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products & produce guide


All the rage ... - VERJUICE
Sauces & Condiments

REVIEW:
Verjuice was all "the thing" for a whilein the mid-noughties, with bottles appearing on fine food shop shelves in abundance. But it seems to have faded away somewhat, probably due to its expense, with most examples in excess of a decent bottle of wine.

I wrote in 2005, referring the question of pricing back to a producer who said that you could equate the cost of production to that of simple unwooded white wine, but that it would not attract WET (a thumping 29%), so therefore be consierably cheaper. Assuming that no-one is going to destine the finest grapes to verjuice we could assume that the retail price of the wine foregone would not be in excess of $15, and possibly less. So 750ml of verjuice (of a similar quality to a $15 wine) should sell for approx $10.50. Another winemaker claimed that, at cellar door, it should also not attract GST being a food. This would make it even cheaper, approximately $9.55. This also ignores the possibility or likelihood that verjuice is made from grapes that would otherwise be discarded, pre-harvest thinning that would normally be left on the ground. But most samples received at that time were priced at nearly double this.

But what is it all about - this unfermented juice of under-ripe grapes? What's its place in our pantry? Food scribe Elizabeth David in her An Omelette and a Glass of Wine, of the lemon, wrote "(it) has largely replaced the vinegar, the verjuice, the pomegranate juice, the bitter orange juice, the mustard and wine compounds which were the acidifiers of 16th and 17th century Europe".

In 2005 I said "So, move over lemons, Verjuice is back!" Sadly I think pricing killed this resurgence. But its uses remain many and varied. The most often advised is deglazing pans after cooking fish or meats and creating a tangy sauce from the reduced juices; but it can also be used to marinate, to dress oysters or salads instead of lemon or vinegar, to dress cooked fish or meats when serving, or even as a zesty cordial mixed with soda or tonic. For many of these uses the verjuice needs to have more character than sharp, neutral juice, or cheap white wine would be a better alternative.

Maggie Beer's Verjuice is now cheaper than it was five years ago so perhaps there is hope, although some still seem to have placed themselves where many local olive oils have: dressed in fancy small bottles and priced highly, it does little to sponsor regular and free usage, and therefore destined for the back of the cupboard or fridge to be kept for "best", ageing into oblivion as much fine olive oil does.

Chapel Hill released verjuice a few years back in 2L flagons. Although they were ahead of the times, and it didn't sell quickly, I thought this was the way it should be marketed so that cooks used it freely and often, rather than sparingly. Certainly 750ml should be the minimum if it is to be become a readily used condiment and must be priced and marketed accordingly.

The quality and character of verjuice tasted was extremely varied, as the tasting notes reflect. Advice on usage of particular styles would be very helpful to a fairly uneducated cooking public, and some of the best are a great addition to the kitchen well worthy of recommendation for a wide range of uses.

Original 2005, edited 2010


 
Winecall