Gourmet Organic Juices

Nov. 12, 2010

World’s top artisanal vintners going organic, alcohol-free

By Jim PathFinder Ewing

When you grow organic, people invariably ask: What do you serve with your veggies?

Last week, we explored cheeses that go well with greens. Many of those cheeses are recommended to be served with fine wines. But for those of us who do not imbibe, there is no reason to feel deprived.

Some of the most well-respected wineries in the world are using the world’s finest grapes to make juice, without alcohol – and in great variety! It’s part of a trend for those who – for whatever reason, health, pleasure, moral inclination – reject alcohol.

Check this one out from one international online retail shop, for example: Organic Cabernet de Bordeaux Grape Juice, Didier Goubet of France. It is 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and made the same way as great Bordeaux wines. All the grapes are from old vines, low grape productions per vineyard, in organic, chemical-free culture. This product is totally natural, the grapes freshly pressed immediately after the harvest. The Cabernet grapes are chosen from artisanal vintners. In other words, they are every bit as good as any other fine French variety, and a great deal better than the vast majority of wines on the market, but without the alcohol.

Another imported example: Cote du Soleil (“Sunshine Coast”). It is a sparkling Chardonnay grape blended with other varietals. Organic, also, it’s from Northern Spain and is sold in some of the San Francisco Bay area’s finest restaurants as a gourmet substitute for champagne.

Or, if looking for domestic grapes, there are vintages from Draper Valley Vineyard in Oregon, producing organic Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet and Riesling grapes for gourmet grape juices; or from New York’s historic Hudson River Valley is the Kedem Winery – the dominant producer of kosher grape juices. Then, from Napa Valley in California is VinJus – very popular for health enthusiasts from wine varietal grapes such as Chardonnay, but with half the calories and half the sugar content. It’s rather tart.

These are just a few samples from Sweetwater Cellars (www.sweetwatercellars.com/) in Clackamus, Ore.

When I was a boy and we would occasionally have non-alcoholic grape juice; it didn’t taste very good, like sweet soda pop. But that’s certainly not the case anymore. Annette and I enjoyed two bottles of grape juice – one an imported sparking variety like champagne, another a domestic with apple flavoring – to celebrate our wedding anniversary.

The premium juices complemented the sampling of the raw-milk cheeses we ordered from Artisanal Premium Cheese of New York: 1) Crottin, a goat’s milk cheese made in the heart of France in the verdant Loire Valley; 2) Comté, a firm, pressed cheese made from the raw milk of red and white Montbeliard cows in the Jura Mountains of France in Franche-Comté, produced in small, cooperative dairies, known as fruitières, which collect the milk from farms within 15 miles distance only; 3) Le Moulis, a firm, moist cow’s milk cheese made in a small mountain creamery high in the Pyrénées.

And, of course, we topped it all off with organic greens, fresh picked from our garden!

Now is the time to plant grapes in Mississippi.

The hot and humid climate pretty much rules out French hybrid grapes. The muscadine grape is popular for home growers (and local vintners). Mississippians for decades have had them in their yards and even produced their own fermented products (often on the sly).

My grandfather up in the Delta grew scuppernongs (a variety of muscadine) back in the 1930s, and I gave it shot in the 1980s – with mixed results. (Muscadines are native to the region and have actually been cultivated in the Southeast for 400 years, with early accounts of Native Americans drying the grapes as food. Vines grow wild, if you look for them, and can be foraged.)

Eating them is quite healthful, as research has found they contain significant amounts of resveratrol (believed to be an anti-cancer agent) and ellagic acid (another natural cancer inhibitor). In fact, they are being called by some an anti-oxidant superfood.

But they are also great to make into jams and jellies, and for juice!

Time to Plant Grapes

If you wish to grow your own organic grapes, now is the time to plant them, from November through February in Mississippi.

Mississippi State University has planting tips and a list of varieties that grow well in the state. See: http://bit.ly/boouKQ Or, ask your local county extension office for advice.

Planting grapes, MSU (video)

YouTube: Planting Muscadies, MSU

http://il.youtube.com/watch?v=CwGkUf1N3Yg

“Better than any argument is to rise at dawn and pick dew-wet red berries in a cup.” – Wendell Berry

Contact Jim Ewing  on Twitter @OrganicWriter or @edibleprayers, or Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc

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