Archive for the ‘Wine’ Category

My 57th birthday and I’m actually 1 Year younger! That’s because I’ve been telling everyone that I’m turning 58 – a bonus year. 😁

Slept in lateish- 8.30am. More rain in the Mosel valley today so we went for a nice drive to Trier and then back to the Mosel further north at Ürzig.

Then headed home via a few more wineries and another 7 bottles of wine – not drunk, but purchased to take home.

No vines to be had at the local garden centre so we will find them elsewhere as we really would like to plant a Riesling vine at home.

Popped in to see Kajo at his winery in Trittenheim and I gave him the hat I crocheted for him. He loves it, and especially that it has his name on it.

Mark enjoyed a little glass of 1993 Riesling Edelsüß with Kajo before we went off and had a lovely birthday dinner at Pinocchio restaurant in Trittenheim; fresh salad with Saltimbocca. Mark enjoyed my chips – no chips on keto!

Finally ended our day with a little more walnut gathering.

It was almost the great Walnut War of 2019 but my diplomatic husband came into his own when a dodgy looking German bloke came over to tell us they were his and we were stealing off his land and the walnuts we had cost at least €10. Hubby did his diplomat great grandfather proud by apologising and telling him he could have them back, but as soon as he went to tip them into his car the man changed his mind – so he went off annoyed that he hadn’t managed to con an English tourist and we went back home happy with another bucket of walnuts.

Crisis averted….. perhaps he was just really angry about Brexit.

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Hubby toasting to the first ever glass of wine sold in Postcode coffeehouse at The Edge, Wigan.
We were attending the premier of the musical Beyond Wigan Pier and it seemed appropriate to begin the evening with a glass of red.
Typically the South African gets the first glass :-).

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This weekend, with the help of the family, I managed to get quite a bit of preserving done. 

Here are some of the results as well as an apple cider vinegar I made a couple of months ago….

Mixed berry and apple jam made from freeze dried raspberry, strawberry and blackcurrants. 

What is going to prove extremely popular, and as a German winemaker told us last year “the only way to get your wine fix at breakfast” – an apple and Pinot Grigio wine jam – or jelly because it is clear and smooth. 

A glorious jam made from freshly steamed apple juice and a hint of fresh pineapple juice. 

A pear shrub waiting for apple cider vinegar to be added before leaving for a week to ferment and strain, then enjoy as a cordial or mixer. This one is going to Cardiff with our son today. 

An apple shrub fermenting for another few day before we can enjoy. 

And last but by no means least, my homemade apple cider vinegar made from freeze dried apples. This took around 4 months to brew and ferment and now lives in the cellar where we tap off what we need from the 20 litre keg I made. 

Next years apples will be turned into another batch of apple cider vinegar to ensure a constant supply. 

A bountiful couple of days which I will finish off today with a 2016 batch of pumpkin chutney – because in our house pumpkins are not just for Halloween! 

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Today we have something a little different to show you….

How to rack wine from one carboy to another using a vacuum pump.  Racking wine basically means moving wine from one vessel to another leaving behind any sediment…repeating this process leaves your wine clearer each time.

Our vacuum pump setup was created using a lot of bits and pieces of various pipes we found in our wine kit and in the old cellar – one of these days we may set it up semi-permanently by attaching the pipes to the wall and leaving them in place rather than packing it all up each time.

What you need is…..

A racking cane in the sending carboy (the carboy with the wine in),

Tubing from the racking cane to the filter inlet,

Tubing from the filter outlet to the receiving carboy inlet,

Tubing from the receiving carboy outlet to the overflow bottles inlet,

Tubing from the overflow outlet to the vacuum pump.

In between you can also have cut-off valves, but you can also use the on/off of the vacuum pump to control the flow, but bear in mind that once the vacuum has formed even if you switch off the pump it will still continue to syphon because it is a sealed vacuum system by this point.

Points to note:

The sending carboy does not get sealed, you simply place the racking cane in the open carboy or bucket (that’s how I clean my system – we place the racking cane into a bucket of cleaning solution).

The receiving carboy must create a good seal or you won’t create a vacuum environment and it will not suck up the wine.  The tubing we use fits really well over the inlet and outlet 0n the orange carboy bungs and create a good seal.

Please don’t try and do this without an overflow bottle because this vacuum racking system also degasses your wine at the same time and some wines create tons of foam which can easily be sucked up into the outlet tube and into your pump!

You can rack using this system with your carboys at the same height (unlike using a syphon where the sending carboy must be higher than the receiving carboy).  Less moving large, heavy and slippery glass jars around!

Here is a little video I posted showing it in action….

