Understanding Wine Terminology: Botrytis or Noble Rot

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.

Botrytis Cinerea on Wine Grapes

Botrytis Cinerea on Wine Grapes

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?

Photo credit adulau on Flickr Creative Commons

Experimenting with Foreign Wines: Ice Wine from Taiwan

Brett and I are both big wine drinkers (although you might question that from how far behind we are on posting wine related content on our blog, LOL), but we are not snobbish.  We are always willing to give a wine a try and love exploring new and foreign wine regions.  We were excited when we first learned that Taiwan had “wineries” which we quickly learned were more like soju and other hard liquors found throughout Asia.  After 1 1/2 years, we have found a few local true wineries and obviously we want to give everything a try.

Last week, Brett was picking up something at the grocery that I managed to forget and came upstairs so excited that he found a Taiwan produced ice wine….for 200 NT (less than $10 US).  For those unfamiliar with ice wine, the prices can be quite steep (we’ve paid over $100 US a bottle before).  For ice wine to be produced, the grapes are grown in, well, frozen conditions!  Taiwan is not recognized as an area that gets snow, but it does have a few high altitude areas that get snow capped mountains so there was a chance this might be a real diamond in the rough…or not.

Label on Taiwan Ice Wine

Tonight, we decided to open this “Taiwan Ice Wine” that was produced in Taoyuan County.  We were instantly skeptical when Brett uncorked it to find the cork resembled a hunk of creamy blue cheese.  On the nose, my first thoughts were rotten food and kimchi.  One thing I’ve learned about living in Asia, things often taste much better than they smell so I tried to get past the vile smell emanating from the glass.  The taste? I’d describe it as a sparkling fish sauce!  The wine had a strong salty taste that I found completely disgusting.  I don’t often find a wine I really dislike and this was the first that I just physically could not drink without my gag reflex kicking in!

Close up of Wine Label - Gotta Love the English Translation!

Back of Ice Wine Label

Brett was not as repulsed as I was.  The first few sips, he found the wine to be “rancid, with a touch of putrid.”  However, he continued to drink it — my guess is he wanted to find a reason to like it.  And why not, it was only $10. LOL!  After several more sips, he came to the conclusion there were some endearing qualities of concord grape flavor.  These reminded him of his childhood and the grapes he would pick off the vines near his home in Connecticut.  Even though he found that tiny bit of redemption, the wine still ended up going down our drain!

Fortunately, with prices like $10 we can afford to experiment and not feel as guilty dumping it down the drain.  Perhaps I should have held on to it though – I could have tried it as a substitute for fish sauce in a few recipes! :-)

Have you experimented with any unknown wines or lesser known wine regions?  We’d love to hear the good (and the bad) so we know what to check out or be sure to avoid!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...