejected: the wine had developed clots that reminded her rather too much of the blood samples she receives at work.

Nascent pears - taken on 31 May

Sunday 19 July 2020

Gooseberry Wine 2020 - The Making Of...

On Saturday morning, 11th July, while chatting to Claire in the front garden, I glanced at our gooseberry bushes and noticed two things: one of the bushes, at least, was laden; and some of the gooseberries had started to split. This meant that they needed to be harvested, and they needed to be harvested Now. I grabbed a plastic bowl from the kitchen and set to work, getting only mildly scratched in the process.

One of our bushes, though small, produced three pounds. The rest, added together, gave a further four and a half pounds - and one of our bushes (the one which I suspect is popular with an audience of pigeons) only had two. That's two gooseberries, not two pounds. My harvesting activities were interrupted by a lunch spent with Rodney, meaning that I was somewhat less focussed and efficient during the second session.

Once the gooseberries had been picked, we needed to decide what to do with them. Ordinarily I use 6 lbs for wine, but Claire made a good case for wanting to make gooseberry tart and gooseberry jam and gooseberry other-stuff. However, our freezer is already too full to store that weight of fruit. So, I checked my recipe books and Brian Leverett has a recipe using only 4 lbs, which is a good compromise. In fact I used half a pound more than this, put them in a pan, covered them with 3½ pints of water and brought them to the boil, giving them about 5 minutes of boiling time. This broke down the fruit, so I didn't need to mash them.

I put the boiled gooseberries and liquid into my bucket, poured over a further 2½ pints of (cold) water and 2 lbs 14 oz of sugar. When cool enough, I added a teaspoon each of nutrient, pectolase and tannin.

A vigorous ferment
Over the next few days I stirred the wine, if I remembered, and then on Friday 17th July I put the wine into its demijohn. This took longer than ideal: the sieve kept clogging, so getting the liquid through was a slow process. The wine is fermenting vigorously, and I anticipate a large sediment.

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

Saturday 18 July 2020

Blackberry Wine 2017 - Final Bottle (C1), 21st June 2020

Toad in the Hole requires a red wine, and this was how Blackberry 2017 came to an end. Sausages are one of life's great pleasures. And the wine wasn't bad either, though we very nearly finished it before eating. It was the end of a lazy Sunday where I feel that little was achieved. Most notable event was reading a proper chunk of our next Book Group Book - The Bee Keeper of Aleppo by Christy Leferti. It is too harrowing to be enjoyed and right at the moment I need light things.

Taken on 21st June

Friday 17 July 2020

Blackberry Wine 2017 - Seventeenth Bottle (B6), 6th May 2020

I had a delightful walk today: into Leeds City Centre, along to Kirkstall Abbey and home through Headingley. The sky was cloudless and I wore my Hat and sunglasses throughout. The centre of Leeds was strange, though. Empty of people, every shop shut. There was far more activity along the canal path (and less room to manoeuvre around others).

In the evening I shared this bottle with Claire and it was suitably blackberry in flavour.

Leeds City Centre - a Ghost Town

Thursday 16 July 2020

Blackcurrant Wine 2017 - Tenth Bottle (A2), 18th June 2020

I do make a good bottle of blackcurrant wine. It has all the fruit taste you want and this vintage is smooth and easy to drink. Possibly too easy. We drank the bottle on Thursday night on a day where very little of interest happened. The most exciting thing was a trip out to the Book Shop to buy books. Whilst this might sound unremarkable, this week was the first week that shops selling non-essential items were allowed to open since Lockdown began. Some might argue that books were never non-essential.

Two more doors I like 
(taken on 17th June)

Wednesday 15 July 2020

Strawberry Wine 2017 - Final Bottle (5), 9th May 2020

I don't know how Claire cannot much like strawberry wine. It is one of my favourites and this was a good vintage of it: dry, light and distinctive.

Saturday was a lazy day, partly spent in the garden doing some ineffectual weeding (the ground is so hard - we need some rain) and partly spent reading Frankenstein. Now that the Creature is telling his tale, the book has become more interesting. I prefer Jane Austen though!

Taken on 8th May

Tuesday 14 July 2020

Rhubarb Wine - Twelfth Bottle (C4), 13th May 2020

Claire required me to put something in the fridge because, with her unusual work patterns, Wednesday was her Saturday. I picked Rhubarb 2017, but had a back up with Orange in case rhubarb did not work. The wine, though, was fine - better than - and went well with the Actively Delicious Bean Curd in a black bean sauce. Shockingly, though, we had nearly finished the bottle by the time we came to eat. It took some self-control not to drink anything else that evening.

Taken on 13th May - a couple of
doors in North Leeds that I find pleasing

Monday 13 July 2020

Orange Wine 2017 - Final Bottle (A4), 31st January 2020

So, we are now out of the European Union, though I was in bed and asleep by the time it happened. Presumably there were fireworks, but I am not sorry to have missed them. I coped with the evening by drinking more than I ought, including this bottle of Orange Wine - which was more bitter than I remembered it. Still, that matched my mood.

