Theories About The Red Wine Hangover

This has been a question that has bugged me for several years now.  And I know people are not drinking wines because of it.  I don’t know how many times I have heard this, but here it goes.   “I can drink European and some American wines like Turtle Run Wines and I don’t get a headache the next day, but if I drink other wines, whammo!”  I’ve toyed around with this question for many years, and here are my thoughts.  I looked on line to see what others thought, and found two websites that I think are worth referencing.  Check out http://www.7× and

In my ADD / ADHD world, I’ll reference the second one first.  I think Lisa Shea provides great insight, especially with the food you eat while consuming wine.   There is not much I can debate about what she writes.  She nails my sulfite thoughts with her dried apricot trick (lots more sulfites in those than wine).  And her discussion on tannins and histamines is very insightful.  So check out, as she answers a lot of questions people have about wine and especially why sulfites are added.

The folks at 7× brings up two great, great points and I think what they write about may be the thorn in your head in the morning.  To quote them:    “Most of us don’t realize that there are lots of secret additives that go into wines, including gelatins, egg whites, milk, fish oils, plastics, clays and many others. Most of these settle out over time, but there are others that don’t — namely flavor concentrates. These flavor concentrates (liquid oak, Mega Red and Purple, grape juice concentrate) and food-safe chemicals are used in inexpensive wines to make them taste like more expensive ones. This can lead to all kinds of trouble. Also, wines with high sugar content and low price tags cause trouble because “you can blend away a whole lot of defects with a little bit of sugar.’”

And another potential zinger from the site about oak barrels:  “Cheap oak (most wines are aged in oak barrels) is often charred to greater levels or treated with chemicals to increase the speed of flavor absorption while the wine ages.”  Laura often talks about tasting wines that have an “artificial oak flavor” to them.  I perused through one of my catalogs and found all sorts of products that can add some quick oak notes as well as others that can bring the life back to barrels.

And for just a general nutrition thought on how artificially derived ingredients can cause some folks issues, check out . “The problem comes in with processed sugar and processed starch. White table sugar has no nutrients. White bread is a processed, artificial starch. These are not foods – they do not nourish.”  Essentially, if you read further into the research, our bodies simply freak out trying to adapt to the modern diet of processed foods, causing all sorts of maladies.  Essentially, when the nature of natural foods is affected via subtraction or addition of ingredients, the body has to cope with what we ingest.  It’s an amazing article, and very long.  Because I have done a lot of research on nutrition, it made a lot of sense to me.  I can see it being a tough first pass read for those that haven’t delved into nutrition very closely.  If you do look into it, I agree with the author that alcohol is a sugar.  But like fructose is processed completely differently than glucose by the body, so does alcohol.  There is a lot of research showing that the more complex the alcoholic beverage is (like wine, the craft beers) the more beneficial and less concerning they are for ingestion.  As with any food or beverage, moderation is the key.

My thoughts on the subject of wine hangovers:   While Lisa is correct that generally speaking wines made in Europe and America are the same, in ways they are different.  I believe many small to mid-sized wineries here and abroad, and many large wineries abroad have not been exposed to all of the crazy additives that exist in the market today.  And I also believe that the main purpose of these additives is to make exceptionally consistent wines and not consistently exceptional wines.  Having worked in the corporate world for many years, bottom line management to quarterly earnings are the main drivers to overall corporate behavior.  With wines containing upwards of 1500 natural chemical compounds, having one vintage better (or worse) than another causes too much variability in those earning reports.  So the drive to consistent wines, wines in which there is little to no vintage variation in flavors, aromas, and mouth feel, and perhaps “better, cheaper, faster” are the driving forces behind the additives that have snuck into our wine industry.  So that’s why, to me, wines have gone down this path.  And I think the over manufacturing of wines with the additives plays a very strong role in those headaches.  My text books from the 1980’s show the French using clays, egg whites, gelatin and even ox blood in the 1800’s to clarify and remove bitterness.  And those products or fining agents do precipitate out of wines.  I don’t have a problem with them per se.  However, due to the very, very good grape press that we have, we are not running into the need to fine wines.  And due to our ability to fine tune our filter to do not strip away character, our need for fining agents diminish even further.  I also think there is nutritional value in those bitters, so as long as we don’t have any negative taste issues, we are leaving them in the wines.

Today, whenever I buy American made wines, I look on the back of the label to see if I can find the family owned labels, most of which say “produced and bottled.”  When I look for European wines, I look for labels that have not been “Americanized” meaning perhaps a little foreign language here and there, very little descriptive wording, etc.

The crystals that 7×7 talks about are not sugar.  If a winery adds sugar into wine, it will dissolve into the wine.  What is on the bottom of some bottles of wine is simply crème of tartar, a very natural precipitate in wines.  All wineries do a process called cold stabilization, in which we freeze the wines before bottling.  However, in a catalog, I see I can now add something that will stabilize my wine without the need to cold stabilize them.  Hmmm…no, I am not going to experiment with that.

So why did I choose to write about this subject matter?  Very simple.  The wine industry is losing customers.  If you, perhaps, got a zinger of a headache from drinking a red wine, you probably don’t want to drink that beverage again.  Perhaps you tried after the headache a dry red again on a later date, and again got zinged by a headache.  Red wine suddenly gets crossed off the list.  What I want to say is that not all wines are made this way.  I speculate the reason why all of us haven’t adapted to the additive approach is multi-faceted.  First, some of us have not been exposed to the new chemistry like I have.  Second, there can be reluctance to adding some of these things, such as I have had.  Have these chemicals been fully tested?  What is the real impact to adding these to the winemaking process?  I’ve been successful without them, some wineries may be saying, so why should I change now?  And perhaps after making a test run of wine with chemical additions, wineries have found that that the flavors are inconsistent with the wines they have been making for many years.  I’m sure there are other reasons as well.

We’ve just had too many conversations with customers who no longer drink certain categories of wines.  And when I question them if they had these problems with Turtle Run wines, I get a “no” nearly every time.

Over the years, Laura and I have developed a “taste” for the adjuncts that are added to wines.  We can sense them right away in both taste and smell.  Laura and I regularly drink other wines aside from Turtle Run.  When we open a wine with the characteristic taste markers of these additives, we simply open another bottle. I know, it’s a waste, but so is waking up not feeling great the next day.  Which costs more?  Loss of productivity from feeling off our game or the cost of not finishing a bottle that has additives that don’t come natural to the wines?  By the way, Laura has been urging me to use some of these wines in wine appreciation classes for the past few years.  Perhaps I will in February, with the labels removed.

Paradigm Shift on Wine Glasses — Red Wine Glass? Perhaps Not

Paradigm Shift — Pair the Wine You Prefer in the Shape of Glass You Prefer. And What Shape is Yours?

In November 1992, Laura and I were back from our honeymoon, and we just sat down for a nice evening at our Douglas Hills apartment in Middletown, Kentucky. We received lots of different wine glasses for our wedding – big and small. We opened a Chardonnay, probably a Meridian as that was one of our favorites back then. We grabbed some very basic glasses with not much curves to them at all. At that time, we were not aware with shapes of glasses affecting the flavor of wine, or at least if they had, it wasn’t widely published. We’ll, I really liked Meridian and in that wine glass that chardonnay had no “pop” to it. So I got up, grabbed a much more curvy glass and came back to the couch with an empty glass in hand. Laura looked inquisitively and didn’t say a word. I took the wine from the straight glass and poured it into my curvy glass, tasted, and exclaimed, “Much better!” Then I learned about marriage. Laura looked at me again in total bewilderment. The first bewilderment was, “Really, the wine tastes different and better in the curvy glass?” “Second, where’s my curvy wine glass?!?!” Uh-oh. We had no clue, but we knew we discovered something, something real, that wasn’t in our imagination. Wine does taste different out of different glasses.

Today’s wine industry has become loaded with rules about glasses and everything else. You are expected to enjoy Chardonnay out of one glass, Cabernet out of another, Riesling out of a third, and so on. If you are a “real expert”, you have a specific glass for chardonnay grown in Burgundy, France and one for a Napa, California chardonnay. When I talk to consumers who know about these “rules” they are seemingly in complete lock-step with them. When I ask them why and if they have experimented with the rules, and used a chardonnay glass for cabernet sauvignon or drank a cab out of a Riesling glass, stunned bewilderment expresses itself both in facial expressions and reactionary words. However, some folks have that inquisitive look of “hmmm…I never thought of that.”

