Europe/France Published on 01/06/2022

Botrytis cinerea, friend of great sweet wines

Sometimes cursed, sometimes adored, Botrytis cinerea can both cause a deterioration of the harvest and the loss of it (grey rot), as well as help to produce the greatest sweet wines in the world when it is rigorously controlled: Tokaji Aszú, Sauternes, Coteaux du Layon, Spätlese Riesling...


Noble rot (aka Botrytis cinerea) is a fungus that develops on wine grapes under certain conditions of humidity and sunlight. It is part of the Ascomycètes (kingdom Fungi), which are nonmotile cellular organisms, in the same way as other ascomycetes such as the antibiotic penicillin, or the Blue Stilton cheese mold.

To produce « botrytised » grapes, morning humidity in October and November is essential. Favoring the development of this fungus, it must be followed by dry weather during the day to facilitate the evaporation of water in the berries. The presence of a river near the vineyard can help the development of noble rot. As in the wine-growing region of Tokaj-Hegyalja, in Hungary, where the presence of the Tisza et Bodrog rivers help to produce Tokaji Aszú, nicknamed the “king of Hungarian wines”.

Our favourite botrytised wine: the cuvée Öreg Király Dűlő Aszúválogatás 2013 from Barta Estate (Hungary). One of the best vintages of the last decade in Tokaj, yielding top quality botrytised Furmint berries, which were macerated in grape juice for around 24 hours and then pressed to produce a very tich wine. The latter was then aged for 24 months in Hungarian oak barrels. Result: a bewitching wine, with notes of citrus fruits and candied quince, pine resin, caramel and gingerbread. Furmint 100%; residual sugar: 246 g/l; total acidity: 7 g/l; alcohol: 9%. Around €90 for a 37.5cl bottle (estate price).

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