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

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