Many wine lovers have heard of the term “noble rot,” or pourriture noble, but what is it exactly? Noble rot is caused by the mold Botrytis Cinerea. It forms on grapes in areas where the autumns are mild and damp and causes their skin to shrivel up.
The miracle is that the resulting wine doesn’t taste moldy or rotten. What the mold does it allow some water to escape from the infected grape and leave behind more of the sugar and flavors. What results is a wine with an intense taste and bouquet and a smooth, nearly oily texture.
The downside is that the grapes need to be picked one at a time as they shrivel, and the amount of wine produced is smaller than it would be. Also, waiting for the mold to do its work is risky, for a spate of bad weather can destroy it. But for many vintners, the risk is worth it!