Noble Rot – The Wine Friendly Fungus

Harry Lambourne
15th April 2024

Noble Rot may not sound appealing, but it is responsible for some of the world’s most revered sweet wines. Noble Rot comes a fungus known as botrytis cinerea. You may also see it called ‘grey mould‘.

Regardless of the naming convention, wines produced from Noble Rot are deeply desirable but can be fraught with issues. Yet, winemakers will continue to produce them because the end results are something to behold.

Over this article, we will take you into the world of Noble Rot. This will include exactly why this fungus results in delicious wine. It will also include common tasting notes which can come from Noble Rot wines and we’ll even take a look at some of the regions which have built up a reputation for these sumptuous sweet treats.

Let’s learn about the weird and wonderful world of Noble Rot wine – the world’s wine-friendly fungus.

What Is Noble Rot?

Botrytis on Blackberries
Botrytis on Blackberries

We’ve mentioned briefly what Noble Rot is. It is officially known as Botrytis Cinerea. This is not something unique to the world of viticulture. The fungus excels in wet and humid conditions. Here, it is able to settle on the crops and begin to attack. Next, the Noble Rot sets in as dry conditions follow the wetter conditions.

Botrytis Cinerea can affect a multitude of crops. Beyond grapes, you can often find crops such as strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, chickpeas, lettuce, broccoli and beans.

With grapes, the fungus attaches itself to the skin and seems to make the grapes seem wet and sunken. This is because the fungus pokes little holes in the skin and this causes the water to evaporate. This fact is crucial when we are talking about Noble Rot and their relation to wine.

As the water evaporates from the grapes, all that remains are greater percentages of pulp, with the sugars and acids. This leads to not only a more intensely flavoured wine, but a far sweeter wine as there is more sugar to water. But, what does it taste like?

What Do Noble Rot Wines Taste Like?

Now, you will know how Noble Rot affects grapes and leads to sweeter wines. Yet, sweet doesn’t necessarily mean tasty. So, we are going to introduce you to the common tasting notes associated with Noble Rot wines.

It is worth mentioning that particular varietal notes will still be present in these offerings. Noble Rot wines from Riesling will taste distinct to those of Sémillon. Interestingly, you may note that all the grapes that tend to be used in these wines have a high level of acidity. This means that the wines will retain a sufficient level of acidity so that the final product is balanced. The acidity helps to make sure the wines aren’t too sweet to the taste.

Regional differences will also play their part. Some may display a more mineral character due to the soil type and some may have more acidity due to the climate. In spite of all this, there are common Noble Rot characteristics that will shine through.

Common tasting notes include orange marmalade, honey, caramel, ginger, beeswax, raisins, apricot jam, dried pineapple, and even mushrooms! This should indicate that this is a deeply complex and flavourful drink that is going to be packed with all sorts on intense and delicious aromas and flavours.

Noble Rot Wine Regions

Noble Rot pops up across the globe, in anywhere where the environment is conducive to the fungus settling on the groups. Notable examples include Hungary where Tokaji Aszú wines have been acclaimed for centuries. Then, Austria, Canada, the Loire Valley and beyond.

We will focus on two wine regions in particular. Both are known for their still wines, but their sweet wines are also exceptional. They are Bordeaux and the Mosel. Let’s begin with Bordeaux.

Château d'Yquem
Château d’Yquem – A Noble Rot Hotspot

Bordeaux’s maritime climate brings in humidity with clouds and rainfall, then sunny days dry out the vineyards and this allows for the fungus to settle. The Bordeaux region of Sauternes is renowned for their sweet wines made from Sémillon grapes and you’ve got it, they’re from grapes which have been affected by Noble Rot. The most famous example, (in not just Bordeaux but the world), is Château d’Yquem.

Their wines can go for £100s or even £1000s and more, for aged examples. Indeed, they are the only Premier Cru Supêrieur in the Sauternes wine region. This is due to the vineyard’s susceptibility to Noble Rot. Don’t be dismayed, you can find excellent Sauternes that isn’t going to break the bank!

Now, we move onto the Mosel wine region. Here, Germany’s premier wine region has built up a formidable reputation for Riesling wines affected by Noble Rot. German wine actually has six categories of wine which are ranked according to must weight, (and sweetness).

Of these, Auslese comes from a small fraction of Noble Rot grapes. Then, you get to Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese which come from Noble Rot grapes with the latter being particularly syrupy sweet and some of the world’s greatest sweet wines. Another notable example of sweet wine from this region is Ice Wine.

Mosel Vineyards | Key For Riesling
Mosel Vineyards

That has been our look into the world of Noble Rot. It is one of the many interesting oddities in the ever fascinating world of wine. Whether you’ve got a certified sweet tooth, or are skeptical of the syrupy stuff, we recommend you pick up a bottle of wine which has been affected by Noble Rot – you won’t look back!

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