A good friend of mine posted this on Facebook. I thought I’d share:

Thanks, Tim Hanni, Master of Wine, for the picture! Think about it, is there the right car, the best color a care should be, the right house, the right job, the best type of spaghetti sauce, the best chili, the best fried chicken, even the best steak and how a steak should be best prepared? I like the steak analogy because when you go to a restaurant, they’ll ask you how you like your steak prepared, from rare to well done. There may be some light debate at the table, especially between the rare’s and the well’s, but nothing much comes of it. No one is really wrong. But what if one of the patrons wants to order a sweet Moscato to go with that steak? Hmmm….eyebrows are raised. And perhaps the wait staff may suggest that the steak will taste better with a dry red. But they won’t argue about cooking the steak rare to medium to well done, will they? But wine a “wrong” wine pairing? Moscato and steak?!??! Holy cow! You can’t do that!!!

On the cover of Tim’s book, “Why You Like the Wines You Like” he states that he’ll prove to you that you should “pair the wine to the diner, not the dinner.” Anyway, that got me thinking…thinking of glasses, and thinking back to that Meridian chardonnay back in 1992.

The main point of this blog is to write about wine glasses, but before I can get to glasses I need to lightly set up the other points within the title to make the point that instead of trying to enjoy a style of wine out of a particular shaped glass that you have been told you should use, maybe it may make sense to find a preferential glass and use that glass for most of the wines you enjoy.

Enjoy the wine you like: I could write forever on this subject, but instead, if you want to know more about this subject in greater detail, come to a Turtle Run Winery Wine Appreciation Class and / or read Tim Hanni’s book “Why You Like the Wines You Like”. Check out Tim’s site at, or if you would like, we sell the book at Turtle Run Winery for a few bucks less than Amazon sells it. For a quick overview, humans range in taste bud count from as few as 500 to more than 12,000. Yikes! So a simple question is this – does someone with 500 taste buds interpret taste differently than someone with 12,000? You betcha! Someone with 12,000 taste buds is super sensitive to taste. There are 5 primary tastes – bitter, sweet, salt, acid, and umami (savory). For someone at 12,000 taste buds, they are simply more stimulated by taste than someone with 500. Typically when it comes to bitters, suppression is the name of the game and sweetness and salt are the main weapons of choice to minimize the impact of bitter flavors. You could also say, bitter is the rage of the 12,000 folks, and sweetness and salt are their saviors. Stepping outside of wine, black coffee can be bitter, hence a lot of the higher taste bud types will add sweeteners and crème to knock down the bitters a notch. With beer, the high taste bud types receive lots of flavor enjoyment from the light beers. Just don’t try to get them to enjoy the porters or stouts – normally they are too intense for these folks. Conversely a lower taste bud count person may call that light beer “piss water with no flavor” and they’ll ask light beer drinkers to quit drinking the wimpy light stuff and “step up to a real beer” like a porter, IPA or stout. Coffee? Black!! I’ve just simplified Tim’s 200 page book down to a single paragraph, thus doing the great work no justice. But I simply wanted to demonstrate that people with varying degrees of taste buds will either try to heighten or suppress certain flavors through choosing what they eat and drink and how they modify it.

Temperature: A lot of how we consume foods and beverages and their accompanying temperatures are cultural. In the Unites States, soft drinks are consumed cold, whereas in Europe, they are consumed at room temperature. Ask someone from the US to drink a warm soft drink, and you may get the look of utter confusion. Soup – Warm in the US, cold in Europe. There are more examples, but let’s take a closer look at wine and some generalizations that we can reach.

Here are some basics on temperature of wine and temperature’s effect on flavor recognition. Taste is a small aspect on flavor recognition. Aroma determines a lot more on flavor recognition than does taste. Aromas, through the vaporization of volatile chemicals affect the olfactory (smell) sense to create most of what we determine as flavor. So the warmer something is, the quicker and more intense the flavors will be. So is warmer foods and beverages better for everything consumed? Let’s take a look at cola, for instance. Most people have probably had an icy cold cola and most have probably had a warm one as well. The sugars and the flavors are more pronounced with the warmer cola, due to the fact that warmer liquids take less time to vaporize into flavors, but most people opt for an icy cold one. This is partly based upon tradition, but it’s also based upon preference. Because of the use of high fructose (glucose) corn syrup and sucrose in sodas, glucose and sucrose tend for most folks to be the sweetener that leaves a sugary aftertaste, almost a hair on the tongue sweetness, the warmer the beverage is the faster the flavors can be vaporized and thus the more, for me, annoying sugary aftertaste is left. When icing down a soda, you can significantly reduce the sugary aftertaste because the beverage doesn’t have time to fully vaporize in your mouth.   Yeah, it’s sweet, but the perception of sweetness is far less than what it would be if the beverage was warm when consumed. Try it sometime – compare the taste of a warm cola to a cold one and see if you can taste the difference.

Alcohol has a lower boiling point than water, so any increase in the temperature of wine will make the wine taste more alcoholic. Additionally, any flavor compound that is more associated with or bound to alcohol will be more pronounced the warmer the wine is. Take a wine and try a glass warm and compare it to a glass that’s refrigerated and the warm glass will taste more alcoholic than the colder glass. Why is that? Alcohol boils at a lower boiling point than water so the warmer a wine is tasted the more volatile the alcohol is in the solution. Additionally, since oak flavors from barrels bind with alcohol, oaky aromas and flavors will be more prevalent in warmer temperature wines too.   And the same with fruity esters – more prevalently noticed at warmer temperature wine than in cooler temperature wine. Conversely, flavors directly associated with the fruit will be more prevalent at cooler temperatures. Wines will taste more acidic at lower temperatures and tannins / phenolic compounds will be more prevalent at colder temperatures as the alcohol chemicals become more suppressed at lower temperatures. According to this new way of a paradigm shift on the rules, keep both your reds and whites warm if you prefer the fruity, oaky, and alcohol flavors in the wine. If you prefer less of those and more impact from the acids and tannins, then cool the wine down.

In the glass you prefer: The wine industry can thank Riedel Stemware of Austria for discovering that the shape of the wine glass greatly affected the flavors and aromas of wine. First discovered by Riedel to my knowledge in 1961, but in reality the concept didn’t take off right away. Even through the 70’s this concept really wasn’t in vogue, to my knowledge. I know in college in the 1980’s, the concept of using specific glasses for specific wines wasn’t even broached. So when Laura and I stumbled upon this concept in 1992, we did it without any preconceived notion that anyone else had ever noticed this.

A few years later, Laura and I were “all in” on this concept. Riedel had done a phenomenal job of creating very intricate glasses designed for specific wines, and it seemed like no matter what wines we poured into the glasses, the wines were enhanced. Their work on glass geometry is simply second to none. I have the utmost respect for what they have done and contributed to the wine industry. Other companies have since come out and copied their glasses or at least close to it, so there are plenty of glasses that exist in the market today designed for specific wines. For the total wine geek, this is cool, but for the average wine consumer, this can be confusing. Overall though, we see a decent number of people understand that a bigger glass is designed for a red wine and one that’s a little smaller is designed for a white wine, so the marketing of this concept of specific glasses for specific wines has taken hold. Take any trip to a fine restaurant and you will see that if some of your group orders glasses of red wine and others order glasses of white wine, the glasses you will be served will be different shapes. Overall, I think this has been a great enhancement in consumer’s wine experiences as aromas and flavors have been enhanced. Today’s glasses are certainly far and away better than the glasses that were generally available in stores back in 1992.

However, Laura and I started experimenting ourselves, pouring white wine into red wine glasses, red wines into white wine glasses, pinot noir in chardonnay glasses, chardonnay into cabernet glasses and so forth. What we discovered was new experiences, none seemingly either tasted right or wrong.

