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 27 November 2020

Ginger Wine 2019 - Final Bottle (4), 21st November 2020

Bentcliffe Drive is having a Life Sized Advent Calendar this year, where households light up a window with a stained glass design. We have decided to do all nine panes in our porch and have been given the number 8, so much of the day has been spent designing ours. In the evening we drank a bottle of ginger wine and watched My Fair Lady, which is a surprisingly long film. I did wonder if it was possible for my arse to get Deep Vein Thrombosis.

One of our panels

Thursday 26 November 2020

Blackcurrant Wine 2019 - Fifth Bottle (A6), 20th November 2020

Friday nights need a bottle of wine and this one more than most. It had not been a bad day at all - but it was one of intense concentration. I had spent most of the day drafting a difficult report on title and by six o'clock my head was spinning. Blackcurrant wine reversed the direction of that spin - it is an excellent bottle. We spent much of the evening watching the pilot episode of ER. I had never seen ER, and was a little resistant, fearing it might be dull and dated. Instead, I was gripped throughout.

Chimneys in Leeds (actually taken on 21 November)

Wednesday 25 November 2020

Elderflower, Mint & Rhubarb 2019 - Third Bottle (6), 18th-19th November 2020

This week I have been Chief Cook and that is an unusual state of affairs. On Wednesday it was "Hot Tomatoey Garlicky Seabass" and on Thursday it was Lentil Curry (and this time I remembered the poached egg). Over the last eight months or so, where our world has narrowed, we have expanded our standard food repertoire beyond the usual five meals, and this is a Good Thing. The wine was also fine - a delightful colour and a refreshing taste. The current Archers' storyline of Alice's desperate alcoholism, done in the most traumatic fashion, only gave me slight pause before I opened this bottle.

A fabulous sunrise taken earlier in the week

Tuesday 24 November 2020

Rhubarb Wine 2017 - Fourteenth Bottle (A5), 15th-17th November 2020

I've done it again - left a bottle many days before writing about it. Always a mistake. As far as I can remember, it was a decent wine and we drank it to Tuna Surprise. The highlight of Sunday evening was chatting to Todd & Anne via Zoom. If there is one good thing about this pandemic it is that we have spoken to a greater number of distant friends and family more often than we might. Though going into central Leeds would now be an adventure, chatting to someone in Oregon feels normal. Because of the time difference I flaked out somewhat earlier than ideal - and we hadn't even finished the bottle. That was done on Tuesday to The Great British Bake Off's semi-final.

Taken on an 8 mile walk done on Sunday

Sunday 22 November 2020

Rose Petal & Orange 2018 - Third Bottle (3), 14th November 2020

I spent Saturday feeling out of sorts. The day was dank and little could lift my mood. Whilst we are being told that there is a vaccine on the horizon, I shall believe it when I see it. A bottle of Rose Petal & Orange helped - it is not as good as 2019's batch, but actually it is not half bad. Perhaps both flavours are too strong, but only slightly - and it goes well with stir-fried Kim Chi. We then watched A Knight's Tale which is gloriously anachronistic and just a huge amount of fun. That helped too.

Playing around with my camera on 14 November

Saturday 21 November 2020

Prune & Parsnip Wine 2019 - Seventh Bottle (A2), 12th-13th November 2020

I don't know where all my prune & parsnip wine has gone. This was the only bottle I could find of at least eight dotted around the house. I have yet to open up the crypt - so maybe they are down there. This particular bottle was my only 1 litre vessel - so drinking it over two days was sensible. Friday, though, began with Margaritas and a Zoom catch-up with Catherine - who might have mumps. Having a notifiable disease that is not Covid 19 must be quite the privilege. 

My day at work had been busy and fraught, and it ended on a downer. I had made a foolish mistake months ago and only realised on Friday. This prevented one of our house-buyers moving in. Their weekend will have been ruined, and it was my fault.

Taken on 12th November - a park close to us

Tuesday 17 November 2020

Jam Wine 2020 - The Making Of...

Many years ago I spotted that CJJ Berry had a recipe for Jam Wine. I filed this information away under the heading "Odd and Not Useful". Over the last few months I have watched our 'Home Made Condiments' cupboard fill to capacity and started to wonder whether I should dust down that recipe. Also, stored in the attic, were a collection of jars that we brought with us when moving house in 2015 and which have lurked there ever since.

