Vendanges, or how to make grape juice

Grape vines cover the terrace of the house where we are staying, much to the liking of Petit Chat.

when she was still petit - circa 2009
when she was still petit – circa 2009

It’s nice in the summer for a bit of shade, but we’ve never been around for the grape harvest, or vendanges. Not that I really knew what to do with the grapes anyways. The first thought, of course, was to make wine! But after some googling, I realized I would need to invest in quite a lot of equipment, so we might save that for next year. We decided instead to make some homemade grape juice.

It was the first weekend in October when T deemed the grapes ready for harvest. And even then, they could have used a bit more sun.

les vignes
les vignes

First, cut off a bunch of bunches and put them in a pot of water to clean them up. Then picked off the individual grapes (it’s OK if there are some stems).

pretty little grapes
pretty little grapes

After that, working in batches, you need a bit of elbow grease to mash up the grapes.

mashing and must
mashing and must

The resulting mess is called moût, or “must” in English (learned a new word, thanks Wikipedia). Throw the must into a big pot and bring it to a simmer. Let it cook for about 10 minutes, mashing a bit more halfway through. To filter the grape juice, you can use cheesecloth or a fine mesh colander, but we just used a dish towel that we tied over a large pot. After about an hour, squeeze out the remaining juice and voilà!

Once it cools you can keep it in the fridge for a few days – it will start fermenting around day three. We decided to freeze most of the grape juice, though it apparently loses a bit of flavor compared to fresh juice.

What to do with grape juice? You can drink it for breakfast, or drink it for cocktail hour! We mixed it with a bit of rum and some sparkling water. I need some help coming up with a name for the drink!

grape juice + rum + fizzy water = Grape Fizz?
grape juice, rum, fizzy water = Grape Fizz?
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