spring

Vidacycle Taster Dinner part 2

Vidacycle Taster Dinner part 2 559 397 Abby

This follows on from part 1.

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Jeremy and Joy were the chefs, first up was Joy’s blanched chard and rhubarb toast, with olive oil and agraz dressing, along with the tarragon and radicchio salad with the most amazing olive oil, agraz and shallots dressing.

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The beauty of the agraz in dressings is that unlike lemon juice and vinegar it brings a very refreshing balance without overpowering the flavours of the food itself, it seems to highlight and accentuate just how fresh and tasty the olive oil, lettuce, chard and rhubarb are. The TINTE wine also goes perfectly with this, which makes sense because it’s made from exactly the same vines, just the grapes are now fully ripe and full of sugar – the two flavours are in sync with each other.

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For our main course Jeremy made a mushroom porridge, with chanterelles and black trumpets hidden under a charred red cabbage leaf. Plus little purple carrots with a milky white herb dip.
For the porridge, the spelt was toasted for a few minutes in olive oil and then cooked in water and the short grain brown rice soaked over night in water to soften it up. Both the wine and agraz were added to the rice and spelt as they were cooked to highlight and deepen the flavours.
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The agraz was also used in the beurre blanc which made the porridge ‘creamy’ – unbelievably delicious! We served another Chilean natural wine with this course because we prefer TINTE 2014 before or after dinner.

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Finally for dessert we has almond cake with almond milk jelly, TINTE jelly and a cashew butterscotch sauce. Thanks to The Pressery girls for giving us 1L of their raw almond milk which Jeremy jellyfied with gelatine . The TINTE jelly was a real hit, the rich flavours worked perfectly in a more solid format.

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Vidacycle Taster Dinner part 1

Vidacycle Taster Dinner part 1 559 397 Abby

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One of the interesting things about creating products that are either particularly unique or not well-known by people is that they there is no language set out to describe them. Even the rich orange-pink colour of the wine is complex to convey. Tinte also has a wealth of flavour not found in many more conventional wines as we have stuck to the completely natural process – the farming and care of the vines and the soil determines the flavours, not the addition of yeast and sulphites starting and stopping the fermentation at will. This is natural wine at its best – unpredictable, flavourful and refreshing.

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The other product produced from our 100 year old vines is agraz (or verjus) a little-known waste-product of wine-making. It’s made in early Summer when the vines are thinned and all the lower hanging green grapes removed. These green grapes are sugarless and produce an extremely bitter but fresh grape juice that is used instead of lemon or vinegar to balance sauces, drinks and dressings.

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So we invited round some of our friends who have supported us along the way in making these products to drink the wine and eat food prepared with our agraz, olive oil and TINTE and see what words they used, and what flavours they liked.

Jeremy and Joy were the chefs…read more in part 2.

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verjus, vinegar and lemon juice

verjus, vinegar and lemon juice 559 397 Abby

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When I was thinking about what to make for the tasting dinner I was drawn to look at Alice Water’s book ‘The Art to Simple Food II’, after flicking through the pages to glance at inspiring recipes, verjus jumped out at me in a range of recipes, from dessert all the way to drinks! There were also several of Alice’s recipes that use lemon juice and champagne vinegar – both of these can be substituted with verjus. It was interesting she often coupled it with rhubarb, and I had rhubarb and chard growing in the back gardens so I went for the rhubarb and chard crostini plus the other recipe I liked was the crab salad with tarragon and chicory. Both went down really well and the flavours of our agraz and olive oil really sang through to create a fresh flavour combo! Next time I’m going to try the salad with Manchego cheese instead for a good vegetarian alternative.

Joy

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flavours of changing seasons

flavours of changing seasons 559 397 Abby

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We shared our olive oil, agraz and the Tinte wine with our friend Jeremy, a young chef who has done stints at Noma and Dinner both 2 Michelin Star destinations, and is now opening up his own restaurant Ikoyi. He is amazingly creative with flavours and has heard lots about Fundo Meza for many years…so he is the perfect person to explore different dishes using our ingredients. Joy Rose, part of the vidacycle team and culinary crafter, also made some simpler and super delicious concoctions for starters and a salad. Our friend Claudia also took all these great photos.

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Jeremy made crisped chicken thigh, with agraz brown butter emulsion, and cashew tahini in a cabbage taco and a ‘grapes through the seasons’ dessert, both were indescribably good. We all just sat there in silence for a few minutes, stunned and humbled by the wonderful flavours. The whole evening brought out the power of good quality food and the wholehearted wonder in feeling connected to the land.

You can hear more about Joy’s recipes and thoughts here. Jeremy also talked us through the way he approached each dish…

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Grapes through the seasons – cold pear in agraz syrup and hot pear in Tinte wine caramel with thyme crumble (butter and ground almonds toasted with fresh thyme leaves and salt)

The inspiration for the pear dish is the change of seasons, the evolution of the grapes from unripe, tangy and sharp, to sweet, rich and fermented. The hot and cold elements, the chilled verjus (agraz) pears set against the warm pears stewed in mulled Tinte wine caramel is intended to bring out dominant flavours for the two seasons- refreshing, zingy and cool, versus spiced and warming. The thyme crumble gives the dish some crunch, the slight salinity brings out all the other sweetness, and the fresh thyme cuts through everything subtly, cooling it all down and giving the dish a unique hint of savoury.

