I think the world must be divided into two types of people – those who taste their grapes at the grocery store before they buy them, and those who glare at the grape-tasters as if they have caught a robbery in progress.
I am an unapologetic member of the first group and believe me, it’s not because I have criminal tendencies or because I just can’t stop myself from having a tempting little snack at some corporate giant’s expense. I taste my grapes before I buy because all too often I have arrived home with a gorgeous, expensive bunch of grapes imported from God-knows where that turn out to be insufferably sour or have no taste at all.
Man that makes me mad. Even with in-store tasting it’s hard to guarantee a delicious bunch of grapes anymore here in Indiana, so mostly I have stopped trying.
But as I was about to leave the Farmers Market last Saturday, so weighted down with heavy end-of-summer vegetables that I could hardly haul the basket one more step, I stopped at one of my favorite stands to buy some of the sweetest, cutest, tiniest eggplants you have ever seen. Adding a couple of pints of those to my bulging woven basket, I caught sight of a display of table grapes.
Grapes in Indiana? With the proprietor of the stand looking right at me, I was reluctant to subject them to my usual test so I just asked: these any good? Oh yes, she assured me, showing me the Simmons Winery logo on her tee shirt. Since local market rules don’t let them sell their wine, I had never realized that they were a winery, but maybe they knew what they were doing in the grape-department. I bought a bunch, and once they were legally mine, promptly popped one in my mouth.
Oh. My. God.
Grapes can taste like that? These grapes were a revelation, bursting with a honey-like sweetness and the intense flavor of… grapes? I guess I never knew.
So I have been savoring them slowly all week, reluctant to finish them off before Saturday when I hope I can buy some more. But last night I noticed they were getting a little soft and tired looking, so I thought I’d throw the rest in the juicer. Wow. I got a full glass of something so totally Un-Welch’s that can’t believe it’s related to that dark purple, moustache-making sugary kid’s drink.
Real grape juice, from grapes. It wasn’t the prettiest stuff – a grassy green that looked like extra virgin olive oil without the glossy sheen – but it tasted like nectar. Wonderfully sweet, with the crisp fall overtones of an apple. I cut it with a little Pellegrino and it became more delicate, sparkling and refreshing, a meal-enhancing beverage for non-wine drinkers. I was especially interested in this lately, ever since I conducted a little taste test with these products and became convinced that such beverages must exist, but that no one has found them yet.
But more on that another time. For now I am still focused on my new-found grape friends and wondering how they would taste in a palate cleansing sorbet. Or perhaps in Bea’s lovely clafoutis recipe at La Tartine Gourmande? Maybe on Saturday I can find out.