A photo taken on 30 Jan
The boat is called 'Laughing Gravy'

Sunday 12 July 2020

Strawberry Wine 2020 - The Making Of...

Kemps Farm - the Pick Your Own
Six weeks ago it was not clear whether I would be able to make strawberry wine this year. With all but essential shops closed and everyone self-isolating to conquer Covid 19, it seemed unlikely that a Pick Your Own farm in Horsforth would be open. However, there has been a relaxing of rules since June, and from 4th July pubs, restaurants and hairdressers were allowed to trade again. Compared to these, squatting in a field, picking strawberries, strikes me as a low risk activity. Safety measures have been put in place, however. Entrance was by ticket only (at a cost of £2, which I do think is a cheek - but I am supporting a local business) and I had to book my slot so that the Farm could stagger its customers.

I chose 10 a.m. on Sunday morning, 5th July, and was the first to arrive (at about ten to). The farmer looked at my baskets, said "You look like a serious picker" and directed me to what he said was the best field. I had it to myself for about the first half hour and this year the fruit was far better than last. It was more plentiful and riper, and I did not feel like I had to fight for each strawberry. 

Picking strawberries for nearly an hour, watching clouds scudding across the blue sky, was a pleasant way to spend Sunday morning - though crouching for that length of time is never comfortable. Of course I picked far more than the 4 lbs I needed for this recipe and 1 lb for a wine later in the year.

Back at home I washed the strawberries twice, hulling them in the process. I put 4 lbs in my bucket, mashed them and poured over 4 pints of boiling water. On Monday I sieved the fruit out, putting this into a separate bowl (the liquid stored temporarily in a demijohn) and covered the fruit in 2 pints of cold water. About an hour later I drained the fruit again - keeping this liquid for the wine - and I put the fruit pulp on the compost.

All liquid went into the bucket with 3 lbs sugar and a teaspoon each of yeast, nutrient, pectolase and tannin. On Friday 10th July it all went into the demijohn and is a pleasing light red.

Saturday 11 July 2020

Prune & Parsnip Wine 2017 - Ninth Bottle (B2), 6th June 2020

I am feeling glum about my impending 50th birthday. Why, I'm not sure - it certainly has to do with the onward march towards mortality, but I think it also has to do with the circumstances in which we find ourselves. It wasn't as if my birthday would have been a big celebration anyway - I was due to play in an Airedale concert. But with social distancing, it is now going to be a quiet occasion.

We drank a bottle of Prune & Parsnip which helped improve my mood a little and I was persuaded to watch Pitch Perfect by Sooz, Jayne and Sally. Unexpectedly, I didn't loathe it.

Sage flowers, taken on 6 June.

Friday 10 July 2020

Inca Berry & Raisin Wine - Fourth Bottle (1), 14th-15th May 2020

Whilst it was not an act of responsibility to open a second bottle on Thursday, this is what I did. Claire was low, water is dripping from our ceiling and I had just been told of Renate's death. So not an evening to drink in moderation. 

The wine is an odd one - it is basically alcoholic raisins but not those soaked in brandy that appear at Christmas. Claire summed this bottle up as reminiscent of slightly rank sherry.

I took this on 15 May - and it gives some 
indication of what I do at work.

Thursday 9 July 2020

Xmas Tutti Fruti 2016 - Ninth Bottle (A4), 29th May 2020

There has been a fifteen month gap between this bottle and the last of this vintage - mostly because I have been keeping it in the crypt. It is really a very good Tutti Fruti indeed: lots of berry flavour and both sharp and rich. We drank it whilst making Ravioli from the Family Cookbook (and keeping the first cousins updated on WhatsApp). I made the pasta and Claire did the rest. Whilst fiddly and time-consuming, it was an excellent meal. Not one for a dinner-party, however.

A photo I took on 29 May.

Wednesday 8 July 2020

Apple & Strawberry Wine 2016 - Final Bottle (4), 3rd-4th May 2020

Claire was at work the two nights that I drank this wine and that was partly why I chose it. I had remembered it being thin and uninteresting: my memory had not let me down. My days were excellent, though. On Sunday I walked most of the Meanwood Valley Trail and watched Jesus Christ Superstar. On Monday I walked a circle that took in Kirkstall Abbey. This 'being on holiday' lark is quite good.

Kirkstall Abbey

Tuesday 7 July 2020

Elderberry Wine 2016 - Eleventh Bottle (B6), 17th May 2020

Another fabulous bottle of elderberry wine - this time drunk to a Sunday Roast Leg of Lamb. Claire did the best Yorkshire Puddings that she has ever done. Other than that, though, the day remains a bit of a blur (I am writing this on the Wednesday after). I had an excellent internet Scrabble game with Mom - by leaving my phone line open and hands free, I can chat away and it is nearly as good as being across the table from my mother. The best word of the game was BOUCLE. No, I don't know what it means, either.

I obviously made rhubarb wine
that day - this was a photo I took.

Monday 6 July 2020

Rose Petal Wine 2016 - Sixteenth Bottle (B5), 16th-17th June 2020

Rose Petal Wine has definitely tumbled down the list of favourite and reliable wines. This bottle, however, was alright. There wasn't anything particularly interesting about it - but that isn't always a Bad Thing. Despite its age, there was no developing sherry taste to it.

