CORYDON, IN. – If you know what you like you should drink it. Don’t let others tell you what to like and don’t let the wine snobs shame you for drinking wines – especially sweet or fruity wines – that you like.
What seems like simple wine advice is really much of the theory behind Tim Hanni’s approach to wine. Hanni is a bit of a maverick in the wine world. His theory is a bit too involved for this space but his research shows people have from 500 to 11,000 taste buds. The receptors on your taste buds determine what you will enjoy. No major wine publications, a humble wine columnist, nor a fancy restaurant’s sommelier can change that.
Hanni has no bigger fan than Indiana’s Jim Pfeiffer, owner and winemaker of Turtle Run Winery in southern Indiana. Pfeiffer has been a Hanni devotee for a long while and has been applying his theories and, to some extent his marketing, to the winemaking process. His latest approach is a non-vintage Traminette combining wine from the 2013, 2014, and 2015 vintage into one bottle.
“What fascinates me about the grape is its age-ability,” Pfeiffer said. “I’ve not seen a grape ever in my life that you can put it in the bottle, age it ten years then crack open a bottle and go ‘holy cow this is so good.’ It just develops and you don’t see it turning south ever.”
Without going into the entire winemaking process he combines Indiana’s signature wine vintages in tanks, inhibit the yeast and monitor the sulfur to keep the wine from ‘going south’ or going back into fermentation.
The idea started when he tasted back through his Traminette vintages to 2000 and found the wines surprisingly good. So his newest dry Traminette concoction is 50 percent 2015 Traminette with 25 percent each of 2014 and 2013. The end result is a white wine with the richness of an aged wine and the fresh fruit appeal of the latest vintage.
Nearly half of Indiana’s 77 wineries produce a Traminette, most are on the sweeter side. But Pfeiffer has made dry versions for a number of years. “The first thing about Traminette it’s a love-hate reaction with customers. They love it or loathe it. One of things we’ve really latched on to is how humans range in different taste bud count and how those taste bud counts correlates to likes and dislikes.
Pfeiffer explains sweet wine drinkers like lower alcohol. So he produces a sweeter Traminette which he can’t keep in stock. As you move down to people with fewer taste buds, those folks like a little bit of sweetness and love good balance. Those wine drinkers like Pfeiffer’s annual production of his standard Traminette. The sweet and lower sugar Traminettes are the most common at Indiana wineries.
But for the folks with fewer taste buds who prefer drier wines, Pfeiffer has experimented and made dry Traminette commercially viable for several years. His soon-to-be released non-vintage Traminette delivers on the promise with just 12 percent alcohol. It’s a dry white with the familiar Traminette nose and palate but it offers a richer mouthfeel and more complexity than other versions. On the nose there is a whiff of the familiar flowers but no bouquet shoved up your nose like most Traminette.
The wine is quite dry and a bit more tart than other Traminettes. But any fan of dry white wines will find it an interesting change from most Hoosier wineries take on the state’s signature wine.
It takes a mad scientist, Picasso, or a maverick to break the mold. Pfeiffer would agree the fun in winemaking is trying something different.