In the future we plan to attach all the piping and the filter to the wall and leave them in place semi-permanently.  We will run cleaning solution through the system after use and then seal the ends to ensure no dirt gets into the system in between uses.  Regardless of whether we do this or not, we always run cleaning solution through it before each use.  The reason I am trying the sealed method is because we live in a 400 year old house and we have on a few occasions found little critters have taken up residence in the tubing!

Here is another great video that Sicilian Prince, another home winemaker, has posted which very clearly explains his process…..

So, that’s another 90 bottles of wine racked, degassed, filtered and topped up ready for bulk ageing in the cellar; a job well done with a minimum of lifting and carrying.


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Part 2…

I make wine…lots of wine!  Did I mention previously that I am tea-total?  Well, I am, but that doesn’t stop me from making hundreds of bottles each year.  I rely heavily on the ‘kindness’ of friends and family for the testing and drinking phases, and surprisingly I am never short of volunteers – go figure!

Being a winemaker and a beekeeper means that at some point you HAVE to make mead…and I did.  Until last week, a beautiful demijohn was sitting ageing very nicely in the cellar.  It is a year old and I managed to get it bottled last week.  The labels had been previously designed and it was a really simple operation to glue them on using the fabulous new gummed paper I found after months of trawling the internet for something suitable and reasonably priced.

I must say that I was rather nervous about bottling it because this lot here seem to think that the minute it arrives in a bottle and moves into the cellar wine racks, it must be ready to consume….WRONG!!  Get you grubby mitts off my mead until at least 2016.


The bottle on the right is a little cloudy because I bumped the demijohn whilst filling the final bottle.  A little time in the cellar and it will settle back to the bottom of the bottle.




The bottling process consists of a lot of clean bottles, a floor standing corking device and racking canes to transfer the wine from the large Carboy or Demijohn into the bottles…..

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While I had my bottle washing volunteers a couple of weeks ago, we managed to clean and sterilise enough bottles to also bottle a few other wines.  I was desperate to get some of them out of the cellar where they had been bulk ageing because I had run out of empty carboys and demijohns to move the currently fermenting batches.  All in all, it was a very successful weekend of cleaning, bottling, corking, capping and labelling.

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This lot are now all safely ensconced in the cellar until I give the go-ahead that they are ready to drink….the hardest part of my job as a winemaker is keeping everyone at bay until I think the wine is mature enough.  I’m not giving them a chance to leave negative feedback because they couldn’t leave it alone for a couple of years; after all, I don’t have a problem waiting – oh, but then again, I don’t drink 🙂


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What do a beekeeper, a winemaker and a sewer have in common?  Me, of course!  🙂

Who would have thought that have such a diverse set of hobbies would come in so handy, but here is proof that being of the hyperactive mind persuasion does have its plus points.

In part 1 we examine the link between beekeeping and sewing……

I made my son a bee suit last year and this year I made hubby a new bee suit as well.  Different styles but equally loved by the recipients.



The bee suits are made from old work shirts that hubby no longer needed.  I sewed two together inside each other and added zips or velcro fronts and added elastic around the hems and cuffs to keep any curios bees out.  I also made the bee veils for them.  The one on the left for my son is a very different style to the hat I made for hubby with a veil attached around the perimeter.  Everything I used for these projects was repurposed or already in my sewing room – what a result!



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Two very happy beeks doing a hive inspection in their one-of-a-kind bee suits.

I am so happy that I have the skill to be able to make things, and it is even more special that they are made from items that would mostly find their way to landfill.

In part 2 I will look at how beekeeping is linked to winemaking in our house…..


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Last week I started a few new batches of wine. The current winemaking was brought about as a result of a rather large batch of freeze-dried apples a friend dropped off for me, and 20 bags of dried cherries we picked up really cheaply from Costco because they were about to reach the use-by date!

I am now planning the following….

Cherry jam, cherry cider, cherry pie filling, cherry liqueur and of course cherry wine – a few different types.

On Saturday I started with the wines – Apple and cherry, Liebfraumilch and cherry, red grape and cherry, and white grape and cherry. We also used some to make a cherry cider – so far, so good.


This is where the dilemma comes in…..I have rather a lot of wine from last year bulk ageing in the cellar in carboys (large 25 litre bottles), and also a lot of other smaller batches of wine bulk ageing in demijohns (5 litre glass bottles). I don’t think I realised how much was ageing in the cellar until tonight….when I needed to rack my latest batches from the fermentation buckets to the glass bottles….and we only had 1 carboy and 3 demijohns to use – a mini disaster in winemaking terms because now I will have to bottle all the other aged wines before I can carry on with this years batches!

