On just one day each season, 30-year-old Muscat grapes normally reserved for wine-making are handpicked and pressed at Millton Vineyard near Gisborne to produce an award-winning grape juice whose name means ‘nectar of the gods’.
“We bottle Amrita Grape Juice in an old-fashioned glass ‘milk bottle’ which shows off the juice’s luminous golden colour,” says Sam Millton.
It was his father James Millton who decided to make a non-alcoholic beverage from the vineyard’s biodynamically-grown grapes.
“The idea was to export the juice to India but due to local popularity that hasn’t happened so far,” says Sam.
Meanwhile, the grape juice has found favour in New Zealand with those keen to enjoy an alcohol-free beverage – to use as a mixer for cocktails, or in cooking.
It also won over judges in the 2017 Farmers’ Markets New Zealand Food Awards who awarded Millton Winery’s Amrita grape juice the title of winner in the ‘most delicious beverages’ section.
“That was a really nice section to win,” says Sam who sells the juice at the Gisborne Farmers Market where he enjoys demonstrating its versatility.
Called an elixir
“It’s great as a drink just as it is. The juice is full of goodness. We call it an elixir. Nothing is added. It’s all fruit, pressed one day, allowed to settle and then bottled.”
Amrita is described as “full-bodied flavours, deliciously sweet and intensely fragrant, it is the perfect refreshment whether served chilled on ice, mixed with mineral water or as your favourite cocktail mixer. 100 per cent pure grape juice, with no added colouring, flavouring or preservatives and abundantly packed with health-giving antioxidants, amino acids and vitamins, Amrita is a unique tasty treat”.
At winter farmers’ markets Sam gently warms the juice and adds a range of spices, turning it into a mulled drink. “When it’s warmer I make ‘mocktails’, adding ice and lime, lemon grass or cucumber to show how versatile it is.”
Jelly for desert
As well as sales at the market and through the winery’s website, the juice is also available from liquor stores and health food shops around New Zealand.
Restaurants order the juice too and many chefs use it to in their dishes, including as a jelly for desert, while bar staff use the juice in cocktails.
Last harvest Millton Vineyard made between 7000-8000 bottles of juice and because it has been so popular, the vineyard plans to make more in 2018.
Millton Vineyard, New Zealand’s first certified organic vineyard and winery, was established by James and Annie Millton on the banks of the Te Arai River near Manutuke in 1984.
Millton was the first producer in New Zealand to attain BioGro certification for organic wine production in 1989. Having practiced traditional methods of cultivation and production centred on biodynamic principles since inception, Millton was also the first winegrower in the Southern Hemisphere to gain the biodynamic certification Demeter in 2009. The winery has won a series of national and international awards for its wines.
“It’s no secret that the best grapes come from a vine that is grown with sensitivity to the environment, and with little or no reliance on chemical inputs,” says James Millton.
Thanks to Millton Vineyard, Coast & Country News has a case of Amrita Grape Juice to give away. To be in to win answer the following question: “What does Amrita mean?” and email your answer, along with your name and address with Millton Vineyard as the subject line to email@example.com Or put these details on the back of an envelope and post to Country Funnies, PO Box 240, Tauranga 3140 to arrive no later than November 19.