In working with Tim Hanni, I discovered personal traits and likes and dislikes tied directly to taste bud count. For instance, Tim discovered that people with close to 12,000 taste buds received a burning sensation in wines when the wine contained over 12.5% alcohol. We also discovered that tannin concentration really mattered for these high sensitivity folks too. So for people with high sensitivity taste buds, or people with a high concentration of taste buds on their tongue, items that are disliked have a stronger bearing on whether they will consume the product over items that they like. Translation: A very sweet Port wine with nice tannin structure, an alcohol concentration of 20% or so, but very sweet, may not be a wine of choice for the high taste bud count person, unless those tannins and alcohol can be suppressed – through the shape of the glass.

The shape of a cabernet sauvignon glass is designed to enhance tannins and alcohol perception. A glass designed for Riesling is created to suppress the perception of tannins and alcohol concentration. A couple weeks ago, with the help of a very good customer, John, we opened a bottle of syrah, placed 4 glasses in front of us: A Riesling glass, Cab glass, pinot noir glass, and a chardonnay glass. The pinot glass brought out the most tannins and alcohol, followed by the cab glass, followed by the chardonnay glass. By the time we tasted out of the Riesling glass, neither one of us could really perceive the alcohol or tannins. In the Riesling glass we simply tasted an over-abundance of fruit. Conversely, the with the pinot and cab glasses, yeah, we got the fruit, but the fruit flavors were secondary to the tannins and alcohol. Overall, lower taste bud count people tend to like the flair and intensity that comes from tannins and alcohol. But the higher taste bud count people do not. So could John and I have stumbled upon an entirely new concept? Instead of selecting a glass for the type of wine, perhaps maybe a glass should be selected for the type of person. So someone with a high number of taste buds, who is looking for fruit, who is not looking for alcohol or tannins, would be best served wine, any wine, in glasses that highlight fruit and negate tannins and alcohol – a tall and slender Riesling glass. Conversely, a consumer who wants bigger, bold expressive flavors should then look for glasses that will make wines more big, bold and expressive – a big, wide cabernet glass. Funny enough, over time, without us even discussing this topic, Laura has gravitated to one specific glass at the house for all the wines she drinks and I pretty well stick to two glasses. And we will both enjoy any and all wine out of those glasses. I tend to want a little more “umph” in my wines, so I tend to drink with a little larger glass than Laura. My choice for all wines is a chardonnay glass. Laura seeks the fruit, and thus she normally uses our regular tasting room glass for all of her wines. We fully recognize that wines taste different out of different shaped glasses. That’s an absolute. What we have gravitated to is using glasses that suits our individual taste profiles, and definitely NOT a cab glass for deep red or a smaller glass for a white wine. If the wine is barrel aged, I want to taste the oak, therefore I want to taste wines out of glasses that enhances the oaky aromas and flavors, not one that suppresses them. Sometimes oak can be a little over the top for Laura, so she tends to like more even keel glasses. My recommendation to you is this. Yes, try cabernet out of cabernet glasses; try chardonnay out of chardonnay glasses. My guess is over time, you will start gravitating to a specific shape glass no matter what the wine as that glass, and you may start using that cabernet glass as your every day wine glass or perhaps the chardonnay glass as your every day wine glass, or perhaps another shaped glass.

So how does the science work? How can the shape of a glass affect the flavor of wine? It’s both simple and complicated to answer. Before looking at the shape of the glass, let’s look at how humans interpret flavor. Most of what you perceive as flavor is aromatics not taste. Simply put, we humans smell nearly everything before we consume them, and we go through this basic process – we smell for safety first, so is the food or beverage safe to consume, yes or no? If yes, have we had a past experience either positive or negative? If negative (like you got sick off of peach schapps 15 years ago, so anything peach elicits a negative memory), you won’t consume it. If positive or neutral, it’s time to eat or drink. Once the food or beverage enters the mouth, vaporization of aromatics occurs, triggering olfactory nerves in the sinus system to identify the aromatics you are experiencing. The more vaporization, the higher the perception. The less vaporization, the lower the perception or experience of flavor that you will have. If you don’t believe me, take simple cinnamon. Using your left hand, pinch your nose. With your right hand, lick a finger, coat it with then place the cinnamon on your tongue and try to taste it. Nothing. Nada! Then let go of your nose. Cinnamon!!!! Yeah, that’s right, you’ve never ever tasted cinnamon. You’ve sensed the flavor of cinnamon through smell, but no, you have never tasted cinnamon. Let me repeat it another way, you’ve smelled cinnamon, but you have never tasted it. Half of you who have read this far are now finished reading. I’ve made you mad. The other half has left their computer and are getting cinnamon.

The shape of the glass affects volumetric pressure and vapor pressure.   The more a glass can allow volatile chemicals to escape as aromas, the more you will be able to perceive them. The warmer the temperature the wine is, the higher this perception will be. Again for someone with high taste bud count, less volatility probably creates a better experience. With fewer taste buds, more volatility probably creates a better experience.

<![if !vml]><![endif]>

When the glass is tipped and you are about ready to drink, everyone breathes another breath before consuming. At this stage the front end of the olfactory experience, breathing in through the nose, is creating the basis for mapping flavor. Pay attention to the shape of the glass and see if you experience these two things. First, the shape of the glass will make a difference as to how much, or quantity of wine enters the mouth in a simple sip. Some glasses automatically provide you more liquid, whereas others provide less. This will have an effect on how many taste buds are stimulated and how much wine is vaporized. Second, pay attention to how the lip of the glass directs the wine into your mouth. Does one glass leave the wine towards the front of the tongue? Does another move the wine to the sides, and still yet, does another move most of the wine experience towards the back of the tongue? Again, this will affect the vaporization rate of the wine and what flavors you will experience. And trust me, nanoseconds matter with flavor experiences.

So grab a bottle of wine and try it out of different shaped glasses. If you free yourself to be unbiased going into the experiment, you may be shocked. My guess is if you do this in a group, try several wines in several shaped glasses. John, my friend who loves big, dry reds, already loved the syrah, but really found joy in drinking it out of a Riesling glass. And now he drinks all of his reds in the Riesling glass. The glass gives him the fruit he likes and suppresses the perception of alcohol. And I just found out, he likes our chardonel best in that glass as well. Laura, again uses our standard Turtle Run glass for all of her wines. I overall prefer our cab glass for most wines, but gravitate mostly to our chardonnay glass for all wines – reds, whites, dry and sweet.

Lastly, a few weeks before harvest began, I ran this concept of the shape of glass to the consumer preference, not to the wine by Tim, and he was quite intrigued. He thought it made a lot of sense. In our follow-up discussion, we talked about how at restaurants, a group of 4 order glasses of wine. Let’s say Bob and Sally both order a cabernet, and when they receive their wine, it’s served in a nice, big glass. Savory looking for sure. Laura orders a Moscato and Jim orders a White Zinfandel (secretly, Bob and Sally are laughing at Jim for ordering such a “beginner wine”). We receive our glasses of wine too, but our glasses are much smaller. We don’t say it, but Laura and Jim think we got screwed out of a few ounces. And we probably did. It’s as if Bob and Sally are driving the big V-8 cylinder muscle car and we pull up in an old Yugo. We have glass envy. Tim and I discussed giving Laura and Jim the same glasses as Bob and Sally and through the use of wine temperature (a bit cooler), we can reduce the volatiles in the wine so the wine remains fruity with the taste of alcohol suppressed.

By the way, if you are in the restaurant industry, I should be making you think. My last paragraph will add $1000 per week in revenue. By suggesting to the sweeter folks that it’s okay to pair a Moscato with a steak, add another $10,000 to your bottom line. And with a Moscato served in a cab glass – holy cow! Major money!!! I should be paid for this type of research I enjoy doing.

I guess here is the question / answer that I sort of got to, and sort of didn’t. If you like wines very big, bold and expressive, drink them out of larger glasses and perhaps drink the wine at room temperature. If you prefer your wines more fruity, less tannic, and less alcoholic try them in glasses that are not as big and wide as others, and certainly try chilling the wines down, both red and white.



The Most Audacious Wine Yet by Turtle Run Winery–Triple Vintage Traminette!

