Botrytis cinerea is a prevalent grey rot fungus that impacts fruit and vegetable harvests. The rot naturally develops from environmental spores which are drawn to sweet crops and adore moist, damp places. As a result, grape berries are an ideal environment for botrytis to flourish. Grey rot can cause harm and even destroy crops if the weather is consistently rainy and the fungus is not controlled. In addition, grapes can lose their colour and have their flavour altered.

Fungus and its positive attributes

The same grey rot fungus may be favourable for some white grape varieties with high acidity levels and a specific environment. The phrase "noble rot" refers to the fungus's effects on the development which will result in premium white sweet wines. The development of noble rot starts when grapes are fully ripened with an alcohol level of 7 percent, a typical weather condition is necessary. The regions that are well known for producing this style of wine made by noble rot have typical humid, misty, wet mornings which are followed by a sunny and dry afternoon.

The damp, humid morning develops the rot on grapes, creating a layer with a furry appearance that affects the grape skin by leaving microscopic holes. The sunny, warm afternoon delays the growth of rot, which causes water to evaporate from the damaged skin and results in grapes that are shriveled and have a concentration of sugars, flavour, and acidity, giving the wine its classic flavours of honey, ripe peach, apricot, dried fruit, and zesty aromas.

Noble rot-affected grapes are hand-picked and carefully selected since the rot may impact grape bunches differently. The grapes are shielded from further damage by manual harvesting, meticulously selecting each grape one at a time, and picking is sometimes repeated over eight times depending on the development of rot. Although this procedure is time-consuming and expensive, with limited and low yields, the wine it produces is exceptional, elegantly sweet, and long-lasting which demands high prices.

Botrytized wines

An exceptional example of botrytized wines with a high market price and a reputable international reputation is Tokaji Asźu from Tokaj in Hungary which commonly uses grape varietals 70% Furmint, 20-25% Hárslevelű and a small percentage of Sárga Muskotá (Muscat Blanc a Petits Grains).

Sauternes, west bank of Bordeaux, France which is made from a blend of Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle grapes. Sélection de Grain Noble (SGN) of Alsace, France made from Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Muscat grape varieties.

Trockenbeerenauslese a German category meaning dried berry selection (TBA), finest examples are made from Riesling grape, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Ortega and other Germanic varieties are also permitted. The trockenbeerenauslese category is also common in Austria which comes from Neusiedlersee and Burgenland.

Countless culinary combinations

Serving sweet wines with sweet desserts is the most common way to combine them with food. According to one theory, the sweetness of desserts and wines complement each other nicely, resulting in a harmonious pairing of the two. Sweet wines can pair with stone fruit tarts such as peach tart, and apricot tart. Also pairs well with dried fruit and nuts such as dates and pecan cakes.

When considering additional treats to pair with the luscious sweet wine, I may experiment with cinnamon rolls drenched in frosting or perhaps a Christmas pudding infused with liquor.

For those who are feeling more daring and want to try savory meals, I recommend dishes that have been caramelized or honeyed. A delicious board of outstanding blue cheese and dried nuts or fatty foie gras would also be ideal.