Fascinating Fact from WineSpeed: Botrytis Beginnings

Grapes affected by noble rot, or Botrytis cinerea, produce the world's most sought after sweet wines.
Grapes affected by noble rot, or Botrytis cinerea, produce the world’s most sought after sweet wines.

Karen MacNeil, author of the Wine Bible and Director of the Wine Program at the Culinary Institute of America, recently wrote this “Fascinating Fact” on the history of sweet wine production:

The world’s most highly prized dessert wines actually got off to a rotten start. The Sauternes region of France is best known for these wines today, but the practice of using botrytized grapes (those infected with the fungus Botrytis cinerea)to make unctuously sweet dessert wines actually began in Hungary’s Tokay region around 1650. (By comparison, the first Sauternes is thought to be an 1847 Chateau d’Yquem.) As the story goes, the Hungarian harvest was delayed that year due to a Turkish invasion. After several weeks of battle, Hungarians returned to their vineyards to find their grapes shriveled and rotting on the vine. They harvested them anyway, and, much to their surprise, found that, thanks to the fungus, the tiny amount of concentrated liquid left inside each grape tasted like honey!

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Try this “highly prized” wine for yourself! We have examples from several producers in Tokaj:

Dorogi Eszencia 2008
Füleky Pallas Tokaji Late Harvest 2012
Füleky Tokaj 6 Puttonyos Aszú 2007
Patricius Katinka Late Harvest 2012
Patricius Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos 2004
Tinon Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos 2005

Austria also produces famous sweet wines from botrytized grapes. The wines from Rosenhof in Burgenland are simply delicious:

Rosenhof Chardonnay TBA 2010
Rosenhof Welschriesling TBA 2010