During my Sommelier training I developed a keen interest in viticulture – the planting, growing and maintenance of healthy grape vines. That led me to a vineyard-based internship at a Prince Edward County winery, where I increased my knowledge and fed my interest. Soon after, I planted one row of red grapevines, one row of white at my home. The red are Lucy Kuhlman, a cold hardy vine. I was gifted with a Frontenac plant, also cold hardy. The white are Niagara, intended to be grown in this region. Over the past 3 years, the plants have developed well with lush foliage and increasingly larger bunches of grapes.
I decided this year to do something with the fruit, other than leave it for birds, rabbits and other interested creatures. Grapes were picked and sorted, pressed, then strained to provide juice. Now what to do? Certainly not enough juice to think about attempting wine. The grapes are very seedy, so making jam seemed to be more than I was prepared to deal with.
Here’s where the experimentation came in. Even though I had strained the must 3 times, there was some residual sediment, enough to make the juice somewhat cloudy. The juice was full of tart fruit flavour, moderately sweet. I was hoping to wind up with a savoury jelly, with or without fresh herbs included, that could be used not only on morning pastry but as a side to chicken, pork or beef or as the main component of a reduction that could sauce any of these, or serve as the underpinning to a beautiful dessert plate.
I had a bottle of the delicious GSM (Grenache/Syrah/Mourvèdre) from the Wine Kitz Cellar Craft Sterling collection (which I reviewed here in June 2015). A bit was splashed into the juice and tasted; a bit more splashed in until it suited my taste. A small amount of sugar and some light Certo crystals were added to the juice/wine mix. To half of the prepared juice I added a fresh herb mix of rosemary/thyme/sage, taken from a herb bed near the vines. The other half was left in its original state.
The result was two crystal clear, ruby red jellies bursting with flavour. One batch displays the wine and grape flavours; the other redolent with a hint of summer-fresh herbs. I’d wondered whether I would end up with jelly or soup, but it turned out that luck was on my side, not to mention, the good fortune to have a bottle of Cellar Craft Sterling GSM on hand. My experimentation was deliciously rewarded!
(I put into practice one of my strongest beliefs: only use in cooking wine that you like. Using leftover, old, dull wine or wine that you simply do not like, will add nothing except those faulty flavours or characteristics.)
Prepared for Wine Kitz Ottawa Iris
By Wendy Smyth, Certified Sommelier