We can't believe how fast things are moving on the vineyard at the moment, and with the heat wave that seems to have run most of the Summer, many of you have been asking us how the weather has affected the vines this year.
It's fair to say that, so far, we have had a bit of luck this year on the vineyard. We escaped the Spring frosts, and good weather in June and July resulted in excellent flowering and fruit set. All the hot weather the summer now means that the vineyard is looking great; there's so much fruit on the vines! Too much in fact, so now we are taking some off in what's known as a green harvest.
The downside of having a lot of fruit is that it might not all ripen in time, so we remove some of the bunches now to give the remaining fruit the best chance of ripening. This should hopefully mean that we harvest a high quality crop this year. This video was filmed when we made Monty's Pet Nat and it explains a bit more about why we do a green harvest. But what happens to those grapes?
This week a team from the Bel and The Dragon restaurants came to the vineyard to help us with the green harvest. At this stage, the grapes are still quite hard and taste very acidic, but the Bel and The Dragon chefs are going to make verjus - the juice obtained from pressing the grapes at this stage.
The earliest reference to verjus dates back to 71AD, where a Roman recipe cites three different types of grape juice: grape juice syrup, wine and verjus, and it was commonly used in medieval kitchens until other sour ingredients including lemons arrived from Europe. Recently there has been a verjus revival and it is starting to make an appearance in modern recipes; Nigel Slater has a recipe for chicken with verjus, celery and cream, and Ottolenghi braises fennel, capers and olives in verjus. We look forward to seeing what the Bel and The Dragon come up with!