Jars found in the attic

Claire was fully on board with this wine - it solved the problem of all those jars, but first of all we needed to play "Jam or Chutney". This involved opening each jar (more difficult than it sounds) and taking a taste - because of course only about half were labelled. This appeared to produce no chutney, lots of marmalade (which I did not use) and some sort of jelly with large pieces of garlic floating in it - also rejected.

A different view of the same jars
Notice the dust!

In the end I used nine jars in a variety of sizes and these were: Plum 2013, Strawberry 2013, Gooseberry 2011, Bramble Jelly 2013, Rowan Jelly 2005, Damson 2014, Crabapple & Chili Jelly, Fig, and Quince Jelly. The Crabapple & Chili was the nicest, the Rowan the worst.

Emptied jars

On Sunday 8th November, I tipped all contents into my bucket (together it looked like an enormous, disgusting blood clot) and poured over 6½ pints of boiling water. I gave it a good stir and left it overnight for the jam to dissolve. On Monday morning I added two teaspoons of citric acid and one of pectolase. Then in the evening (rather than 24 hours later as instructed by the recipe) I added 8 oz of minced raisins, 1 lb of sugar and a teaspoon each of yeast, nutrient and tannin.


The yeast (which was a new tub and a different variety) did not take and I feared that this wine would have to be thrown out. On Wednesday I made a yeast starter, with the half teaspoon left of my old yeast, half a pint of warm water and half a pint of the jam wine. This started fermenting and continued to do so after adding a further pint of the wine, so I poured it into the bucket. Success!

I put the liquid into its demijohn on 15th November - which took quite a while. During this process I noticed large bits of onion in the solids that I was sieving out. "This appeared to produce no chutney" was a rash and inaccurate statement. "Jam or Chutney" is a surprisingly difficult game.

Jam wine in its demijohn

Sunday 15 November 2020

Orange Wine 2018 - Tenth Bottle (A5), 10th-11th November 2020

Hurrah! I'm not dying. My blood tests came back on Wednesday and everything is normal. The weight loss is down to additional exercise and no additional food. Therefore I need to eat more. That is my kind of remedy! I could pretend that we opened this bottle in celebration, but it was opened on Tuesday to accompany The Great British Bake Off - which is now in its closing stages. So, instead, we finished it in celebration - and I am relieved that I no longer have to take my blood pressure twice a day.

Taken on 10 November

Friday 13 November 2020

Elderberry Wine 2015 - Final Bottle (B3), 8th November 2020

Claire cooked duck on Sunday night and that required a special bottle of wine. I offered to go to the shops to buy something made of grapes, but decided to open this ancient bottle of elderberry instead. And it really was special: rich, smooth, delicious. The duck was superb as well - crispy skin, pink middle.

My day had been one of idleness - I didn't step outside once. My planned five mile walk did not materialise - it was foggy and dank all day. Much better to spend the time indoors with the woman I love.

Jam Jars taken on Sunday - all will be revealed as to why.

Thursday 12 November 2020

Rhubarb Wine 2019 - Fifth Bottle (A6), 7th November 2020

Of course today's big news was the US election being called for Joe Biden - and the World suddenly feels like a better, safer place. I have been fascinated - unable to stay away from The Guardian live feed. We celebrated with a Manhattan (shared via Zoom with the Bentcliffe Massif) and then this bottle of rhubarb wine, which as always was a decent bottle.

The Snarkalong Film Club watched Dangerous Liaisons - the last third of which is a masterclass in acting, all about sexuality and power. The first two thirds, though, are just so cruel.

A Manhattan in our front room

Wednesday 11 November 2020

Blackberry Wine 2019 - Fifth Bottle (C3), 4th-5th November 2020

This is being written three days after we finished the bottle under discussion, which is always a mistake. I cannot, therefore, remember its taste but I imagine that it was a great deal like blackberry wine. 

On Wednesday I was fretting about the American election, as I was on Thursday, but not quite so hopelessly. I cannot understand how a man with so little grace, who is so blatant in his lying, bullying and self-centredness can remain as popular as he is. "Darth Vader? Sure, I'll vote for him."

Taken on 5th November on my morning walk

Sunday 8 November 2020

Elderberry Wine 2018 - Fourth Bottle (B5), 1st November 2020

What a fabulous bottle of wine! This elderberry is smooth as velvet and dark as midnight. We drank it to a venison sausage casserole towards the end of a proper Sunday. I listened to Broadcasting House in the bath, had a long yet local walk, played Scrabble with my mother (she won) and did a modicum of bassoon practice. Then in the evening we ate and drank well, ending the night in front of the fire watching Line of Duty. This is definitely how Sundays should be spent.

