1988 - Volume #12, Issue #4, Page #18[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Kansas Farmer Makes Wine Out of Wheat"The profit potential for grain farmers is tremendous," says RonaldThyfault, Damar, Kan., who says he can pull $250 out of a single bushel of wheat by turning it into a wheat wine that he says is "as good or better" than wine made from grapes.
Thyfault says there's never been a wheat wine on the market - or a wine made from any other grain - because no one has ever figured out how to convert starches to sugar before the fermentation process without using enzymes and high heat. Government regulations are written in such a way that if you do use heat to enhance enzymatic action, the resulting mash is classified as "fit for distillation" to be made into whiskey or other hard liquors. The difference in taxation between liquors and wine is drastic at $12.80 per gallon for liquor and just 17 cents per gallon for wine. The regulations are designed to make it nearly impossible for producers of cheap, low alcoholic beverages to compete with the established wine industry.
Now Thyfault has patented a low temperature method of starch conversion for wheat that he says will make his wine a tough competitor in a competitive industry.
"I had to prove to government regulators that I could convert starches to sugar with-out high heat which allows my product to be licensed as wine and not distilled spirits," says Thyfault, noting that since he got his license, he's had trouble getting information about commercial wine production from industry trade groups and large commercial wineries. "They're not too willing to help because they know this is going to hurt them."
Thyfault got his start in the alcohol business10 years ago when he was involved in the operation of a farm alcohol fuel plant. That's when, through experimentation, he came up with his new low-temperature starch conversion method, a method that he plans to keep a secret. In addition to low-cost wine production, he notes that the method will also reduce the cost of farm alcohol fuel production.
"My wheat crops have been worth less than $3 a bushel in recent years. By turning it into wine, I can extract $250 of value out that same bushel," Thyfault says. "It costs me a little more than one dollar a gallon to make my wine. The cheapest commercial wine on the market is about $10 a gallon."
At a recent exhibition for new products, Thyfault conducted taste tests for his new wine, asking participants to write down their impressions. Comments were overwhelmingly favorable, ranging from "Surprisingly good" to "Reminds me of a good, dry white wine".
"It has some of the flavor of grape wine because we use grape tannins in the production of it. It's got a 14% alcohol content," says Thyfault, who makes the wine in 250-gal. batches for his own use. He's setting up a company to produce the wine on a commercial basis. After getting a patent on the process for converting wheat to wine, he received a second patent covering all other cereal grains. "My wine-making process will work with any small grain," he says.
For more information, contact FARM SHOW Followup, Ronald Thyfault, Rogina Wines, Rt. 1, Box 12, Damar, Kan. 67632 (ph 913-839-4432).
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