Officially called botrytis cinerea, most people just refer to this fungus as “botrytis.” Botrytis affects a number of plant species, but when it comes to wine making, it can actually be a benefit.
Botrytis can cause two different infections on wine grapes. The first is grey rot, which causes a loss in overall yield, making it an undesirable quality. However, the second type is “noble rot,” which produces some of the best dessert wines in the world.
What typically happens with noble rot is the grapes become exposed to botrytis when they are ripe and the fungus extracts water from the grapes, leaving more solids and resulting in a richer, more intense wine. Ever had a dessert wine with a pronounced honeysuckle flavor?
If you’ve heard of the renowned Chateau d’Yquem, it is one of the best examples of the positive effect botrytis can have on wine grapes. Other notable ‘botrytised’ wines include Tokaji from Hungary, Sauternes from France, and even a few American wines like Dolce. Dolce, often called “liquid gold,” is produced in Napa by the winery powerhouse of Far Niente and Nickel & Nickel. The combination of soil, microclimate and vines create the perfect environment for noble rot.
Have you had a botrytised wine? What is your favorite?