When we first heard the word “verjus,” it was whispered to us by a brilliant bartender friend. “It’s going to be perfect for Kally” he asserted confidently (and quietly).
We were in the middle of solving one of the great challenges of non-alcoholic beverages — how to tell the brain to sip a drink — not gulp it. Kally needed a little bite in the mouth — the same bite you taste when enjoying wine…or a cocktail or a good beer.
We’d been experimenting with options but the bite from lemon (citric acid) was too ordinary. The sour from vinegar (acetic acid) was too off-putting. Kally’s complex layers of flavor demanded something special.
The sour from verjus (tartaric acid) was the perfect ingredient and the missing piece of the puzzle.
So what is verjus? The tartaric acid in verjus comes from unripe grapes. The grapes are picked at about half the sweetness of grapes used to make wine, and are pressed to make a beautiful sour juice with just a hint of sugar and a low pH. The juice never gets fermented, and so alcohol never enters the picture.
We were far from the first ones to discover verjus. The Romans made verjus two thousand years ago, and it’s been popular in foodie circles ever since.
Our verjus comes from chardonnay grapes we pick in late August in the Napa Valley and the Central Valley of California. The grapes are only a little bigger than peas, and firm to touch, when we take them off the vines. We press the grapes at a vineyard and produce a beautiful golden juice which we then chill, filter, and store in barrels until we are ready to use it.
Verjus is the hero ingredient in Kally (and the most expensive). Because the grapes are still unripe, each grape contains far less juice than it would if allowed to grow to maturity. Plus, the premium quality grapes in Kally are in high demand. If we didn’t use them, they’d be in some of the best chardonnay wines in the world.
Look out for that hint of sour in your next sip of Kally.