Harvest Season: Making Verjus
Love that tart pucker and sweet tingle? Get to know the source!
About halfway through the summer growing season, you'll find us in the sunny vineyards of California picking tart grapes—the first step to making verjus, the hero ingredient in Kally. We pick grapes to make our verjus many weeks before they'd otherwise be harvested to make wine. Why? We're taking advantage of a magical moment called veraison.
Veraison marks the turning point at which grapes stop growing and the vine's energy goes into the ripening of the grape clusters. The grape skins start to change color, the fruit starts to ripen, and the grape flavor goes from sour to sweet as the acidity decreases. This is when we pounce. The chardonnay grapes we pick are firm to the touch, tart, and have half the sweetness—and twice the acidity—of a ripe grape.
Historically, verjus was made from “garbage grapes”—the grapes thinned from vines before harvest season. Fruit thinning occurs when farmers remove clusters of grapes from the vines to increase the quality of the fruit that remains. With less fruit on the vines, the plants concentrate flavor in the remaining grapes, ultimately yielding richer wines. In some vineyards, up to a third of the grapes are thinned from vines. Over the years, farmers realized that letting the discarded grapes rot on the ground was a huge waste, and started pressing them to make verjus.
To get the quantity and quality of grapes we need to make Kally, we chose to pick grapes directly from the vine. This allows us to use only the best grapes and precisely control the sugar and acidity to ensure that our verjus is ideal for Kally. These characteristics change constantly and there is only a one or two day harvest window when the grapes have the characteristics we need to make the world-class verjus that goes into Kally.
Our verjus comes from chardonnay grapes we pick in late August in the valleys and hillsides of California. The grapes are only a little bigger than peas, and firm to the touch, when we take them off the vines. We pick our grapes early in the morning as the sun rises, and immediately transport them from the fields to the vineyard. Trucks empty the grapes into chutes which de-stem the grapes before they’re crushed into a golden juice (verjus!) and collected into large tanks. We then carefully filter the verjus to remove any impurities that might affect the quality. The verjus is chilled to near freezing where it stays until it’s ready to be packaged for use in Kally.
Each year’s verjus is different. Sweetness and acidity levels vary based on the weather, the vineyard plot from which the grapes are harvested, and many other factors. We carefully measure the acidity and sweetness in each harvest and adjust our other ingredients as needed.Love that tart pucker and a sweet tingle of Kally? Now you know the source! Verjus carries these delicious characteristics straight from the grapevines of California into each sip of Kally.