Welcome to the First Annual Independant Food Festival and Awards. I was lucky enough to be included as a judge for this year's festival...one of 29 people world wide. So, without further adieu...my award...
The Best Use of Unripe American-Grown Grapes by a German-Born Winemaker
Winner: Roman Roth, Winemaker, Wolffer Estate Vineyards
Do you verjus? Literally translated as “green juice” and pronounced
“vair-ZHOO,” it's the fresh, unfermented juice of half-ripe fruit, most
often grapes. While quite common in the Old World (especially
winemaking regions), I wasn't familiar with verjus until I moved to
Long Island nearly six years ago.
On one of my first trips to the region's wineries, I found myself at Wolffer Estate Vineyards in the ritzy Hamptons. After tasting a handful of German-born winemaker Roman Roth's expertly crafted wines, I was offered a taste of an almost-colorless, pale chartreuse liquid poured from a wine bottle. The word Verjus adorned the label and I assumed it was just a proprietary white blend or something similar.
Boy was I wrong. Like a super-tart Sauvignon Blanc without the alcohol, Wolffer's verjus was mouthwatering and the perfect foil for the forthcoming taste of late harvest Chardonnay.
For $10 per 750ml bottle, this blend of half-ripe juice from Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Franc grapes offers lemongrass and light herbal notes that frame refined green apple flavors.
Since that first taste, I've come to appreciate verjus more for its culinary uses than it's uses as a beverage, which do include a virgin verjus sangria recommended by Wolffer.
Basically, you can use it like you would vinegar…any time you need a little acidity to heighten the other flavors or cut through fatty richness. I've used it as a poaching liquid for chicken, added to marinades for some acidic zing, but I bet it would be great for ceviche. Apparently, you can even make a verjus sorbet.
My favorite, everyday use for verjus is in vinaigrette. Because it doesn’t have all the mouth-puckering acidity of vinegar, you don’t need to use as much oil, leading to lighter, healthier dressing for fresh field greens.
Because it's non-alcoholic, Wolffer can actually ship this tasty condiment anywhere in the U.S. and Canada. For more information or to order, visit www.wolffer.com.
To see all of the awards, visit the festival website.