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Crisped chicken thigh, with agraz brown butter emulsion, and cashew tahini in a cabbage taco

The chicken dish was just for fun, to taste like a taco but with the complex richness of the agraz brown butter emulsion. I liked the idea of “hiding” everything inside the translucent cabbage leaf. You bite into it and underneath there are all these flavours: the rice roasted cashew tahini, the crispy chicken skin and juicy meat, and then the mildly acidic but butterscotch flavour of the sauce, with some sharpness from the capers and fragrance from the fresh parsley. It’s a complete dish and well balanced, also looks pretty cool.

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Jeremy also created this recipe with our Agraz.

first olive oil

first olive oil 559 397 Abby

This year was the first year we made enough oil to make a small quantity of taster bottles to share with friends and family. Here is a bit of the blurb from the bottle: The land of Fundo Meza is now the home of many dry farmed olive trees, all of different ages, which produce small but flavourful fruits. Each olive is harvested by hand and processed on the farm which is all part of our simple philosophy – do not add anything synthetic and honour the trees. It takes time but each tree has a life of its own and we learn more each year about the workings of nature and the trees. This olive oil is our first offering, the authenticity of each tree’s upbringing shines through in this oil’s rustic flavours.

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raw agraz

raw agraz 559 397 Abby

This is our third bottling of Agraz – it still has the same tangy flavours and adds that extra zing to many drinks and dishes. Our agraz, or verjus, is lovingly crafted from our dry farmed, very old Pais vines. We thin the vineyards early in the season to capture the fresh green grape flavours for our agraz. This bottle brings you the raw elegance of our varied soil with nothing added to the organic grapes from vineyard to bottle. Agraz adds a new refreshing edge to dressings or sauces, drinks and many other dishes, like this beetroot salad and pine duck.

You can listen to a short radio recording about our agraz adventures here.

Agraz

If you have previously tried verjus we think you will be pleasantly surprised by the unique flavours of our agraz. We have really embraced harvesting the grapes when they are very green, so contain almost zero sugar. There are two reasons for this: for one we like the extra-bitter quality as it really heightens the flavours of dishes; secondly, due to the sugar levels being so low we do not need to add sulphates to prevent fermentation as there are not enough sugars present for proper fermentation to occur. (We do lightly heat the agraz to pasteurisation temperatures to be extra sure  you don’t end up with any fermentation).

 

first wine

first wine 559 397 Abby

Finally our first wine is bottled and ready to be drunk!  TINTE is a natural wine* lovingly crafted from our dry farmed and very old Pais vines. We give you the raw flavours of our varied soil and nature’s yeast with nothing added to the organic grapes from vineyard to bottle. TINTE allows us to share with you the beauty and integrity of the land here at Fundo Meza. You can buy TINTE here.

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We have found TINTE is best drunk chilled before or after dinner. It can also be a nice accompaniment with salads or spicy food…but everyone’s tastes are different so experiment for yourself.
We started making wine a few years ago, the first batches had a few quirks but thanks to some great advice from the local Maule young winemakers club we were able to develop techniques that allow the grape and lands to be fully expressed in TINTE.
This is the beauty of natural wines, they have an integrity to the grape and the land, rich nutritious soils and warm air create an exciting flavourful wine. This also means each year will be a new experience, a new wine. Enjoy!

Why TINTE tastes like it does:
Our 100 year old Pais vines are dry farmed (we never water them) and soak up the strong sun and elements in Chile, which ensures the strong unique flavours of the grapes.
Our small farm is certified organic but our approach is beyond organic,we practise something closer to natural agriculture and don’t do anything to the vines other than gently prune them and thin them in early Summer (to make the agraz).
When the grapes have turned red we hand-harvest them, press them and store the juice in a mixture of small steel tanks and old oak barrels. The unique pinky orange colour of our wine is formed at this point because we don’t add back in the red skins for the fermentation. The natural yeast on the grapes starts the fermentation and we allow the grapes to ferment fully over about 9 months in one long cycle. This is truly a natural wine, no artificial yeast or sulphates are use to start/stop the fermentation process…the grapes are in charge.

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*natural wine means the wine was made on a small-scale using very traditional methods with minimum intervention, really allowing the flavour of the land to determine the characteristics of the wine. We rely on natural yeasts on the grapes and in the air and don’t add any sulphates (although some natural wines do contain sulphates). Rather than the idea of a ‘conventional red or white wine’, natural wines are exciting because of their wide variety of colours, flavours – each bottle a new experience, the true tastes of a particular place on our planet, unlike any other.

baby olives

baby olives 150 150 Abby

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The tiny beginnings of this year’s olives are peeking out after the flowers have fallen away.

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promise

promise 150 150 Abby

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The vegetable garden once again shows the promise of delicious foods to come. The maize is sprouting tall, the squash plants have built their shaded nest with their large leaves and the fruits are bulging green on the trees.

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pollinators

pollinators 150 150 Abby

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Around the world there are many ‘save the bees’ campaigns because large numbers of bees have mysteriously died off over the last 20 years. According to Greenpeace a third of all our food depends on pollination by honey bees and other insects – so it’s important we look after them. Of course on the farm we don’t use any pesticides, and we try to keep a good mixture of plants around so the bees can feast away. They seem overjoyed by the vast quantities of flowers on the olive trees. Spread the word, save the bees!

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