Exploring the Depths: The Salt Wine Collection at Traynor Vineyard

Exploring the Depths: The Salt Wine Collection at Traynor Vineyard

  • Michael Traynor


I have always been driven by my passion to learn more about winemaking. This combined with my fascination with the past has steered much of our winemaking direction over the last decade. Our experimentation began with skin-fermented whites and pet-nat and has slowly been evolving. In 2023 we decided to launch our Wine Lab Program to continue that exploration (but on a much more limited scale). Most of the lots in this program are limited to 15 cases but are reaching back into the past to explore the depths of winemaking through history. I think of it as our experimental archeology program, without necessarily playing by the ancient rules (we are in the new world you know). Hopefully, you enjoy our journey in our adventures in wine as much as we enjoy the trial and error of the process. These wines are not guaranteed to be perfect. They are experiments. They are not finished products, they are a journey. Maybe, one day these turn into something, or perhaps we try it and say, "That was gross, don't ever do that again".

Our latest adventure dives into the historical and experimental realm of salt wines, a journey inspired by the ancient Roman "Turriculae."


The History of Turriculae:

Turriculae, an inventive Roman winemaking practice, involved the addition of seawater to wine. This method, deeply rooted in ancient culinary tradition, was not merely for preservation as it also played a significant role in enhancing the wine's flavour profile. The Romans' understanding of the sea's bounty as a culinary resource reflects their broader gastronomic ingenuity.


The Winemaking Process:

The Romans used local grape varieties, which were fermented and then stored in amphorae. These large clay vessels allowed the wine to age, and the addition of seawater was a carefully considered step in crafting the wine's distinct character. They would frequently add seasons or spices to the wine to enhance the wine's character. The most common spice added to the Turriculae was Fenugreek (we didn't add any to ours this time, we were told we were already getting too weird). The amphorae were sealed with pine resin, a method that further influenced the wine's taste and longevity.


Consumption Across Society:

Wine was a staple in Roman society, enjoyed across different social strata. The Turriculae wines, with their unique saline notes, were likely a part of various public and private occasions, demonstrating the Romans' appreciation for wine's role in social and ceremonial contexts.


Food Pairings:

Roman cuisine, known for its rich flavours and aromatic spices, was the perfect complement to the Turriculae wines. The wines' enhanced flavors paired well with the era's popular dishes, including roasted meats and fish seasoned with herbs and spices, creating a harmonious dining experience.

(Resource: https://www.paysdoc-wines.com/the-via-domitia-and-roman-wines/?lang=en)


Why Experiment with Salt Wines?:

In the realm of winemaking, where tradition meets innovation, the exploration of salt wines represents a bridge between the past and the future. This technique, rooted in ancient practices, offers a contemporary approach to enhancing flavour complexity and achieving wine stability without modern additives. It's a testament to the enduring quest for unique, characterful wines that stand out in a crowded market, embracing the richness of history to inform and enrich the winemaking process of today.

Adding salt to wine also encourages us to think creatively about the balance of flavours, pushing the boundaries of traditional taste profiles. This innovative approach not only honours the craft's rich heritage but also aligns with modern consumers' desire for wines that tell a story and offer a distinct sensory experience. It's a journey into the uncharted territories of taste, where each sip reveals new possibilities and reaffirms wine's place as a dynamic and evolving art form.

Incorporating salt into wine can subtly enhance its umami qualities, making it a compelling complement to a wide range of dishes, including sushi which is traditionally a challenging pairing. This addition brings out a new dimension in the wine, potentially enhancing its compatibility with foods that benefit from a touch of salinity or umami depth. The careful balancing of salt can elevate the wine's flavour profile, making it a versatile partner to both traditional and modern cuisines, offering an enriched tasting experience.

(Resource: https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/adding-salt-to-wine)


The Science Behind Salt in Wines:

In our exploration of salt in wines, we tap into an age-old wisdom where salt wasn't just for flavour—it was a guardian against time. The Romans, who did not have access to modern preservatives like Potassium metabisulphite, turned to salt. It subtly worked its magic, enhancing aromas and textures while safeguarding the wine's essence and extending its life. This delicate dance of salt not only connects us to our winemaking ancestors but also challenges us to think deeply about natural preservation in our craft today.

In addition, Salt, when added to wine, can influence its chemical and sensory properties. It can enhance certain aromas, modify mouthfeel, and potentially contribute to longevity. The balance, however, is delicate, as too much salt can overshadow the wine's inherent qualities.

(Resource: https://daily.sevenfifty.com/the-science-of-salinity-in-wine/)


Our Great Big Sea Project:

In collaboration with Richard Narayan, our Cellar Master who leads the charge in our winemaking endeavours, we've embarked on this experimental journey through our Wine Lab project. This year, we explored different concentrations of Ontario rock salt in our Seyval Blanc, learning and refining our approach. Just before bottling our crew always samples the wines. Overall they were surprised at how much they enjoyed the salt additions, with Richard proclaiming "All of our wines should have salt in them!".  

For more information on the three 2023 Great Big Sea Wines, please click here:

Great Big Sea #1

Great Big Sea #2

Great Big Sea #3


While we haven't incorporated fenugreek this year, who knows what next year's experiments will bring?



The Great Big Sea wines are more than just beverages; they're a testament to our commitment to learn, innovate, and respect the craft of winemaking. By revisiting ancient practices through a modern lens, we're not just making wine; we're weaving history, science, and art into every bottle.