To the folks that know me, and for those that don’t, the baseline groundwork of Turtle Run Winery starts in 1988 at Miami University. Professor John Dome had this most intriguing class called “Geography of Wine.” Yeah, we tasted wine here and there, but the basis for the class was in classical grapegrowing, winemaking, wine processes, and the culture of wine. And how in Europe wines were based upon the earth, and unadulterated winemaking.

We have some of the oldest traminette vines in Indiana, and therefore our library of traminette wines is one of the most extensive. In early 2014, I tasted our older vintage traminettes and found something remarkable. They all seemingly aged gracefully, either tasting the same as I remembered them or better.

And that got me thinking. What if we blended cross vintage? Could we make an extraordinarily exceptional traminette if we created a perpetuity tank, meaning we only bottle so much and add fresh traminette each year? Crazy thought, huh? Even crazier was this? We’d be storing wine in the 11% – 12% alcohol zone with natural residual sugar. That’s insane–try keeping wine in a tank that could, and should ferment, but isn’t.

And in all the classical research I’ve done on wine, I know of no one who has ever tried this. Ever. Never.

In February 2015, we introduce to you Traminette Triple Vintage. I recently poured it for one of those “wine know-it-all’s” and he was absolutely shocked at the intensity and complexity of flavors. How the wine was so balanced, so flavorful, so smooth, fruity, complex, and with a staggeringly long finish. And all grown right here in our Indiana vineyard.

At Turtle Run, we will always, always push the edge of winemaking, but not with chemicals or other additives (like liquid oak). Or add sugar or juice at bottling.

Our wine flavors come from the grapes, the barrels, the yeast. All natural, all the time. And pretty well hangover free.

Cheers, Jim

Some Thoughts on Tannins and Headaches

Headaches and wine. I never get them. Then again, I rarely drink too much. But there are some of us who at the whiff of a glass of red wine, have severe headaches. Read on….

Tannins: Why do plants produce them and what do they do for us? Tannins are used by a plant to prevent creatures from eating it. The bitter taste, as well as other effects it causes on the digestion system of the creature, tend to cause the plant to be safe from being eaten.

What are tannins?
Tannins – plant polyphenols – are an integral part of creating a red wine. The red color and the sharp taste both come from the skins of the grape, which are left on during part of fermentation to seep into the wine itself. That color and taste is the result of tannins.
Tannins are not only found in wine – they are found in many foods, such as cheeses and nuts, and even drinks such as tea. Wood aging also adds some tannin to red wines.

For humans, tannins are often found to be pleasureable. People who drink tea enjoy its bitter taste, and also the ‘buzz’ it can give to some, though I don’t think I get a buzz from tannins.

However, with anything consumed, some of us react differently than others. For me, I’m lactose intolerant, so no milk or ice cream for me. For some people, the tannins found in “nature” can cause too strong of a ‘buzz’, leading to mild or severe headaches. The reason I quoted “nature” is the wine industry has lots of powdered tannins available to us for addition at different stages of winemaking. I have often heard from folks that they can get sloshed on wine when in Europe and not get a headache but get a zinger of a headache drinking some wines over here. Could it be that maybe at the natural lower levels that are extracted from the skins only are at a low enough threshold to keep the headaches at bay? Possibly. And when tannins are added in the winemaking process, the threshold quantity is now high enough to provide a headache? Possibly. Could the grape variety have a bearing on it? I’d think so. Some will produce more tannins than others. And some regions, due to environmental factors, enable plants to produce more or less tannins. To me, I really think it’s the added tannins that cause the headaches — that’s just my theory. So….

What are tannins useful for?
Tannins are wonderful antioxidants. The tea industry has long promoted this aspect of tea, as well as other food and beverage industries whose products have lots of tannins.

Polyphenols in general are found to lower total cholesterol, and also improve the ratio of LDL to HDL cholesterol. They lower blood pressure, lessen risks of cancer, stimulate the immune system, and have anti-bacterial properties. The biggie that unites all of this is tannins are anti-inflammatory. And inflammation is one of the pinnacles of many health issues today as inflammation suppresses the immune system.

ADD kicked in. I forgot. How might tannins cause headaches?
Tannins tend to bind starches while being digested. These starches are needed by the body to produce serotonin. In some people, who are extremely sensitive to their serotonin levels, it appears the lack of serotonin can lead to a migraine. It sort of “starves” the body for this type of raw material, much as not eating for many hours might lead this person to have the same migraine. Tannin sensitivity is thought to be cumulative – a person who begins life with no tannin sensitivities may yet develop one as he or she ages. People who are sensitive to tannins need to moderate their intake of tannins in all forms, and also be sure to eat a reasonable amount of food while ingesting tannins, so the binding affects of tannins do not cause undue stress.

Here is an update from 8/4/2023

The red wine headache explained. Ever get a headache from just a little bit of red wine? Or a stuffy nose? Or a flushed face? Any other allergic reaction? By the way, what I type here cannot be found on the internet except at our Turtle Run Winery website. Here comes my strong hypothesis. Be ready. I am on my own island on this.

Most people believe that yeast only ferment sugars into heat, co2 and ethyl alcohol. If I were to make black bean wine, yeast would remove the inflammatory protein known as lectin. Now, there are no lectins in wine but I add this paragraph as another useful activity that yeast do when fermenting.

Yeast also remove histamines. And this is where I am heading. Grapes have a small amount of histamines in their skins and we ferment red wines on their skins. But in fermentation yeast will remove the histamines, so how can it be histamines?

Think of the allergic reactions that people have with red wine and all of them align with allergic reactions to histamines.

I never run into anyone who says they have an allergic reaction to our red wines, and I have had hundreds who have sworn off drinking red wines try our red wines and they have no problem. So if it’s indeed histamines and the yeast remove histamines, how are they getting back into the wine?

Think of it this way. If you swore off sugar and I handed you a small packet of sugar and said “eat this sugar,” you would probably do it and realize no negative health outcomes. Now, if I gave you a 64 oz liter of a sugary drink and said, “here, drink this,” you might feel a little woozy afterwards, right?

So if I gave you a bunch of grapes and you ate them, you probably wouldn’t have an allergic reaction because the concentration of histamines in the skins is pretty low.

Our wine industry is allowed to add more than 80 different ingredients into wine and one thing our industry likes is a consistent product. Wines naturally contain upwards of 1500 chemical compounds, so in order for wine to taste and look exactly the same year after year there are fining agents, coloring agents, liquid oak and powdered tannins added to wine to give it the look, feel and taste, the same consistency year after year.

Yeast remove histamines. There are super concentrated coloring agents and powdered tannins available to me to add to wine to fix color and tannins. Let’s think of that 64 oz liter at this point.

Super concentration of color and tannins added to wine to me, is like drinking a 64 oz liter of soda. These product are added after fermentation to fix color, mouthfeel, flavor and texture…when the yeast are no longer there to do their magic. My strong hypothesis is this. When natural grape skin derivatives are super concentrated, like anthocyanin, the color component, naturally the histamines will be concentrated. Added back into the wine after fermentation releases a super concentration of histamines, way more than what the grapes could have possibly delivered in grape juice. With yeast not around to clean up this excess amount of histamines, the human body is exposed to a 64 oz serving, so to speak of histamines.

I seriously don’t think anyone is allergic to red wine. I think there are plenty of people allergic to wine that has been modified though. If you stop by Turtle Run Winery, check out the color of our red wines. Yep, they are lighter in color than a great many that you can buy in the stores. And that is fine with me.

Cheers, Jim

The Red Wine Headache (updated Feb 2024) and the “Dry White Wine Allergic Reaction.”

Ever hear the story of “The Fountain of Youth?”  The conquistadors thought it existed somewhere in Florida and by gosh, by golly, they really sought its finding…to no avail.

That seems to be my motivation for the “Red Wine Headache.”  If you haven’t heard of it, you will at some point.  Some folks get headaches.  Some get flushed skin.  Some get a stuffy nose.  Some get reactions immediately.  Some go to bed feeling fine only to awaken in the morning with a head-banging zinger.

There seems to be a corollary – all of these reactions are aligned to a histamine reaction.

