Hoping and Waiting for Rot
2016 has treated us winemakers and growers well. Really, there has mostly been good news to report with regards to growing conditions through the vintage in California. We had some rainfall during last year’s wet season, then the vines woke up a bit early and produced evenly ripened fruit into October. Not much mold, mildew, or other maladies to report with this year’s harvest and we are all rejoicing in Petaluma, Sonoma, and Napa for a beautiful year!
"Botrytis is a type of rot that is very special and particular in the world of fine winemaking."
But now I am hoping for rot." Yeah, I said it! I’m hoping my remaining grapes on the vine develop devastating, grey, fuzzy rot before I pick them. But wait, before you write me off as one of those “crazy alternative winemakers” let me explain. I only have one small lot of grapes left on the vine: Semillon in Knights Valley, Sonoma County. And we’re not making regular wine from these grapes. We’re making late harvest dessert goodness, and the kind of rot I’m hoping for is not your garden-variety fuzz.
Botrytis is a type of rot that is very special and particular in the world of fine winemaking. When the right grapes have been left on the vine to gain additional sugar and flavor; when the moisture and humidity conditions are perfect; when all the stars align and growing, weather, and winemaking conditions are perfect, that’s when “normal” rot turns into “noble” rot. Botrytis takes hold of grape clusters and sucks the water out of them, concentrating the sugar and flavor that remain. This concentration creates the highly flavored juice that we use to create classic dessert wines (think Sauternes in France). The most recent rains here in Sonoma County are helping make the conditions for perfect Botrytis rot on our dessert Semillion!
I am anxiously awaiting our last pick of grapes, and hoping for fuzz!
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