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FRESH FIND: CHAMPAGNE GRAPES

DID YOU KNOW? Champagne is not made from the "Champagne" grape. That honor belongs to chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier.

The Champagne grape found in stores is actually the black corinth, also known as zante, according to The New Food Lover's Companion. The grape is believed to hail from Greece. Its more glamorous nickname is generally attributed to smart marketing and, possibly, a nod to their pea-sized bubbly shape.

The grapes are deeply colored violet, lavishly clustered and very sweet and juicy, with a crisp snap on the finish. Dried, the grapes are called zante currants because of their resemblance to true currants.

BUYING TIPS: Champagne grapes are in season from mid June through October. Look for unblemished grapes with fresh stems.

STORING HINTS: Refrigerate up to one week in a plastic bag.

PREPARATION TIPS: Use as you would ordinary grapes: as a snack eaten out of hand, in salads and sandwiches, paired with cheeses (particularly good with these grapes are double- or triple-creams and blue cheeses). Wash the grapes and drain well before using. Champagne grapes are often used as edible garnishes for cakes and molded desserts and are often used in baking.

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