Some of you may remember that back in October I started making my very first wine from the wonderful quince harvest. Since then it’s been racked a few times and now at last, over 6 months later, it’s been siphoned into bottles. As predicted the wine is a beautiful rose colour, not as clear as it should be but that’s fine by me. Six bottles have been filled and we tasted what was left over – not too bad, really! It actually tastes like wine! A touch sweet but I reckon it’s the perfect partner for rhubarb crumble… (and how nice to have a morning tipple of homemade wine on one’s birthday).
It seems appropriate that the autumn colours come mainly from the vines; the fields around us are alight with their gold, orange and scarlet.
In fact this week wine has been very much on our minds for two reasons. The first is that I have started to make some wine for the very first time. My dad had this very old book on wine making, there’s no date but as the price is both in shillings and new pence I’m guessing it’s 1971. He gave it to us when he came recently and it’s full of the most wonderful recipes for country wines, and my eyes fell on quince wine for October – perfect. It’s certainly been a steep learning curve, and with lots of different stages at different temperatures it reminded me of being back in the darkroom.
First up was the making the yeast starter, and here I used the grapes growing in the garden. That went well and soon started bubbling nicely.
The next steps had a few hurdles. I did remember to convert gallons into litres but forgot that the bottles I would be using instead of British demi-johns were bigger. I didn’t stir the mulch enough so after the first fermentation in the bucket there was a thick layer of sugary goo at the bottom. And straining the mulch into the glass bottle took ages, in fact it completely stopped when there was less than a third done. Ho hum. Anyone who has made quince jelly will know what a lovely pink colour quince makes once boiled and I was cheered up by the thought of making a beautiful blush wine!
Anyway, hurdles overcome, the wine is now sitting in the living room and gurgling away happily. I had thought it may be ready for Christmas – ha! It’s going to take months and months apparently so it’s a glass of rosé in the spring methinks.
So the other reason that wine is on our minds this week (more than usual) is that we went on a wine tasting course with Portugal friends. 10.30 on Wednesday morning found us at Quinta do Cavalinho where the owner, Paula Costa, showed us around her vineyards and factory and of course encouraged us to have a few slurps. So from a 5 litre bottle to vats of 50,000 litres it’s on a much bigger scale, but it’s still a small family run company.
There are 30 hectares of grapes growing of which 80% are for making red wine. The area until recently was called Ribetejo but the marketing forces that be decided that, in order to compete against big brother Alentejo, the area should now just be called Tejo.
The factory itself has taken advantage of the fact that Tomar, 3 kms away, was the home of the first Knights Templar (and a visit to Tomar castle is a must). Their wine is called Herdade de Templários and features the famous Templar cross. We bought 6 bottles of their branco reserva and then headed off for a boozy lunch with everyone at Calça Perra. Richard slept all the way home…
Our only neighbours, Luis and Laurinda, are shouting distance away. I usually meet Laurinda in the morning when she feeds their ever growing mountain dog who, when standing up, is much taller, and certainly much heavier, than her. She wears a beanie hat and is never seen without her pinny on. She calls across Bom dia, Dona Jacqueline and then quite often she disappears into the house only to return minutes later with her basket. It’s always laden, really laden with excess produce which she insists we have. I wish I had started a photographic record. There have been beans, tomatoes, red peppers and lettuces. There have been strawberries, plums, cherries, grapes and then the other day a basket of quinces. And as always twice, no thrice, the size of anything we have growing. Some of you may remember from a much earlier post our ailing quince tree, this year (despite being pruned and lovingly rescued from the vines and brambles that had been sprawling all over it) there has been just a handful of quinces. Whereas, of course, Laurinda’s quinces are the biggest I have ever seen. This can only mean one thing – I’m back in the kitchen making more quince jelly and quince cheese. Delicioso!