Histamines are both produced by our bodies and are ingested in foods and beverages we consume.  Histamines produced by our bodies via our immune system.  Histamines create inflammation.  That’s part of their deal.  For instance, a bee sting for many of us cause our bodies to produce histamines.  Yeast also produce histamines during fermentation, so fermented foods and beverages should contain a mild amount of histamines.

With many allergies and health issues, a lot of times it’s about quantity.  For instance, if you consume a small packet of sugar, chances are your body will be able to handle the sugar.  But guzzle a 64 ounce liter of soda and yikes, blood sugar and insulin issues on tilt, right?  Whoosh!

Perhaps it’s all about quantity.

Here’s the thing.  It’s beyond rare air for someone to complain about our red wines (or our white wines, or our sweet wines, for that matter) and having a negative health reaction from drinking them.  The same holds true for a vast array of European wines.  How often have I heard over the 25 years I have been making wine of people going to Europe, enjoying wine, perhaps too much, and awakening the next day feeling fine and refreshed.  Yet, pick up a bottle of wine from the store shelves in America and, what the heck, who whacked my head with a 2 x 4?  Or why did my nose get so stuffy?  Or my neck turned a brilliant red?  Must be the sulfites!  Sulfites is another subject, one you shouldn’t really worry about.

I’m still going to go “all chips in” on a histamine reaction but I cannot decide if it is the body creating excess histamines when presented with an allergen that has been added to wine or the sugar packet / 64 ounce example, in which a wine has so many added histamines that our body reacts to it.  So I’ll provide a possibility for both.  Let’s look at the chemical compounds of the grape skins, but before we do, I need to explain some additives that go into wines without naming names.

Coloring additives:  As I write this, I am in Hilton Head, SC with my parents, end of February.  Laura and Joe are here too.  Yesterday, the resort had a little wine and cheese tasting mid-afternoon, so of course went.  There were two wines served, a cabernet sauvignon and a chardonnay.  Both wines are made by an extremely big brand and the bottles were 1.5 liter bottles.  The cabernet sauvignon was the darkest cabs I have ever seen.  Like, ever.  We opened a Turtle Run Cab from 2023 last night, our darkest cab we have ever made and it didn’t come close to the darkness we experienced in the afternoon wine.  The color component in grape skins is called anthocyanin and some red grape varieties really have some color (concord, aligoté, syrah, frontenac come to mind), while others (pinot noir) do not.  There are a couple of coloring products we can add to wines.

We’ve had fermentations over the years in which the anthocyanin from the skins simply didn’t pigment the wine (Montepulciano 2022, Mourvedre 2022, Cabernet Sauvignon 2022 (a vintage), cabernet sauvignon 2021, cabernet franc 2016 (certainly not 2015 – that was dark).  For major producers that have wines in stores across a great many states, consistent flavors and color is imperative for their marketing of wine.

Because wines contain upwards of 1500 natural chemical compounds and the weather is different every year, consistent color and tannins is nearly impossible. 

That’s where coloring additives come into play.  Of course, they are proprietary and the companies that make them will not divulge what’s in them, but from what I have been able to glean from the resources I have, they are seemingly more natural and are made by  super concentrating components from the grape skins.  Since grape skins contain histamines, could the concentrated coloring added to wine be the cause for added histamines thus garnering a reaction?  Perhaps.  We never use this stuff in our wine production

Another coloring compound which is legal to add to wine and which does not need to be listed on a bottle of wine is cochineal extract.  Ever heard of it?  The cochineal is an insect from south America and it has been used in the coloring industry since the 1600’s.  Carminic acid is found in the body and eggs of this insect which lives among the cacti.  When mixed with aluminum or calcium salts, carmine dye is created.  Now, here’s the trick and the words to take note:  the insect creates carminic acid to ward off predation by other insects.  Also known as natural red dye number 4, it can cause a variety of reactions including  facial swelling, rashes, and wheezing – sounds like a histamine reaction, doesn’t it?  And of course, we never use this substance in our wine production either.  As someone who studies health, “aluminum” is a code word for brain dysfunction. 

Here’s a third mechanism which could create the red wine headache (though I’d put a lot of poker chips on “door number 2” the last paragraph).  When grapes begin to ripen on the vine they produce high levels of sugar and the skin softens making them more susceptible to fungal attack. To counter this, grapes produce relatively high levels of chitinase as a defense during their ripening period.  So what is chitinase?  Good question.  Here’s something to think about.  I’ve recently been reading about the desire by certain folks that we should be eating insects for protein.  The exoskeleton in insects is highly inflammatory and inflammation can trigger a histamine reaction, same with shellfish.  And guess what, chitinase and insects and shellfish go hand in hand.  Here are some links that may be of interest for you.

And this one:

And lastly, this one:

Through the years, I have definitely seen wine grapes, as they ripen, change chemical structures.  For instance, one of the grapes we grow, St. Croix, has more of a merlot flavor if we pick the grapes between 16 and 19 brix.  Over 20 brix, the grapes take on a more concord flavor.  I’ve also commented before, “grapes today, rotted tomorrow” about several varieties we grow, including Vignoles.

White wines:  Lastly, we have heard of white wines people who have bought off the store shelf causing immediate negative reactions, including flush skin and shortness of breath.  There are a whole host of proteins that are used to in winemaking to smooth dry white wines and sometimes sweet wines.  The idea is to use proteins to attach to the bitter tannic acid that exists in grape skins.  Red wines are fermented on the skins, so tannins are extracted.  For white wines, our industry destems and crushes the grapes then the pressed juice is used to make the white wines.  Some tannins from the outsides of the skins are extracted by the juice during pressing, so proteins are added which then bind with the tannins and thus the tannins are removed from the wine.  At Turtle Run Winery, we rely on autolysis, the process in which the spent yeast cell walls break down and mannoproteins are released into the wines.  The process is known as “Sur Lees” or on the lees or on the spent yeast cells. 

Many of the fining agents are created from casein (milk), isinglass (fish bladders) and egg whites.  While in theory, we should be able to filter out any leftover additive, my educated guess is some of these fining agents are left behind in the wine, which, if one has an allergy any of these products, they could have a negative reaction to a wine.

Conclusion:  I’ve provided a number of mechanisms through additives in wine, which could trigger negative health reactions to the body.  Is it one?  Two?  Which ones?  Who knows.  Here are some key thoughts.  First, our physical body today is not much different than it was 90,000 years ago.  Our bodies learned, over a great many thousands of years how to adapt to our natural world.  What it cannot be expected to do is adapt on a dime’s worth of time, to the massive chemical bombardment that it has been experiencing over the last 100 years.  You see a one year old put nearly anything in their mouths, yet never an insect, so perhaps we should pay attention to what a one year old avoids, like cockroaches! 

Who doesn’t know of someone with a chronic illness?  Who knew of people with chronic illnesses 50 years ago?  When we start mixing and matching and putting this, that and the other into our consumable products, it is possible and perhaps inevitable that we could experience stuffy noses, flush skin and headaches.

We’ve been drinking alcoholic products for at least 10,000 years, perhaps longer.  The fermentations back then were a natural phenomenon (naturally occurring yeast).  The thing is this.  In Europe, they pride themselves on grape varieties and terroir (the climate, soil type, subsoil type) to make their wines over mass manipulation of wines.  I got to try in college 65 and 100 year old wines, wines that tasted great even at that ancient age, and they weren’t made with all of the additives that today’s modern winemaker is armed with.  And so many people have told me that they have traveled to Italy, drank too much wine and awakened the next day refreshed and fine. 

Environmental mismatch science is the science in which disturbances arrive in our bodies and cause disruption from unforeseen chemicals which our bodies simply have not adapted to experiencing.  When I tried the 65 and 100 year old wines and found them to taste fantastic, I immediately realized that we didn’t need the additives that our US universities say we need to use in winemaking.  Then, it dawns on me rather readily.  Rarely, if ever, do I run into anyone who drinks the Italian wine in Italy and they experience unpleasantries with their body.  The same with Turtle Run wines.  We don’t use the great many myriads of additives and nor do they.  Consumers don’t experience the health problems with our wines or their wines.  So it’s something having to do with the additives.

