Our family were and are not alcoholics; we have enjoyed the odd tipple over the years, many of them prepared at home. My Nan made what are commonly called "Country Wines" today. They had a big smallholding originally 6 acres plus. Four acres was sold off when I was about 17 months old for £30 per acre. Seems unbelievable now on the price front especially as the properties that were built on them and the plots of land go for well over £250,000. My grandparents utilised vegetables and fruit grown (fallen apples were made into cider and also apple wine and lot of preserves and chutneys). Nan always reckoned that the best apples were the fallers or the ones you could not reach at the top of the tree as they always had their faces smiling in the sun. The plot was abundant although they had to feed the soil year in year out. My Nan worked full time at a job and when at home was either cooking or gardening if you wanted to speak to her you had to follow her around what she was doing. They also kept Bees, Chickens and Pigs. My Uncle had a small dairy farm down the bottom of the village as well until he had to give it up as a result of a heart condition. I am talking about a time when you had to grow your own food in order to survive the winter months and to have a good standard of living on the food front. Standards had to be maintained at all costs. My grandparents were land rich, but cash poor which was often the case in those days.
Nan was exceptionally good at wine making and in particular the blending of the different wines. She always had different wines on the go and the sun lounge on the front of the property, was the place for the wines to work especially in the summer months when it got the sun. She also saved her own seed for growing stuff the following year and so there were quite often trays with different seeds on them set out to dry.
Sunday dinner was always a special occasion at Nan's and the one day of the week where they would have a glass of wine to accompany the meal (of course made by my Nan). My favourite wines were, Rhubarb, Nettle, and her plum wine which used to go into a secondary fermentation and give the wine some fizz. Elderflower wine and Elderflower Champagne. As youngsters, we were never allowed the wine. We used to be given home made ginger beer instead. (They did not think it was alcoholic then). After the age of 10 though we were allowed a small glass each, and after I became a teenager I was allowed a full glass. I inherited those wine glasses from my Nan, which were cut glass but a large size. I have been hoping to match them up one day with some more but thus far have not actually seen any like them.
I think we were brought up sensibly around alcohol and drink. We were quite happy just to have our single small glass and had a respect for alcohol which many of our peers did not have. The French have the same outlook and allow the children to have wine as well with a meal. In a roundabout way we were taught to respect everything and to know our limitations.
I would mention that my Mum was inherently good at winemaking too. It was a pity when she gave making it up, she had what was thought to be liver disease called Primary Biliary cirrhosis and thought that she had been drinking too much (when in effect she had not). Fibres grew in her bile ducts which completely strangled the liver and deprived it of essential nutrients and eventually more or less shut it down with the liver becoming like a piece of stone. Mum had to have a liver transplant as a result of that condition. The cirrhosis was caused (they now believe by a wonky gene which causes auto-immune conditions in our family). However she gave up making the wine nonetheless although my Nan continued.
I was also very lucky enough to inherit my Nan's winemaking equipment including her old stone bottles and jars (which she had initially used for winemaking when a young woman). Needless to say I do not use those for winemaking but they are good decorative objects.
I am hoping to get back to the winemaking soon, however I do need to get a wee bit more squared up in the house before I start this year's wines. The homemade liqueur type drinks are a different matter. The exception to this is the Vin D'orange.
I often look back especially when it is a long grey winter day and remember things like that and realise just how lucky we were as a family and the warmth of the good times we shared. Happy days. You never quite think that one day you have to do without them.
Catch you soon.