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Many people are surprised when they first learn that most red wines are actually made from clear juice. The red color in a red wine is gained from soaking the juice with the dark colored grape skins for various lengths of time, which leaches out the colors from the skin to make the final wine red.

There is however, a group of grapes that actually do have red juice. These are classified as a group and called teinturier grapes (from the French meaning to dye or stain). Teinturier grapes have overall received a reputation as poor wine making grapes. For a number of reasons this is not completely inaccurate, as the juice and skins of teinturier grapes have a high degree of tannins, and can make a bitter wine.

However, this same poor reputation need not fully apply to hybrids made from teinturier grapes. And disease resistant and cold tolerant teinturier hybrids should not be too quickly overlooked for grape growers in cooler climates. In fact, I would say that teinturier hybrids have been too quickly judged as a group for which some members do not overall deserve the poor reputation of their parental ancestors. Examples of such teinturier hybrid grapes deserving a second look include Alicante Bouschet from France, and Turán from Hungary (outside Hungary Turán is commonly known as Agria).

Hungarian Turán

Hungarian Turán

A crushed Turán grape berry clearly showing the red juice within.

A crushed Turán grape berry clearly showing the red juice within.

Interestingly, it is in the US and Canada where Turán (where it is called Agria) is most successful as its own varietal wine, not in Hungary. In Hungary teinturier grapes like Turán are often a component of blended wines, where they are used to add color depth to other varietals such as Pinot Noir. Unfortunately, the reputation of Turán has further taken a beating due to its being one of the 13 grapes varieties allowed in the infamous Bulls Blood blend, which was smashed to ruins as a wine during the communist era (and which serves an excellent case history of how this type of economic system has no regard for quality, being only interested in meeting a quantity quota irregardless of the consequences).

What I find interesting about Turán, and why I planted a small test plot of this grape, is its potential for different wine making styles. For example since its juice is already red, it can be treated like a white wine and crushed and pressed immediately after picking to produce a light wine similar to a Gamay Beaujolais. Or it can be treated more like a traditional red, and left on the skin for additional tannin and flavor components. And of course either result can be bottled as a varietal or it can be blended with our Pinot Noir as mentioned above.

While it is true that Turán should not be expected to produce a world class wine, its potential to produce a very good wine is excellent and I for one think it is thus worth consideration both by the wine maker and the wine drinker.

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