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Texas A&M AgriLife Makes Verjus When Growers Experience Uneven Harvest Conditions

The Texas High Plains is home to 80% of the grapes that fuel a burgeoning Texas wine industry. But the High Plains is also home to some formidable obstacles to grape growing, which is why Texas A&M AgriLife has focused research initiatives to help growers find solutions. One of the people supporting that industry is Pierre Helwi, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the horticulture department and AgriLife Extension viticulture specialist based in Lubbock. Helwi came from Cognac, France, six years ago and has helped build a program concentrating on applied research to meet growers’ needs.

One of his projects looked at the use of verjus, or green juice, from grapes that are still unripe at harvest, caused by an uneven growing pattern across vineyards. Helwi said instead of throwing these grapes away, the Texas A&M AgriLife team determined those grapes could be used to make verjus and used as an acidifier for the Texas wine, which can have too-low levels of acid, or high pH.

“We are always working on a tactic or techniques to correct the wine pH or acidity,” he said. “Growers or winemakers use tartaric acids typically. So, we said, why don’t we produce verjus instead of letting those grapes be wasted? Why would we throw them away when we can produce something that we can use as an acidifier for the final wine instead of tartaric acid?”

The Texas Department of Agriculture funded the project and Helwi was joined by Andreea Botezatu, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension enology specialist, Bryan-College Station; Justin Scheiner, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension state viticulturist, Bryan-College Station; and Hillin. Hillin, Botezatu and Scheiner will continue that work for the next few years. Collaborating on the project are Charlie Hall, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Horticultural Sciences, Bryan-College Station, and Xiaofen Du, Ph.D., Texas Woman’s University assistant professor and flavor chemist. — By Kay Ledbetter, Texas A&M AgriLife

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