Coud it be insect coloring agents that cause our bodies to create a histamine reaction?   Perhaps.  Or concentration coloring agents from the skins which concentrate too many histamines?  Perhaps.

All I know is this.  Natural wines, following the natural ways to make wines, do not cause people immediate health issues.  Yes, I would definitively love to know the answer – it’s the Holy Grail for me.  But I have several pretty solid hypothesis and by avoiding those additives and fining agents, our wines don’t cause those immediate disruptions, so we’ll continue to make wines this way and just forge our own direction – for the good of the consumer.



Fun information about Port wines

Typing this while overly enjoying three new Port Wines: Two of which may never appear on the wine list…but YOU know of them, so ask to try!

Port wines…the legendary wines from that slice of land on the Iberian Peninsula.  The origin of port is tied to bad drinking water and the 100 Years War between France and England.  Wine has two original purposes:  enjoyment of alcohol and the purification of drinking water (a little wine to water and the acids and the alcohol kill bacteria).  In France, they grow a lot of grapes and make lots of wine.  In England, especially back then, the weather hasn’t been conducive for growing grapes.

War is nasty.  And France cut off England’s “water supply” by stopping the flow of wine from most of Europe to England.  The hot trip from the Iberian Peninsula caused most of the wine to spoil.  When English wine traders discovered fortified wine, wine in which brandy is added to stop fermentation, they found a wine that both resisted spoilage, tasted good, and had a higher alcohol concentration.  Immediately English brokers set up shop to distribute this newly discovered wine back home, which is why today many of the fine Port wines have English brand names like “Dow” and “Cockburn.”

Yeast can essentially ferment wine up to 17.5% alcohol.  Any concentration of alcohol above this number is effectively poison for the yeast and they simply die.  The addition of brandy, or distilled wine to concentrations above 17.5% effectively end fermentation.  A standard wine practice is to add enough brandy to insure our alcohol concentration is 18% or higher, but not above 22%.  Why no more than 22%?  Easy, above 22% and the wine simply tastes to much like alcohol and burns too much for a great many of us.

This past week, we bottled three ports, the Pop’s Port #11, Pop’s Port #12 and the Pop’s Port “No Number”.

Pop’s Port #11 and Pop’s Port “No Number” will never be on the wine list.  You can purchase a bottle or two or more for $30 and $45 a bottle and you can try it free at the winery, but it will never appear on the list.  Our staff will never suggest you try it either, so you have to ASK to try.  That’s the advantage of our email mailing list.  You are privy to special wines.

And the name “Pop’s Port” is in honor of my father, Ray.

Pop’s Port #11 is pure zinfandel, and pure AHHHHH!!!  Aged a year in American oak barrels, the vanilla notes just jump right out at ya.  There’s complex fruit in the nose, but don’t ask me what.  Whatever it is, it certainly smells inviting.  This one’s at 21% so I can definitely smell the brandy.  But it’s a balanced smell…like it belongs.  As I taste the Port, I get this velvety feel, coating my tastebuds in a savory sensation.   It’s just a pure silky enjoyment.  So why will it never be on the list?  Simple–we bottled 14 cases.  Because….

Pop’s Port #12, which will be on the list, is a blend of the zin port plus a barrel of sweeter cabernet franc.  In the blending process, we needed it first, to taste great, and second, make sure we were at the 18% alcohol range to stabilize the wine and to legally bottle it as port.  Our assistant Christine and I blended this one and we simply nailed it.  I simply smell pure vanilla coated cherries.  So inviting.  Some strawberry and raspberry too!  I can’t ID the fruit of the zin port, but this one’s flavors seemingly just shout out at every chance.  The taste:  Intensely fruity, super smooth, super soft, super luscious.  Just super enjoyable.  As Laura said, this is going to be dangerous at the bonfire on November 5th!

And then there’s the “No Number.”  Since all Port’s are sequentially numbered, how come this one doesn’t get a number?  Simple.  Max’s Small Batch Red line of dry reds once had a “no number”.  And that Max’s red was so incredibly complex, so unique that it had to stand out in a significant way.  It too was never on the list, and we sold out, no problem.

So what is so unique about this one?  The Pop’s Port No Number is our second Tawny Port.  Our first one aged 2 years before bottling.  This one?  How about TEN YEARS!  If you are now legal to drink wine, you may have been in the 5th grade when we picked these grapes.

A Tawny port has a more brownish color due to a very controlled way in which we oxidize the wine over time.  We made this wine in stainless steel for exact control of aeration,  added brandy near dryness to allow the more rustic flavors of aging to shine through, then added small oak staves to tank, 2 and 3 at a time, over the course of 10 years.  The oak is not heavily pronounced but its tannins assisted in adding subtle flavors and greatly assisted in adding age worthiness to the process.  When I pour a sample, I can pick up some vanilla, but it’s the fruit of the muscat grape that beams forth.  What a tantalizing aroma.  The age, the fall season earthiness.  To heck with drinking this wine, just smell it!  Geez!  Upon sipping, this wine EXPLODES WITH FLAVOR in my mouth.  The dynamics on my tongue keep changing with unknown flavors overwrapping and enveloping other flavors.  The finish just goes on and on.  I swish the wine in my mouth and I swear my teeth can taste it.  This is insane wine!  Just insane.  Good golly.  Stop drinking this.  I need to cut grass tonight!  As I smell the supposedly empty glass, a whirlwind of spicy and savory aromas grip my nose.  Another AHHH…moment.  We didn’t make much as aging a wine 10 years is risky, takes up space and is heck on wheels to cash flow.  But oh was it worth it!

So stop by sometime soon and try these ports…



The 2016 HarvestThe 2016 harvest and new wines!

Our 2016 harvest must be talked about as the most unique growing year ever. The monsoon mid June through July rains caused us to stop with any weed control and double down on foliar fertilizing. Know anyone who grew tomatoes only to see those tomatoes not ripen? As it turns out, when plant are “fat, dumb and happy” with plenty of water, they simply do not ripen fruit. It’s as if they think they’ll live forever, so they grow their green parts like crazy because there’s enough water to support the extra growth and they lose their focus on ripening fruit. So by growing weeds, we pull more water out of the soils, thereby stressing the vines. Which makes them think they need to focus on the fruit…focus on the seeds, and thus make the fruit tasty, so another generation of plants will continue the specie.

At the mid-August point, things started to dry out and one of our best quality vintages started to take shape.

Vignoles: Picked first with the best looking grape clusters ever. The result: a highly aromatic and flavorful wine with tremendous character. We have blended vignoles with a little bit of traminette and have an early release vignoles on the list at this point. Due to the first time we had zero “Noble Rot”, our vignoles is quite unique from year’s past. In analyzing the wines in late December, we have bottled some Vignoles 2016 in which we mixed in just a dash of traminette. It’s one of the most balanced and lighter Vignoles we have had. In the barrels, the wine is really developing into a complex white that has all the essences of a classic white. Overall, the fruit was simply a joy to work with, and came out of the vineyard with very balanced sugars, acids and flavors.

Traminette: Gosh, the words are balance and smoothness through and through. We are barrel aging most of our traminette right now as our 2015 Dry Traminette has been a hit. We did bottle a very limited amount of Quad Vintage Traminette, a blend of 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 traminette. It’s exceptionally smooth and going very quickly. As of late December, we’ve taken it off the list to save the wine from running out during our slow months. If you stop by, we’ll gladly sell you a bottle, but it’s no longer available for tasting. We think we are the first winery ever to pull off “a stunt” like this, blending 4 vintages of a white wine with slight residual sugar available. Our crop this year was a little light due to heavy pruning last winter, but every now and then we need to knock our vines back a bit to keep them healthy.

Catawba: Intensity in fruitfulness. People often ask if weather affects our wines. Yep, sure does. On the afternoon of this harvest a major rain storm was moving in. Since we process outside, if we pressed these grapes, rain water would have fully diluted the juice. We destemmed, crushed and transferred the grapes directly into a fermenter. The result of skin fermented Catawba? A unique, orangish-pinkish glowing wine with complex fruit character and a wine that has got to be off the charts high in anti-oxidants. We filtered and bottled this wine, then very tightly filtered it before bottling. We tested the wine for cold stability. Stuck it in coolers for our fall concert series. And now it’s dropping tartrates. So if you pick up a bottle, just lightly chill it if so desired. Don’t leave it in the fridge.

