Thursday 7 February 2019

Gentleman winemaker me

I’m sure it wasn’t like this for Baron Eric de Rothschild.

For some reason, I have gone along with CJ’s crackpot idea of making our own wines. It is one thing for him to try and emulate or even better the bottom-shelf bargain wines that he buys; quite another for me to try and echo the classier products that I pursue.

But then I considered the respect I have for the makers of my wines. Perhaps becoming a winemaker, albeit a modest one, could be a means of claiming first-name terms with the likes of “fellow winemaker” (as I could rightfully call him) Eric. Or with Aubert at the Domaine de la Romanée Conti. I might acquire the urbanity of someone like Leoville-Barton’s distinguished Anthony Barton. I certainly echo his philosophy that “I don’t make investment wines”. No indeed, not in my kitchen.

I had kept quiet at home about this mad plan of CJ’s, and hidden the equipment, and a hoard of my empty bottles, in the cellar,. I anticipated an unfavourable reaction from Mrs K to the idea of liquids fermenting around the house (or, as I must begin to call it, the proprieté). She did, it emerged, wonder why our recycling had been uncharacteristically light on bottles. But she seemed remarkably relaxed when I broached the plan, her first and only real anxiety being that she might have to taste the results.

And so it begins, although I remain disdainful of CJ’s use of the term “Home Brew”, just as I am troubled by purchasing wine-making equipment from a company called Lovebrewing. This is vinification, surely,

I, too, watch the briskly enthusiastic brewlover Richard making wine in his t-shirt and jeans. He does not reflect my vision of an urbane gentleman winemaker. He sports a t-shirt from an outdoor apparel company, and stubble unrelated to a designer. Unlike CJ I do not become fixated by the contents of his washing machine, but I do notice that the on-screen caption suggests he is “sterlising” (sic), an attention to detail on my part which I hope will prove beneficial.

For I am nothing if not a stickler for detail when it comes to recipes. I am indeed (as I explained to Julian Barnes when he gave us our André Simon Award, a Pedant In The Kitchen.  So I am concerned that the airlock I have been sent has a yellow cap, and not, as referred to in the accompanying instructions, red. This is the kind of thing which can lead to disaster.

Anyway, I plump for making cabernet sauvignon, as close as I can get to my beloved claret. With increasing confidence I wield the likes of hydrometer and airlock. I sterilise, and mix, and test. (Well, do you know the exact temperature of the hot water from your tap? Well, do you?) I mix in oak chips, because I’m short on barrels.

And finally I have a demijohn of foaming liquid, coloured a threatening purple, which I stash carefully away. I have somewhat gratifying stains of grape juice on my hands, although before Mrs K returns I carefully clean the somewhat less gratifying stains of grape juice off the kitchen surfaces.

I managed to persuade Mrs K to allow the wine to ferment in the currently warmest place in the house, where we dry our laundry – but in order to protect the surroundings, I must keep my demijohn inside a binliner, inside a bucket. Is that really necessary? Well, the instructions say that if fermentation becomes “quite lively”, then “liquid can be forced out of the airlock and end up decorating your floor and walls!”. Not a situation Eric probably had to deal with – or worse, explain to his wife.

Now, the waiting begins. But at least there is one aspect of this where I feel I may have gained ground over CJ. I have come up with a suitable name for my wine (no, no, you’ll have to wait) and have begun designing an appropriate label. This at least may have the sophistication, the style, which I aim for in the wines that I enjoy. Whether the wine itself will live up to that, time will tell.



  1. Prediction: You will approach the finished article with literary, nay, journalistic sceptisism, but on tasting will declare that you are pleasantly surprised that Ch. K is 'rather drinkable.'
    Tip: Don't rush to bottle it.

    1. I'd be happy with that!
      (and thanks for the tip…)


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