fly, fly away!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Winemakers and wine writers only occasionally walk common ground, but on this we can all agree: WE HATE FRUIT FLIES!

Long ago, I developed the habit of keeping corks in opened wine bottles, in order to keep the fruit flies at bay. Opening up a single bottle may or may not draw a crowd, but opening up 15 or 20 as I frequently do seems to send up a signal that brings ‘em in from the far corners of the universe.

Here’s what many consumers may not realize about fruit flies. A single teeny tiny fly in a full bottle of wine can render the entire bottle unpalatable. They must give off some sort of toxin when they dive in to meet their Maker, but whatever the cause, one fly floating in bottle or glass ensures a bitter aftertaste that cannot be ignored.

So my empathy for the fruit fly was about at zero, despite our common love for the nectar of the grape, until I came upon the following article from CNN headlined “A fruit fly walks into a bar ...”

As the article explains (in rather graphic detail), it has been discovered by researchers at the Heberlein lab at UC San Francisco that male fruit flies turn to drink because they weren’t getting any nookie. Halloo, brother fly! We have all been there.

Scientific research is often fascinating, as much for what questions were asked as for what answers were found. In this study, the article explains, such questions as “the effect that group housing had on the flies, or whether there was a preference for virgins over females that had mated before,” were part of the study. The gory details are a little too much for a family blog such as this, but involved decapitation and other practices not generally designed to promote successful courtship.

I will still continue to practice safe drinking by recorking my open bottles, but... the next time I see a little surfer bobbing along in the top of my glass, I will dispose of him – for certainly it will be a him – with a bit more compassion.


Wine Harlots said...

Paul, so the take away of the research is lack of sex makes organisms toxic? Awesome!

Thanks for the laugh.

All the best,

Nannette Eaton

PaulG said...

WH - I don't mean to imply that. It seems to make male fruit flies turn to drink. The toxic part is simply a function of drowning, not part of this particular research.

Ron Washam, HMW said...


That fruit flies can spoil a wine is a fact not appreciated widely enough, especially in tasting rooms.

It turns out, a fruit fly expert once told me, that fruit flies carry bacteria on their feet that is the culprit for wine spoilage. Politely ask them to wipe their feet before entering your wines, and all is well.

PaulG said...

Ha, Ron, now we see where you get all your scathing wit - from chatting it up with fruit fly experts. Your secret is out!

Stephanie LaMonica said...

Maybe if the fruit fly had better hygiene (as Ron suggests), he wouldn't be driven to drink in the first place.

Art said...

I'm sure that Emily Litela is asking right now, "What's all this I hear about flea erections . . .?" (OK - fruit flies, not fleas; but close enough!)

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