This week’s Wine Word of the Week is “Botrytis” and was suggested by fellow wine lover, Jim Chard– thanks for the suggestion, Jim!
Botrytis (aka Botrytis cinerea) is a type of fruit fungus which can affect wine grapes with delicious results. While fungus is normally thought of as a bad thing, especially when it comes to things we ingest, grapes affected by Botrytis can produce wines with a delightfully sweet, honeyed, viscous character. These wines include some of the most expensive sweet white wines in the world such as Bordeaux’s Sauternes, Hungary’s Tokaji Aszú, or Germany’s Trockenbeerenauslese.
In order for the mold to form, heat and moisture levels in the vineyard must be ideal and the grapes have to be perfectly ripe. Botrytis, or “noble rot” as it is also called, causes the grapes to dehydrate and shrivel into unattractive, moldy raisins which have very concentrated flavor. Because the grapes are dehydrated, the amount of juice present is much less than in juicy, ripe grapes intended for dry wine production. Less juice per grape makes these wines more labor, time, and resource intensive to produce.
While Botrytis is necessary for the production of these wines, there are instances where its presence in the vineyard is not a good thing. In vineyards growing grapes intended for dry wine production, the occurrence of Botrytis can be a nightmare. Even when Botrytis does occur at the right time, if the weather does not dry out and allow the grapes to dehydrate, grey rot can take over which can also be disastrous. Because the optimal vineyard conditions do not occur every year, some producers skip entire vintages of making their botrytized wines. So even with all of our modern technological advances, Mother Nature ultimately has the final say in the production of these deliciously elegant wines.
Thanks again for your suggestion, Jim! If you’d like to suggest a word for our Wine Word of the Week segment please leave it in the comment section below or on our Facebook Fan Page which you can access by clicking here. If we use your word, your name will be entered into our monthly drawing to win one month of The Wine Atelier’s “Explorateur” Wine Club (a $50 value!) but remember – you have to play to win so make your suggestion now!