A little wine

Before I get on with it, any food/garden bloggers out there who’d like a review copy of my new book – A Taste of the Unexpected – can email Quadrille and they may not have run out yet.

Now, where was I…

I’m between* the horns of a dilemma**. Or rather two dilemmas***.

I have some grapes, maybe a quarter of a ton of them, and they all look lovely and proper, as if I knew what I was doing. Or rather Trent and I knew what we were doing.

On the one hand this is good – a real, if small, commercial scale harvest of something. On the other – it’s been a belting year for vineyards after several years of not, and wineries are already overrun with orders for turning lovely grapes into wine in a few months time. It means that they can be a little more choosey about the minimum quantity they accept. Quarter of a ton sounds a fair lump, but it’s only perhaps a quarter of what it seems I will need to interest a winery.

This gives me three choices (so I guess that’s a trilemma):

1 – I can send a winery my grapes to go with their own of the same variety, have a chat about the style to make them into etc, and they will send me back bottles of sparkling and still wine in whatever proportion I fancy

2 – I can search high and low for another small scale winery that might take my quarter of a ton and process it separately. This is likely to be fruitless and may take a lot of time that I’m pretty short of

3 – I can try making the wine myself. This sounds like fun. It sounds like a very River Cottage thing to do. It will almost certainly end in disappointment for one very simple reason: I’ve never had a homemade wine that’s any better than carwash. I have no intention of wincing my way through even a glass of what usually looks and tastes like the drippings from a welldiggers arse just so I can say ‘I made that’.

There is a fourth way…knock all the grapes off now, two months or more before maturity, so that the plants’ energies are spent developing even more of a root system. That one’s a bit dull though isn’t it.

Option 1 sounds fine, and undoubtedly the easiest and most sensible – but (and it’s a big but) I will be drinking and giving friends wine that’s only partly from the grapes of Otter Farm and I’m not quite sure how satisfying that would be. At least a few very lovely English wines are made using a large percentage of grapes grown by other people and very few of them make that clear on the label – so you might buy, for argument’s sake, ‘Bison Canyon’ sparkling, find it absolutely fabulous and feel like your excursion into the romance of Englishwinesville has been amply rewarded. If a fair proportion of those grapes don’t come from the vineyards of Bison Canyon, is that a problem? It’s certainly not illegal. And perhaps I’m alone in this, but I’d like that to be made very clear on the bottle: ‘made with grapes from Bison Canyon and other vineyards’ or whatever. I’m guessing some places don’t put it on for fear that it would make me do exactly what it would make me do – think twice about buying it. I suspect most people buy English wine at least partly because they’re interested in the story of where it comes from, supporting a local product, investing a little expendable income in the romance of a wine grown and made just ‘there’ – otherwise why not buy a good French/New World wine for a lot less? If that story is muddied then who knows what effect that’d have on sales. Unless it’s cheap, wine has to be to people’s taste for them to buy it twice, but the first sale is the key to that – hence, I suspect, the opacity.

So Option 2 it is – phoning a few small scale vineyards who’s wine I like, to see if they have a small scale winery or know someone who will entertain the idea of making a batch on the scale we might (fingers crossed) have in a few months time. Do shout if you know a vineyard or winery that fits the description – I’ll make sure a couple of bottles of carwash come your way.

The other dilemma, I realise now I’ve got this far, actually falls into the threatening-my-cosy-prejudices category and is deserving of a separate blog all of it’s own. Maybe even quite soon. I’m almost certain it will include the usual targets of my ferocity: the Moanic Stoat Poachers Manic Street Preachers, Michelle from Eastenders and, of course, Brighton.

* Or should that be ‘on’?
** There is a person called Dai Lemma on Facebook, couldn’t help looking
*** Is that a quadrilemma?

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  • Good luck with option 2…the best one I think. If you are successful with this, get them to teach you so that you can do it yourself next year.
    I used to make wine many years ago from fruit and vegetables mostly. Gooseberry was queen, parsnip a close second. My rhubarb wine was disgusting and may have played a part in a suicide. One day I'll feel brave enough to blog about it.
    Does cider in your grand plan? I have recently ordered cider apples to have a crack at it (albeit on a much smaller scale) in a few years time.

  • I want to add another option or dilemma: a quintilemma.
    Eat the grapes. Rush to your nearest supermarket for a couple of cases of Albanian reisling, a bottle of Jagermeister, twelve cans of Tennents Extra, a gallon of Thunderbird and some Dijon Mustard.
    Mix it all together in the bath and you will have a nutty yet presumptuous young wine with which to impress your guests.
    Worked for us at Lafite.

  • Two suggestions…could try the folks at East Pennard, who I'm sure could help, or alternatively forget the whole thing and make some Perry instead….

  • I am surprised that it's a good year for English vinyards. My (five or six) bunches of grapes are looking a bit pants, with many of the grapes in each bunch split. I had presumed it was because it was so dry earlier in the year and then had recently been wet, but obviously not if no-one else is having the same problem. This would be a good moment for you to dispense fruity wisdom….*waits, drums fingers*
    And of course it's 'on' the horns of a dilemma. I think.

  • Nicola – thanks so much. I have found someone I'm discussing possibilities with but these two will be well worth talking to. thanks v much. Lookforward to hearing from your husband maybe!