Diamond: Already bottled some. This wine is full of melon, Star fruit, and pear. A very unique wine in which so many people have tasted thus far and have said, “I know this flavor but I cannot figure out what it is. Very light color. Light, crisp flavor with some nice residual sugar. Named on the list, “Open My Mind 2016. It’s really set up well thus far as the flavors continue to develop. Certainly a winner for our vineyard.

Chambourcin with Corot Noir and Noiret: One for the ages. Currently in barrels with an expected bottle date of around May 2017. We just recently tasted it in the barrels and it’s flat out magnificent. May may be too early at this point. I can easily taste that this wine will age like some of the best chambourcin wines from our vineyard: 2000, 2010 and 2012 come to mind.

More Research on Sugar

For those that may be new to Turtle Run Winery wines, we follow the guidelines of Germany, France and Italy in making sweet wine:  no sugar or juice added.  We simply do not back-sweeten wines.

Many American wineries, in order to make sweet wine, take dry wine and back-add sugar and juice.  This is a very simple, very easy way to make sweet wine.  Here are some basic reasons to back sweeten dry wines: Wines are quite stable in the tanks when they are dry. There’s no risk of refermentation when there are no sugars in the tank wine.  Second, a winemaker can sweeten to the exact level that they want for a finished wine.  Not sweet enough?  Add more juice or sugar to taste.

Arrested fermentation, where we remove the yeast cells via flash filtering, is a very precise process, where timing is everything.  If a winemaker fully subscribes to this method, you’re on pins and needles, constantly checking and re-checking both your sugar levels and your alcohol levels in the wine.  Neatly, sugar tests confirm both sugar and alcohol concentrations and alcohol tests confirm both alcohol and residual sugar concentrations.  We use temperature to try to coax these wines to needing to be filtered on our easier to make wine days:  Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.  And preferably late morning.  As a winemaker who subscribes to this method, I have filtered on all 7 days, in the midst of nighttime, early AM, late afternoon, and on Thanksgiving Day.  I’ve graphed the ferrmentation rate, set up the filter, then waited an extra day, and other times I have tested the wines and realized I neeed to drop everything now, like right now.

It seems like arrested fermentation then is for those of us who thrive on the challenge of filtering spot on the hour of the day, then have to do everthing right to maintain sweet wine in bulk storage.  Seems like a lot of extra work, so there must be some benefits.

First, arrested fermentation wines taste different.  The sweetness is clean and refreshing with no sugary aftertaste.  And because of this, in 2009, we hypothesized that the wines were chemically different.

Second, type 2 diabetic customers told us way back when that their blood sugar levels do not move when they drink our wines.  And since juice contains glucose and half the sugar molecule is glucose, and since glucose is the sugar that causes type 2 diabetics’ blood to spike, our wines must be devoid or contain very little amounts of glucose.

With the help of EMSL labs in New Jersey, from 2009 through 2012 we tested a bunch of wines and ongoing fermentations.   We discovered over that four year study that yeast prefer to consume glucose over fructose.  Like big time.  It’s as if, to the yeast cells, that glucose is the equivalent of a nice T-bone steak and fructose is the accompanying broccoli on the plate.

And we discovered a huge calorie difference and other health differences between sugar added wines and arrested fermentation wines.

As we discovered,the over consumption of any sugar can cause health problems, but our research shows that glucose is far and away the worse of all sugars.   Even if all sugars were created equal there is a significant calorie advantage to just fructose only.   Fructose is 2.2 times sweeter than glucose, 1.72 over sugar, has 3 calories per gram versus 4 for glucose and sucrose.  Many soft drinks start with 17% residual sugar and go up.  Our sweetest wine is 3.5% all fructose.  And that’s plenty sweet.  We sell a ton of sweet wine at the 3-4% RS range.  Think of all the calories we drive out via arrested fermentation.  A 25% saving just because of what type of sugar molecule remains, then to find out what we have is so much sweeter by taste that we don’t need near the quantity of residual sugar.  For instance, at the same “sweetness taste” so to speak, a 3% fructose wine would need 6.6% glucose to achieve the same sweetness level, which would be 2.93 times the amount of calories.

And then there’s the conscience of all of it.  If I can make a sweet wine with significantly less calories and has less health consequences, that tastes great why wouldn’t I?  No matter your faith or beliefs, for me I just feel better about wjat we’re doing if we treat others well and with respect.  By the way, glucose is the sugar that causes the sugar buzz and the crave.  It has been well reasoned that glucose hits the same endorphin and addictive responses as cocaine.  I guess that’s why high fructose corn syrup is close to 50% glucose.  Sugar, for those that may not know is half glucose, half fructose.

Now, it’s not easy kicking sugar to the curb.  Recent studies show that our bodies have a specific gut bacteria that loves sugar and forces you to crave sugar.  Sugar, specifically glucose, triggers happy endorphins much the same as cocaine does.   To kick sugar, you have to kill the bacteria, or kill enough of them that they cannot trigger that hunger mechanism.  That can be done by starving them.  And that’s hard.  But you can do it.  I did!!!

This past fall, I processed grapes for a very large, well respected distillery in the area.  A couple of the R&D folks from this distillery make wine for a church in Louisville on the side and they need us to process the grapes.  I mentioned this study to them and they confirmed that they too have done the research.  That yeast cells ferment all types of sugars but yeast cells do have preferences and the preference of choice is glucose first, fructose last.  So that’s the update.  We aren’t alone in our research.  Our research is confirmed.

Again, here it is succinctly:
Yeast ferment sugars but do so sequentially, converting first glucose into heat, carbon dioxide and ethyl alcohol and then they advance through the other sugars last finishing up with fructose.

Fructose has 3 calories per gram.  Glucose has 4 and sucrose has 4.  So if a winery back sweetens a wine to our standard 3.5%, they will have 25% more calories.

Fructose is 2.2 times sweeter to human taste than glucose and 1.72 over sugar.  To back-sweeten with glucose, a winery would have to sweeten to 7.7% to achieve the same sweetness level.  To back-sweeten with sugar, a winery would need to add 6% sugar to achieve the same sweetness level.

Calories:  3.5% RS Fructose wine has 12 grams of fructose per bottle or 36 calories per bottle or 9 calories of sugar per glass.  Add in the alcohol which is 9.5% and the total calories per glass is 80.

Added sugar wines:  The problem additionally is most of the added sugar wines will have 11%-12.5% alcohol, so in alcohol calories, that’s a 22% to 38% increase in alcohol calories.  With sugars, sucrose doubles the sugar calories and glucose additions would add almost 3-1/2 times the sugar calories.

The “My Mind” wines are all based upon 9.2%-9.7% alcohol with 9.5% having 3.5% residual sugar.

Catherine’s Blend, Make Me Blush, Vignoles, estate grown catawba, Joe’s Jammin’ Red, are all based upon 11% alcohol with 1-1/2% – 2% residual sugar.

I hope that helps!!!

Cheers, Jim

New wines for the spring of 2023

What’s in Jim’s Glass Tonight?