Now do you see my dilemma?

Do I make less wine, or buy more carboys and demijohns?

…..and to add insult to injury – I have at least 200 bottles to fill and have only de-labelled, cleaned and sanitised about 50 so far – aaarrrgggg!   This is when my inability to waste, and insist on only using up cycled bottles becomes a bit of stumbling block in the winery production line.

Any volunteers who offer their bottle cleaning services will be compensated – with a filled bottle of course! 😃

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I cannot believe that it has been a year since we received our first bees and I wanted to remind people that bees are SUPER important to humans and we should be protecting and not destroying them.  A lack of knowledge of these little creatures sometimes makes people fearful, but please protect our bees or we may all die of starvation!

If you see a swarm please contact your local beekeepers association or someone who keeps bees and they will take the swarm away.  DO NOT call an exterminator as they will simply spray and destroy the swarm.  This site will also help you to identify whether they are bees, wasps or bumble bees who have moved into your bird box or under your eaves.

Here is how the swarm may look……

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…and you can read up about them in a previous post of mine here.

Here is a beautiful photo our son took of one of our girls….


…and here we are about to enjoy the fruits of all their labour…..

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…and this is what the boys are most excited about….

IMG_0001…two demijohns (about 12 bottles) of mead that I made from the first batch of honey we harvested in August last year!  It is now crystal clear and ageing in the cellar until the end of this year when they get to test it (patience please boys!).

And to think, without these beautiful little creatures we would have no honey and therefore no sweet treats or honey wine….that alone makes them worth saving! 🙂

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I have good news and I have bad news;

Firstly, the good news….

After weeks of building a few wine boxes at a time, we eventually have enough to fill one entire wall of the cellar….

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…by my calculations, we should be able to fit at least 500 bottles before we need to build any more – perhaps another year or so of brewing!

The bad news….

Well as you can clearly see from the pictures, I DO NOT HAVE ENOUGH WINE!!!

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How is that possible?  At the last count we had over 200 bottles in the cellar – true, that was before Christmas, but even my family and friends cannot consume this much without me noticing them sneaking it out of the cellar!

To be fair, I do have quite a few batches that are sitting in carboys and demi-johns in bulk ageing – probably another 100 or so bottles worth, but this is hardly going to make a dent in the gaps!

There is nothing for it – I’d better get cracking on some new batches….and I have just the thing to kick start my efforts….a white grape and elderflower; but before that…..

….perhaps I need to install that webcam in the cellar after all; just in case we do have a wine thief!!

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Decisions, decisions….how do you decide how to configure all the wine racks to gain the most storage?

You draw some plans of course!

When I say draw some plans, I actually mean, cut out some squares of paper and shuffle them around until you find the right solution for your cellar.  This is SO important because you do NOT want to have to take those hundreds of bottles out to move them once you are done and find you aren’t happy with them.

To save on materials, but still gain the maximum amount of storage, we opted to leave gaps between our boxes.  These gaps are the size of two larger wine bottles and will be used for all the odd shaped wine bottles that do not fit into the tins.  The beauty of this layout is that for every few boxes we will gain a space that can house up to eight bottles; that increases our wine storage potential from 480 bottles to about 600 – win, win!

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Once this all important decision was made we could begin.

In our case, we didn’t want to place the first row of wine racks onto the floor – just in case the pump ever failed and the water rose high enough to reach this part of the cellar.  We opted for a simple piece of spare roofing timber which could be used to run along the entire wall and the boxes could be attached to.

Our second challenge was finding the space to install the first boxes.  This was like a game of Tetris…in order to add the new wine racks we needed to move the timber stored in the cellar; but in order to move the timber we had to move the wine that is stored on the shelf we are going to use for timber; and in order to move the timber we have to move all the old pub tables and chairs store in the cellar….are you getting the picture?


So we decided to start small….add a few racks and move some wine.  Then place the rest of the wine in the wine racks but in a temporary new location.  This means that they have to be moved twice, but we have no other choice because we need that shelf for the first bit of the move – the timber onto the shelf.

Here is how we got on….

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and a few close ups to show how well the Illy tins work….

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Seven done, with another seven ready to be used.  Now that we can move all the wine, we can begin to reorganise the cellar.

One thing that hasn’t been done yet is to fasten the odd box to the wall for safety.  We have to wait until all the boxes are in place because the old stone walls are so bumpy that we will have to adjust the distance from the wall once all the boxes are in place.  In the meantime, if you look carefully, you will see a beer barrel wedge being used to keep them secure.

Hopefully the next time I write a blog post about the cellar it will be an update with pictures of the wine racks all in place.

Very happy days! 🙂

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