A tree with a heart, encountered on my walk

Saturday 7 November 2020

Halloween Wine - Fifth Bottle (1) 30th-31st October 2020

 A bottle of Halloween Wine on All Hallows' Eve, albeit opened a day early. The wine has a hint of chili taste and is a dry, fruity red. Mostly we drank it whilst watching television. On Friday it was Taskmaster which is silly and joyous and exactly right for these difficult times. I think snot bubbled from my nose at one point. Then on Halloween we finished the bottle watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show with the Snarkalong Film Club. It was a radical film for 1975 and has actually aged quite well. Tim Curry is just fabulous!

Wiggy on my lap, using wide angle lens

Wednesday 4 November 2020

Crab Apple & Strawberry Wine 2020 - The Making Of...

Sunday 25th October was a day of industry. Our evening was to be spent having a virtual dinner-party via Zoom with Mary. When dining with Mary there is always a theme: we have had foods that rhyme, foods of a particular colour and food that starts with a letter in Dvorak's name. On Sunday Claire chose the theme and that theme was 'Tapas: Pride & Prejudice style'. Therefore much of my day was spent making Spanish dishes and trying to shoe-horn a way of fitting it into Pride & Prejudice. Pickled peppers stuffed with goats cheese and sprinkled with dill represented Lydia for being both cheap and easy. Patatas Bravas represented the early fiery nature of Lizzie and Darcy's relationship.

Lydia & Whickham - Tapas Style

When not making tapas, I was making Crab Apple & Strawberry wine. The 1 lb of strawberries was fished out from our freezer a couple of hours before I started in earnest. I needed 4 lbs of apples, but our crab apple tree only had 3 lbs left on it, so I bulked it out with 1 lb of apples from the tree in our back garden - thus robbing the blackbirds and squirrels of their full ration.

Apples on our tree

I mashed the strawberries, which had yet to defrost fully, in the bucket and whizzed the apples through the food processor, putting these in as well. As 6¾ pints of water boiled, I put 3 lbs sugar into the bucket and gave everything a good stir. Once the water was boiling I poured this into the mix and stirred again. Next morning I added a teaspoon each of yeast, pectolase and nutrient.

The ingredients before processing

On Wednesday evening we drank some of last year's Apple & Strawberry Wine, which was thin and boring. Therefore, I added a teaspoon of citric acid to my bucket as an experiment to avoid that fate - though I don't actually know what effect citric acid has!

The ingredients, after processing

On Saturday morning I sieved out the fruit and put the liquid into its demijohn - this time leaving a gap to avoid any overflow, and storing some wine in a separate bottle for topping up purposes. I could have reduced the water by about half a pint in the above recipe, but now I have a lovely red coloured wine bubbling away in the demijohn.

The End Result

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

Monday 2 November 2020

Rose Petal Wine 2016 - Seventeenth Bottle (B4), 30th October 2020

I am starting to worry about my weight loss. At the beginning of Lockdown I was over 10½ stone (or over 147 pounds or 67 kilos). Seven months later I am around 9 stone 10 (or 136 pounds or 62 kilos). Probably this is down to increased exercise, but maybe it isn't. Also I have been feeling dizzier of late. Therefore, I made an appointment today to get some blood tests done. Watch this space.

In the evening I made a fabulous butternut squash risotto (chili oil being the magic ingredient) and we drank this rose petal wine, which was surprisingly good.

[NB - If you think the photos below are too personal or inappropriate, let me know and I will delete them.]

Me on 11 July 

Me on 31 October

Sunday 1 November 2020

Apple & Strawberry Wine 2019 - First Bottle (1), 28th-29th October 2020

Well, this wine is disappointing. It doesn't taste much of either strawberry or apple, the wine is thin and there is just a hint of mustiness. In the past this flavour has been rather good. 2019's batch is a mid-week bottle at best, and probably one to be left gathering dust under the stairs.

Neither day on which we drank it has been memorable: dull, wet and cold late October days where the autumn colours are quickly sinking to the ground, turning into dark brown sludge beneath our feet.

Taken to represent the title of a film. Any guesses?

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