Mystery wine Botryis affected

by Sue

Sue asks about a mystery wine:

Many years ago at a wine tasting, I tried the best wine I have EVER had. Unfortunately, I can't remember what type of wine it is.

I do recall that the wine was from Australia. It was unusual because the grapes had a fungal infection prior to fermentation. I think this fungus was a natural infection in the field. It gave the wine a sweet flavour.

Sorry to be so vague. That's all I remember other than it was VERY tasty! Thank you for your help.

Darby speculates:

The fungal infection in the grapes which gave the wine its sweetness was almost certainly Botrytis cinerea, otherwise known as Noble Rot. This grows on the grapes as they are ripening, especially during wet and humid seasons.

Fungi, including Botrytis cinerea, growing on the ripening bunches of grapes are generally a nuisance in the vineyard, and in some seasons can cause major crop losses in exceptionally wet years. However in some regions, particularly with white grape varieties, Botrytis can be of immense benefit. The fungus attacks the grapes and causes the juice to evaporate leaving a much sweeter semi-dried raisin. It also causes a number of complex biochemical reactions to occur which after the grapes are fermented produce intense and exotic sweet flavours.

The sweet wines from Sauternes and some of the best German white wines are perhaps the best known examples of botrytised wines but they are made in many regions of the world. These wines of course vary in quality, but many are quite expensive. Unlike some other styles of white wine they age very well.

Sue, you said you tried an Australian sweet wine, many years ago that was affected by a fungus. My guess would be that the wine you tried was Noble One, produced by De Bortoli. This was the first widely distributed botritized wine made in Australia. I was first produced in the early 1980s, and I'm sure it would have been distributed internationally since about that time. Noble One is certainly a wine that would make a strong impression that you would remember.

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