The most exciting event of the two days in which we drank it was my newfound quiche making abilities. I've never made one before, but the quiche I made was Splendid. It will not be my last.

My Splendid (If Rustic) Quiche

Sunday 5 July 2020

Magnolia Petal Wine 2020 - The Making Of...

After last year's Magnolia Petal Wine was a surprising success, I decided to repeat it this year. 

St John the Baptist's Petals

Since the Great Covid 19 Lockdown of 2020 began, I have been going on hour-long walks early every weekday morning, and many of these have taken me past Angie and Phil's house. I noticed that their magnolia tree was not as prolific with its petals as last year, so on these long walks I have been trying to spot magnolia trees elsewhere. One of these was outside St Edmund's in Roundhay, where I surreptitiously gathered fallen petals (which remain in our freezer). Another was at St John the Baptist's Church in Adel, which was the halfway point of my 7-mile walk on Good Friday. This magnolia tree was of the 'small, delicate' petal variety which meant an age gathering enough to make it worthwhile. But I can think of worse ways to spend a sunny Bank Holiday.

Magnolia Petals outside Phil & Angie's

That evening, Angie came past our house on her run and stopped to tell me (at a safe distance!) that her tree was now discarding its petals and I was welcome to collect these at any point. This I did on Saturday morning, 11th April. I meant to make the wine that afternoon and evening, but instead Claire and I cut each other's hair (I am now completely bald!) and then she seduced me into drinking a bottle of champagne rather than make wine. Therefore, I have made wine this Easter morning whilst listening to Classic FM's Hall of Fame.

I measured 6 pints of petals and put these in my pan with the thinly peeled peel of two lemons and one orange. I poured in 7 pints of water and put this onto boil. When the water was getting close, I added 2lb 8 oz of sugar and once it reached the boil I let it do so for 20 minutes.

Petals that I used

I squeezed the orange and lemons and put the juice into my bucket along with 500g of minced sultanas (yes, I am mixing Imperial and Metric, for which I make no apologies). I then poured the contents of my pan (petals now brown and sludgy) over this and stirred it all around.

The mixture in its bucket

Later that night I put in the yeast and a teaspoon each of tannin, pectolase and nutrient. On Friday night, 17th April, whilst Claire was out processing Covid 19 samples, I put the wine into its demijohn. It is a murky beige.
An arty shot of the demijohn.

Having racked this on 7th June, I cannot tell whether it is going to be good or not. It has yet to clear properly. I fit 2 oz sugar and three-quarters a pint of water into the demijohn.

If you want to see how this wine turned out (and for a comedy photo!), click here.

Saturday 4 July 2020

Orange Wine 2016 - Eleventh Bottle (A3), 14th May 2020

Thursday was not a good day. There is water dripping through our kitchen ceiling and I found out that Eric from Brooke North's post room and Renate have both died. Eric was killed by prostate cancer and Renate by a weak heart. She died alone and in November, and that makes me sad. A genealogist is trying to find out if there are any relatives, but I will not be able to shed any light on that. Anyway, we had finished the orange wine by the time I was rung by Mike about Renate, so I did not raise a glass to her. Next bottle, though ...

In memory of a fellow bassoonist

And here we both are, about 7 years ago

Friday 3 July 2020

Dandelion Wine 2016 - Third Bottle (5), 23rd April 2020

I should learn to temper my expectations. Rather than having a bottle of something wonderful, we had a bottle of something drinkable. This dandelion wine tasted heavy: there was too much going on in its flavours. I opened it on Shakespeare's birthday and we tried to watch the National Theatre production of Twelfth Night with Tamsin Grieg (an actress I like very much) as Malvolia. In the end we gave up on it. Possibly we had drunk too much dandelion wine, but the production felt flat and confusing. I went to bed with my intellectual pretentions crushed.

Taken on 23 April - a windmill
in the suburbs of Leeds

Thursday 2 July 2020

Ya Ya Pear Wine - Fourth Bottle (5), 25th-26th April 2020

I decided to open a bottle of Ya Ya Pear, mostly because Claire was out on Saturday night, waiting for samples of Covid 19 to arrive in her lab. None did, so she spent most of her time embroidering. Partly, though, I wanted to see if a gap of two and a half years had improved this wine any. It had not. The best I can say is that I did not feel an urge to pour it down the sink. There is a thin, chemical taste to it. Though I was meaning to save Claire from this wine, she did have a glass on her return and agreed that it was drinkable, but little more.

Taken on 26 April - our garden
from our bedroom window.

Wednesday 1 July 2020

Xmas Tutti Fruti 2015 - Final Bottle (B6), 7th-16th May 2020

Well, this bottle hasn't improved with age. I poured us both a glass on a Thursday night and noticed that its clarity left something to be desired. The taste test failed as well: insipid with just a hint of nasty. There was virtually no flavour to it at all. Despite our increased drinking rate in this age of Covid 19 and self-isolation, it took me over a week to finish the bottle. That I drank it at all does not speak well of my discerning palate. 

Where I had lunch on 7 May