Thursday 4 April 2019

A gentleman winemaker's wine

What is this stylish looking wine? Its visual combination of contemporary style with classic elements seems like a reflection of my very own character. Surely the wine of a gentleman winemaker. And its name…Piqué…why, it sounds like a Gallicisation of its creator – moi.

Yes, having made my own wine over the last eight weeks, it has now been bottled and, as you can see, named and labelled. I have a degree of smug self-satisfaction at having thought of its name, and designed a label, with the added suspicion that CJ will not have bothered with either.

(I was of course worried about emulating those hideous phonetic names drawn from initials, like PeeKay, or SeeJay, which reek of rundown shopfronts and County Court Judgments. But I feel that Piqué offers a more… sophisticated approach.)

Love my house as I do, not even I could call it a chateau. But I can genuinely state that Piqué was indeed mis en bouteille àu propriété. Which also looks better on the label than mis en bouteille dans la salle de bain.

Like so many aspects of this winemaking saga, bottling proved more challenging than I had anticipated. For one thing, when you siphon wine out of a demijohn, the hose swings around like an angry snake, spewing red wine all over the option. You’re trying to simultaneously tilt the demijohn, keep the hose inside a bottle, and pump the, er, pump. I clearly lack that key requirement of a wine bottler – three hands.

Then there was the issue of the sediment. This sat in a corner of the demijohn, an ominous slurry. It proved impossible to reach the last half-bottle or so of wine in the demijohn without sucking the sediment up, so eventually I improvised a filter, using a funnel and a tea strainer. It’s a little trick I would like to say I picked up from the Baron de Rothschild, except that I didn’t.

Somehow, at the end of it all, I had five bottles of wine. Not six, but five. CJ reports exactly the same; we each started with 4.5 litres, but ended up with only five bottles, 3.75 litres. Could all of that have gone in sediment, or even evaporation? The part des anges? I can’t believe that angels would sink to the level of sharing this stuff, even those bored with occupying the head of a pin,

Labelling added a whole new and challenging aspect to the bottling process: in particular, removing the existing labels from a week’s worth – sorry, a fortnight’s worth, hem hem – of emptied bottles. Like stamps and matchbox labels, it was once simple to soak off wine labels in warm water. That was before self-adhesion entered the process. A word from the wise (well, from me); put hot water inside the bottle, which can melt the adhesive on the back of the label.

The label still may not come off in one piece; if it does, you are likely to have a label which remains furiously self-adhesive. And if it does not adhere to self, it may well adhere to anything on which you place it. Another word from the wise (after the event): if there is one thing from which it is harder to remove a self-adhesive label than a bottle, that thing is a table.

But finally, the job was done. Piqué has been bottled in dark shouldered claret bottles, dark sloping Burgundy bottles and pale green screwcap bottles more commonly associated with white wines. This could either be a maneouvre in order to test the market, or a reflection of the variety of wines I was drinking when I needed some empty bottles.

And now it is “maturing”. The bottles are still inside a bucket, in case of explosion, although I have hopefully got beyond that stage. The final chapter will be a comparative tasting against CJ’s efforts. All I can now anticipate is that mine will possibly look better.



  1. Congratulations on getting to the bottling & labeling stage! I recommend the old Spanish adage, buy on apples, sell on cheese. Have the cheddar handy for the grand opening.


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