A Little Icewine Pasta Anyone?
Jordan Chef Finds New Life for Leftover Grapes
By Judy Creighton, The Canadian Press
Who would have thought the leftover grapes normally bound for landfills or for use as fertilizer at the wineries in the Niagara area would end up in a loaf of bread or a plate of pasta?
It's all because of Mark Walpole's curiosity and his need as a chef to be constantly trying unusual flavourings, recipes and combinations, with a special eye to foods that are unusual and healthy.
"Living in the winery belt and driving around, you see mounds of spent grapes piled up and it smells and it is a disposable product," says the 51-year-old.
He decided to seek the help of the research and development staff at the Guelph Food Technology Centre, a not-for-profit organization based in Guelph that provides creative consulting to organizations in the Canadian agri-food industry, to see if something could be made from the compost.
What they found was that there were formidable health benefits to be derived from the pomace - the grape skins - after they had been dried and ground.
"They weren't surprised to find the pomace naturally high in fibre and that the skins are rich in polyphenols such as antioxidants and resveratrol, which helps the body fight against a number of illnesses including cancer," Walpole said in an interview.
But what do you do with ground-up grape skins? Walpole decided that the high fibre and omega-3 fatty acid content made the product a good candidate for wine powder or flour. But he just needed a mill to process the grape skins.
And thus was born Vinifera For Life, his company based in Jordan Station.
Four "varietals" of the flour - Cabernet, Chardonnay, Icewine and Late Harvest grapes - are now being used by a number of independent bakeries for bread. Sobey's supermarket chain is also making a pasta.
Joseph Kedzierski, a baker in St. Catharines, has drawn a great deal of customer enthusiasm for his baguettes made with the wine flour.
"I charge $1.50 a loaf and if they ask for focaccia, I'll make it," says the Polish baker, who has known Walpole for 40 years.
"When he (Mark) first told me what he was doing with the grapes, I told him he was stupid. Not anymore," Kedzierski says, chuckling.
Walpole is extending the market in the anticipation of using the wine powder for products other than bread.
"This could translate into using the flour or powder to produce crackers, snack foods, cheese, energy bars or drinks," he says.
Market research done for the company at the University of Waterloo's Innovation Centre suggests consumers are seeking healthy choices in what they eat.
Walpole says there are two sides to the idea of using wine flour.
"There's the romantic idea of having colourful and flavourful breads, and there's the functional foods side of helping to make lifestyle choices for healthy eating."
And he adds, "It's a cool food product."
Funding for this project was provided in part by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada through the Agricultural Adaptation Council's CanAdvance Program.