More about Maggie's Verjuice Cookbook
Whilst Verjuice began with our Rhine Riesling grapes back in 1984 that we were unable to sell, which we believe was the first time in the world it was made commercially; it is now processed in a much more sophisticated way using high tech winery equipment to stabilise it and whilst this now encompasses so much more than our own grapes, all our classic Verjuice is always made from Barossa grapes with their ensuing quality. It is a year by year proposition as to the variety and the blend and in my ‘control freak’ way, with great technical assistance by my side, I make the call on the blend every year.
The wonderful thing is that over the years our Verjuice has been found to have become the benchmark for so many others to make their own, not just in Australia but all over the world, which has seen Verjuice become an established ingredient in a passionate cook’s pantry - it’s legitimised it as a truly important culinary ingredient, not just something obscure that I started with. I’m proud of that. It’s a gentle acid that ‘brightens’ the flavour of food, rather than dominating it, which is why it’s so valuable in cooking and it was, and still is, an ingredient in all countries of the Mediterranean by a different name.
As grapegrowers we pick all our grapes for Verjuice early in the season before they are fully ripe, which allows us to make a commercially viable product. However the peasant cultures of France (verjus), Italy (agresto), Spain (agraz), Lebanon (hosrum) and Iran (abghooreh) always picked the secondary, tiny unripe bunches that grow high on the stalk, or used the thinning of grapes in order to lessen the yield for a quality product. Nothing was ever wasted and for the short time it was available (without any sophisticated equipment to stablise) it was a vital part of their food culture with my research for recipes using ‘verjus’ going back as far as Taillevent, Frenchman, master cook to King Charles V and the author of Le Viandier, published in about 1375. It has been around a long time. Sangiovese Verjuice is made in just the same way, however not always from Barossa grapes as it is a variety not as common here; it depends upon the season and can be from the Hills or McLaren Vale.
It’s all about the flavour – Sangiovese grapes have a beautiful rose hue and a fruitiness that even though exactly the same acid level as our classic Verjuice, it so suits dessert applications, so is a good companion to our classic Verjuice and indeed both the classic Verjuice and Sangiovese can be used in savoury and sweet applications.
Everything comes back to my Barossa tradition, everything begins at the Farm Shop, so even when there are some products we just can’t make successfully here, either in the Barossa or even in South Australia, I love to see my ideas come to fruition and have more ideas for products that fit my ‘basket of goodies’ always with a point of difference; always driven by flavour, so I search within Australia to find that right partner to make that happen.