Turtle Run Winery prides itself on producing top-quality, health-conscious wines with a flair for being consistently exceptional but not necessarily exceptionally consistent.
Allow Jim to explain – Two phrases should pop into that sentence, “Health Conscious” and “Not Necessarily Exceptionally Consistent.”
First on health. Sugar is killing us in so many ways, yet many people prefer sweeter wines due primarily to the number of taste buds on their tongues. American wineries typically take dry wine (wine that has finished fermentation completely) and back-add sugar, juice, or juice concentrate before bottling, thus making a dry wine sweet.
By doing so, the wine’s residual sugar becomes half glucose and half fructose (since sucrose breaks down in acidic solutions into its two component parts, glucose, and fructose). But it’s the glucose that’s problematic for the body (think type 2 diabetes, inflammation, a cancer food source).
The world’s most recognized sweet wines do not have added sugar to sweeten them before bottling. Nor do ours. The world’s most recognized dry red wines are made from the fruit and not from added outside chemicals such as powdered tannins. Our dry red wines ferment and age on the skins from a minimum of three weeks up to two months. On occasion, Jim will use an old French technique of re-using skins to deepen the complexity of his dry reds. And yes, the wines are barrel aged. No powdered oak or chips are ever poured into stainless steel tanks to pick up oak flavors.
At most European wineries and Turtle Run too, sweet wine is obtained via arrested fermentation, a process in which fermentation is carefully monitored and the wines are filtered right when the residual sugar is where the winemaker wants the taste to be.
From 2009-2012, Jim conducted break-through research in which he discovered yeast sequential fermentation: whereby yeast converts sugars into heat, alcohol, and carbon dioxide in a unique order.
If sugar is added, it splits the sugar molecule into one part glucose and one part fructose. Think of glucose as a nice T-bone steak and fructose as overcooked broccoli. I’ll eat the broccoli, but I prefer the steak, so I’ll eat the steak first (glucose) and then the broccoli (fructose) last. As it turns out, fructose has 3 calories per gram, glucose 4, so with arrested fermentation, there’s a 25% savings in calories because, at the end of the day, all that’s left is fructose.
Second, fructose is 2.2 times sweeter than glucose and 1.72 times sweeter than sugar. Translation – Turtle Run’s sweetest wine has about 3.5% residual sugar. For a winery to equal our same sweetness, nearly 7% sugar needs to be added. This is a total win for the consumer since fructose is not nearly as disruptive to the body as glucose, Speaking of grams. Turtle Run wines contain about 12-14 grams of fructose per bottle.
Jim simply does not like using additives in his dry wines. Modern winemaking today uses plenty of additives that are perfectly legal.
From liquid oak to powdered tannins, to all sorts of fining agents.
So many folks these days no longer drink dry reds because they claim it causes headaches. Turtle Run wines are based on grapes and aging in barrels with no oak or tannin additives. From this, you get pure wine that keeps headaches at bay. Yes, sulfites are added, but only because it is required by law. FYI – sulfites are not the culprit of headaches.
Wines contain upwards of 1500 natural chemical compounds, many of which are leached into the wine from the skins. Long skin contact wines allow everything good to be pulled out of the skin. For dry reds, Turtle Run arguably has the longest skin contact in America, at and after fermentation.
Jim could go the additive way to drive for consistency but that wouldn’t be much fun. He wants the best each vintage can deliver, so that means vintage variation. Fortunate or not, due to yearly weather variations vines are going to produce different fruit every year.
Not changing anything from what is written above, but I (Jim) wrote the following on 8/4/2023 about the red wine headache. Be ready.
Many of Turtle Runs dry whites are barrel fermented though not oaky. Lactones that are imparted by the barrels are minimalized in such a way as to highlight the fruitfulness of the wines. The barrels used and the temperatures they achieve for making whites because of a process called autolysis positively affect the smoothness and body of their wines.
Some say Jim’s “Chard” is a dead ringer for topflight white burgundies. And Turtle Runs “Serendipity”, a blended white, screams of the aromas and flavors of wines from southern France.