This year we have produced a tiny amount of verjus. Verjus
is a french word from "ver" (green) and "jus" (juice). It is the
juice squeezed from grapes that are harvested before they're
ripe -- also refered to as a "green harvest". It can be
used in cooking where you might otherwise use lemon juice or balsamic
Sometimes you'll find verjus labelled as "red" or "white", which
indicates if the grapes it was made from are usually made into a red
wine or white. Ours is 100% Madeleine Angevine, a white winegrape.
Our green harvest was about 1 week after veraison, meaning that sugars
had begun to develop in the grapes os it's not as tart as some
What to do with Verjus?
If you're an espresso afficienado, you're aware that the way a typical
Italian takes their espresso is either with just a touch of milk foam
("Machiatto") or with a tiny wedge of lemon. In the evening as a
closer on an big dinner, it is likely to be served with a sugar cube.
In any case, it's a straight shot of espresso, with a touch of
something else to take off the bite. I've been drinking my afternoon
espresso with a touch of our verjus -- like lemon and
sugar, it takes the hard edge off the espresso.
If you go to your favorite web search engine, and look for "verjus"
you'll find many great uses for it. We've used it instead of lemon
juice along with a bit of dill for a clean and lively salmon
preparation. Now that we have it available, we're sure to be using it
in many different meals.
Why are we making a Verjus?
You may wonder why one would harvest the grapes before they're ripe?
Good question -- this is done when the grapevine is producing more
clusters than the viticulurist feels it can properly ripen. By
dropping some of the fruit, the vines resources will not be spread as
thin, thus it will ripen the remaining fruit more quickly. This can
be very important in a cool climate like ours where harvest decisions
can be forced by inclement weather. This practice is also often done
in warmer areas, however recent studies have shown it has little
overall effect when the ripening season is not limited.
With proper vine maintenance there is less need for a green
harvest -- if the vines are kept in balance, they will
typically tend to produce just what they can ripen --
Mother Nature is very good that way. However, some grape varieties
are just plain prolific and need to be kept under control. Also, if
the plant has been damaged, for example when a hard freeze kills back
the above ground portion of the plant while leaving the roots
This year we are rejuvenating a block af Madeleine Angevine from the
BIVW vineyard. These vines were originally planted in 1981 or so. In
2005, two rows (about 166 plants) were intentionally sawn off a few
inches above the ground. The intent was to graft a different variety
onto these existing root systems, thus getting the new plants
producing several years sooner than would be with a complete replant.
However, the project was never completed, the grafting not done.
Since then, these plants have only been minimally maintained so as to
prevent them from blocking access to other rows.
As of 2007, Perennial Vintners has worked on this block. The plants
are mature, with huge root systems, but the trunk was removed, so the
new canes we're establishing are fairly small. The plant thinks it
can push out lots of fruit, but we know better -- thus
the green harvest this year. (Be sure to look for our 2007 Madeleine
Angevine dry white wine to be released in 2008.) This may be the only
year that we do a green harvest.