Sweet Sapphire

Last November, after collecting our single Reddy Robin in Belgium, we found ourselves in Delft, where we stayed for a day and a night, before spending the weekend in Oldenzaal with some of the most kindhearted and real people on this planet.

Visiting friends in Oldenzaal.
In Oldenzaal visiting our friends.

Delft is a beautiful little town, although, after our short time there, I am of the opinion all towns in Holland are beautiful. We arrived in the middle of rainy weather, so the experience was very similar to the way I have always imagined Holland to be…covered in water. We stayed in a hotel across from a very skew, scary skew church tower. But all went well and I live to tell the tale.

Scary skew church tower in Delft. Also known as De Oude Kerk.
Scary skew church tower in Delft. De Oude Kerk, nicknamed Oude Jan (Old John).

That evening we had dinner at ‘t Poskantoor. The food was delicious and the decor and ambiance were beautifully comforting.

Contemplating if 't Poskantoor be a good dinner spot. It did not disappoint!
Contemplating if ‘t Poskantoor would be a good dinner spot. It did not disappoint! Quite the contrary.

Delft is probably most famous for Delft Blue, deep blue and white hand-made pottery. My mission was to buy at least a cup and saucer set of original handcrafted, hand painted Royal Delft. So the next morning, while Wil and the girls took shelter in a coffee shop on Delft Markt, I started my mission. Two shops from the coffee shop I discovered Royal Delft…quick search for Delft in Delft.

Upon entering the shop I was greeted by a friendly lady who knew her Delft Blue. Very ambitious (and naive in hindsight) I announced: “No made in China for me please I want the original Royal Delft goodies”. So, she took me upstairs…the excitement started to brew in my chest. She showed me the Royal Delft collection. I must be honest I am not that into pottery but Royal Delft is something else. It was magnificent and took me back to my childhood. My mother had a Delft Blue tea set that we were barely allowed to look at, let alone touch!  So you can imagine the thrill when I picked up the beautiful hand painted Delft tea-cup. While admiring the piece of art, I caught a glimpse of the price…

The brewing excitement in my chest lost its whistle.

In that moment I understood why my dear mother guarded her tea set like gold…it pretty much is!  I oh-so-carefully placed the cup back on the shelf and made my way down the stairs. The lady graciously suggested I buy a thimble. Pulling up the corners of my mouth I said: “I don’t sew, I drink tea”. I thanked her for her time, took a snapshot and was on my way.

Snap of Delft Blue.
Snapshot of Delft Blue.

We did buy some of the most delicious cheeses ever, while there and of course zoute drop for Wil. The man is addicted! I firmly believe his Dutch roots are to blame. Zoute drop is a variety of liquorice sweets, flavoured with ammonium chloride, which is very popular in the Netherlands. The ammonium chloride is what gives zoute drop its salty taste. According to Wil, OldTimers are the best brand! I’ll take his word for it. Zoute drop is usually also black or very dark brown like other liquorice sweets, which reminds me of a grape variety Wil brought home a couple of years ago. Not because of the taste, for the love of fruit no! But because of the colour and shape of the grape.

How does this not remind you of liquorice?
How does this not remind you of liquorice?

Why did this grape variety remind me of zoute drop?

Well, first off, the grape is shaped like a drop and secondly, it is black. When seeing the berries for the first time it really is difficult not to be reminded of liquorice.

The beauty of Sweet Sapphire. As the temperatures rise berries grow darker.
The beauty of Sweet Sapphire. As summer draws nearer the berries grow darker.

Liquorice aside…What is the name of the grape variety and how does it taste and feel?

It’s called Sweet Sapphire. It has a long shape, imagine the shape of a blob of honey that you allowed to fall. The length of the berries is 5 to 7 centimeters. The taste is sweet and refreshing with a full body grape flavour. When taking a bite of this unique berry the crisp skin bursts open and the firm flesh explodes in your mouth. The Brix is between 18 and 20 degrees.

The length of the berries are between 5 and 7 centimeters long.
The length of a Sweet Sapphire berry is typically between 5 and 7 centimeters.

How was the shape of this grape achieved?

Sweet Sapphire is 100% Vitis Vinifera species, no other species were combined to produce this variety. The shape was achieved by selective breeding, which in laymen’s terms mean that two grape varieties which showed tendencies to naturally grow longer berries were crossed.  The longest berries that grew from that cross selection were crossed again and so forth. This process of selecting and crossing was done over many years until a berry that was long enough to catch the attention of the crowd was produced.

Sweet Sapphire Shades. Getting ready to impress.
Sweet Sapphire shades. Getting ready to impress.

Who is the patient breeder of Sweet Sapphire?

Dr. David Cain, who is a fruit breeder from Bakersfield, California, bred this variety by patiently selecting the right (in this case the longest) grapes for many years. The final cross that delivered Sweet Sapphire happened in 2004 and the first commercial harvest was in 2013 in the United States.

We previously mentioned David in a post on Cotton Candy and being the genius he is, he will most definitely be mentioned in future posts on other grape varieties.

Sweet Sapphire on the vine.
Sweet Sapphire on the vine.

Which countries are commercially producing Sweet Sapphire and when are they in season?

South Africa and Australia in season January to February.

Chile in season February.

Mexico in season May to June.

Peru in season October to December.

USA and Spain in season August. Look out for Sweet Sapphire from Grapery in the USA, they sell it under the trade name, Moon Drops.

Sweet Sapphire navel.
Sweet Sapphire up close. Also known as Moon Drops in the USA.

6 thoughts on “Sweet Sapphire

    1. Hi Oliver, yes very much so. The reason is, all producers that grow Sweet Sapphire have to harvest the grapes at a higher sugar level (Brix). The minimum Brix level for grapes to enter the USA is around 16. However, the owner of Sweet Sapphire, IFG requires that their grapes be harvested at a minimum of 18 Brix.
      Waiting for the grapes to ripen to this sweetness level dramatically enhances the flavour experience.

      Take care,
      Mariska and Wil


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