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From Grapes to Grappa

Chef-turned-winemaker David Page and his wife, Barbara Shinn, of Long Island’s Shinn Estate Vineyards, share eight homey recipes that showcase the grape at every stage of its life.
Leaves
Stuffed Grape Leaves with Pork and Fregola

In the spring, grapevines start to sprout shoots, then leaves that, over the course of about six weeks, grow to approximately the size of a human hand. Leaves meant for cooking are best picked while they’re still tender, in late spring or early summer.

» Recipe: Stuffed Grape Leaves with Pork and Fregola

Grapes
Rosemary Flatbread with Blue Cheese, Grapes and Honey

After a vine flowers in the late spring, grapes start to grow in a process called fruit set. Forty to 60 days later, the grapes start to change color (this is called veraison). Grapes are ripe enough to harvest anywhere from 30 to 70 days after veraison.

» Recipe: Rosemary Flatbread with Blue Cheese, Grapes and Honey

Verjus
Roasted Lobsters with Verjus and Tarragon

To help concentrate a vine’s nutrients, winemakers often trim unripe grapes. Some press the juice from these grapes to make verjus, a pleasantly tangy condiment that’s a great alternative to vinegar, because it’s less tart and easier to pair with wine.

» Recipe: Roasted Lobsters with Verjus and Tarragon

Juice

Grape juice must be pasteurized and treated with sulfites to keep it tasting fresh. Most juice is made from table grapes, like Concords and Thompsons, but new juices are pressed from wine grapes, like Didier Goubet Merlot de Bordeaux Organic Grape Juice ($15; napacabs.com).

» Recipe: Grape Sparklers

Wine

Roughly 80 percent of the world’s grapes become wine through fermentation, in which yeast converts the sugars into alcohol. The cooler the temperature, the longer fermentation takes. Red wines usually ferment in a few days; whites can take weeks.

» Recipe: Merlot-Braised Lamb Shoulder with Lemon Gremolata

Vinegar
Pork Braised in Champagne Vinegar

Prolonged exposure to oxygen will eventually transform any wine into vinegar. Artisanal vinegars tend to be fruitier, milder and more complex than supermarket varieties. California’s O Olive Oil makes single-varietal vinegars, like Pinot Noir and Zinfandel ($12; ooliveoil.com).

» Recipe: Pork Braised in Champagne Vinegar

Raisins

Since raisins have so little moisture and so much sugar, they rarely spoil. Most raisins are made by setting grapes out on trays to dry for two to four weeks. Raisins still on the vine are fruitier and softer than those that come in a box ($6 for 4 oz; murrayscheese.com).

» Recipe: Raisin-Studded Apple Bread Pudding

Grappa
Grappa-Cured Striped Bass

Grappa, a clear Italian spirit served as a digestif, is made by distilling grape pomace (the skins, seeds and stems left over from winemaking). The best versions, like the elegant Alexander Grappa, are fragrant and nuanced. Oak aging can help soften and sweeten the fiery spirit.

» Recipe: Grappa-Cured Striped Bass

Published October 2008
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