Greetings everyone! If you are new to our email’s welcome. We don’t send out many per year, and well we should, but we don’t. Since our last email, which was about Chocolate Lover’s Weekend, we have bottled 11 dry wines and 6 sweet wines! And one of those wines is in my glass right now, The Labyrinth. And I may get another glass in a minute, Original Capitol White. Ever make a mistake and then amplify the mistake? Yep, that’s the good ol’ Labyrinth. How appropriately named. I did go through a Labyrinth to get to this final wine. Here’s how we blend. I think these wines right here will go well together. Blend and taste, then change ratios and taste again. Set the percentage and then set the variance, as in how far off from a percentage standpoint can I be with this blend for the blend to still taste excellent and spot on? Pretty basic stuff. Until you get the most unlikely scenario ever. Every blend ratio tasted great!!! Syrah and St. Croix. No matter the percent, it rocked. Ready, fire, AIM!!! I took a barrel of syrah and emptied it into the tank. I then skimmed a couple barrels of St. Croix and voila, the wine. Stirred with carbon dioxide and taste. EW-Yuck! Can’t un-separate that! Dang it. Disaster. What went wrong? How do I fix this? A Frontenac/Grenache blend. Try, set the ratio, got it, Measured it perfectly. Blend. Swirl…and taste…hmmm…that’s worse. Why could I have not pruned today? Grrr….Will cabernet sauvignon fix this? Nope. Mourvedre? No again. Sangiovese? Ha ha, no. Montepulciano? Yeah right, wrong! Running out of options. Chambourcin? Not even chambourcin!!! Whoa. Deep trouble. Okay, Sangiovese. I really wanted to save this for another wine. Yikes! Not a chance. Where is that original sample? Why is that so good and what am I going to do with this disaster in the tank? Merlot? Can you save me? You’re it. My last trick. Or close to my last trick. Dang, that’s freakin’ awesome. Where’s the original sample? Gosh, this is better!!!! Variance percentage? None. Yeah, I’ve been down this road. There isn’t, this is perfect. Okay, tossed in a barrel of Merlot. CO2 stirred. Anxious moment. If this one flies the coop I am beyond screwed. Taste……ahem…how about that? Three plus hours later, I have one heck of a red. One heck. Of a red. The fruit is amazing. There’s some spice. The smoothness — boom! The finish — boom, boom! The complexity — whoosh!!!!

To demonstrate that we just don’t wing it…he…well….let me explain. Dominick, our grower out west, had the need to change our grape order last year, a couple times, okay, more than a couple times. At the end, I just wanted to hold onto our dear Mourvedre. But that’s how we ended up with the life-saving Merlot. Whoosh! Anyway, Dominick had a problem. My phone rings. I see it’s Dominick. Of course, I picked up. I DID NOT let it go to voice mail. “You had what happen? You’re kidding. Any recourse? Look, Dominick, I do not have tank space! How much are they hamstringing you for? Okay, what can you offer me? Okay, I think I can purchase a tank and get it here before they arrive. I’ll help you out.” You can probably connect the dots. I didn’t ask any other questions, all I know is Dominick had picked black muscat grapes for a winery, only for the winery to back out…after they had been picked. He gave me a deal on the grapes. Not an absurd deal that I could have pushed for because of my leverage in this situation. I didn’t want to burn him, so we paid a good amount for the black muscat grapes, but not full market. Always negotiate for a Win-Win, even though I had him in a position for Win-Lose. I never do that. Long term relationships. We received the grapes and immediately upon tasting them, oh man oh man if I had two tanks open. The grapes begged me to ferment on skins for 2 days, press, then ferment cold and leave behind residual sugar for a sweet wine. It would have been dynamite! Nope, had to go the full-in red wine route. And guess what? No one likes it. I have had a dozen customers try it, and the wine is terrible. David said these exact words, “Jim, this is awful.” Dwight is on his own island, saying he would drink a bottle. Sure…right!!! So does it have any endearing qualities? Yup. Full bodied. Check. Soft, yep! Spicy? Yep. Tannins? Yup. So far, so good, right? Fruity? HA HA, not a chance and that throws everything off. Three out of four ain’t bad, right? Right!!! Enjoying a little “Slow Crawl” right now. A fixer upper wine if there ever was one! Fermented together were Frontenac and St. Croix from our vineyard last year, and the overripe syrah from 2021 that would never go dry. Made a very good dry wine! Which we will bottle straight up! Sometime. Tried some, loved it. I wonder what it would taste like with some Black Muscat. Oh wow! That’s fun! Like really fun. Like nothing else fun. Like wow! Okay, I went “Valley Girl” with all of those “like.” But hey, it didn’t gag me with a spoon….like. Does this wine make one speak “Valley Girl”? For real!!! What a bonus, like so rad! Groovy on the max! Now, I’m twisting cultures of slang. Oh well. Anyway, ADD, go away for a second, please. Karma. I helped Dominick out of a bad situation. And I screwed up the wine. And then the wine went from an ugly duckling to a beautiful swan, if blended with the right wines. Having had so much fun with it with Slow Crawl, we did it again with Original Capitol Red by blending chambourcin, cabernet sauvignon and you guessed it, black muscat. Black Muscat may not be good on it’s own (yet) but wow, toss some into red wine blends and it works spectacularly well.

The other wine is Original Capitol White, a true zinger. Trying to make Rhapsody in White (vignoles, chardonnay and chardonel), I simply could not get the three to play in the sandbox together. Throwing a mini-temper-tantrum by saying “we are bottling something today (but maybe not — only bottle if the wines are great), we blended aromella with chardonnay and were so impressed, we set our sights on the the blend and looked for labels. Voila. This may be a new mainstay for the wine list. It just rocked. And we blended it so you can pick up both grapes, so the complexity is there.
Lastly, I will toss out some love to Debbie and Angie. To bottle chardonel takes some tinkering. It needs help, like vitamin C, and some light blending. Angie and Debbie teamed up to debate fiercely on what they wanted versus what I had already put together. They won. I capitulated which is rare air, especially for dry whites. But you know what, they did get it right, and this is a great, great version. Listen loudly to those who have passion for they could be directing you as to where you really need to go. It’s okay.

Lastly, on the sweet side, geez Louise, Escape My Mind, bottled on 4/11. Superb!!! We really nailed this one, a blend of diamond and steuben. On fire!

We’ll really focus on blends this year. It’s what the grapes seemingly want, so look for all sorts of new names. The key to our wines for 23 years has been to make very good wines, whatever it takes, and this year nearly everything benefits from blending. This idea goes to the heart of what I learned about wine at Miami University. It’s all about making consistently great wines and if they taste different from one year to the next, that is okay.

Cheers, Jim

Taste Bud Count and Subconscious Responses to Flavor Recognition

Did you know that your preference towards sweet wine or dry wine could be due to the number of taste buds on your tongue? People who prefer sweeter wines generally have more taste buds than those who prefer dry wines. It’s true! At Turtle Run, we teach the concepts behind this radical science. People who prefer sweet wines, generally speaking, have more taste buds than the average person, a lot more. Per Tim Hanni’s research at people can have as few as 500 taste buds to more than 12,000. So the folks on the high end have a lot more which means that flavors are amplified, or more intense. The single one disruptive intense flavor they do not like in high intensity amounts is bitters. As it turns out, sweet and salt are bitter suppressants, so high taste bud count people tend to have sweetness and salt around for a variety of foods and beverages: coffee with sugar and creme for instance. Alcohol is a bitter! Uh oh. Wine has alcohol. Though we won’t give this proprietary number away, we know exactly what that percentage of alcohol is for which a high taste bud count person can detect alcohol in a solution, be it water or wine. I can tell you that it is no accident that the “My Mind” wines are between 9% and 9-1/2% alcohol and at 3% or so residual sugar. This ratio provides me the lowest calorie still sweet wine I can make. But I will tell you this, if a winery allows a wine to ferment to dryness and that dryness is near 12% alcohol, they may want to add close to 12% sugar to achieve the same sweetness level and enjoyment of flavors that our “My Mind” wines have. And that wine at 12% alcohol and 12% residual sugar, has a whole lot more calories.

Our subconscious and conscious can recognize up to 40,000 specific aromas and flavors tied to moods and events experienced positively or negatively. Ever gotten sick from a food or beverage? Still consume it? Ha ha. Probably not, or if so, you probably re-learned how to like whatever made you ill or your subconscious tied to your illness. On the high negative and positive taste memories, our subconscious will tie into your subsequent flavor experiences, any primary, secondary or tertiary aromas and flavors from the original experience in a heightened delivery to you.

So when Biff the wine snob says you should taste this, that, or the other, it’s pure nonsense. Tasting sheets identifying all sorts of confusing flavor may have some merit for Mary, but not for Jane. Think about this math: Taste bud count (500 to 12,000) plus 40,000 aromas and flavors, plus mood, plus positive experience plus negative experience…Whoop de do!!! Taste and flavor recognition is highly, highly individualized. Which leads me to another crazy thought.