Noble rot

Noble rot
Noble rot on Riesling grapes.

Noble rot (French: pourriture noble; German: Edelfäule; Italian: Muffa nobile) is the benevolent form of a grey fungus, Botrytis cinerea, affecting wine grapes. Infestation by Botrytis requires moist conditions, and if the weather stays wet, the malevolent form, "grey rot", can destroy crops of grapes. Grapes typically become infected with Botrytis when they are ripe, but when then exposed to drier conditions become partially raisined and the form of infection brought about by the partial drying process is known as noble rot. Grapes when picked at a certain point during infestation can produce particularly fine and concentrated sweet wine. Some of the finest Botrytized wines are literally picked berry by berry in successive tries (French for "selections").



According to Hungarian legend the first aszú (a wine using botrytised grapes) was made by Laczkó Máté Szepsi in 1630. However, mention of wine made from botrytised grapes had already appeared in the Nomenklatura of Fabricius Balázs Sziksai, which was completed in 1576. A recently discovered inventory of aszú predates this reference by five years. When vineyard classification began in 1730 in the Tokaj region, one of the gradings given to the various terroirs centered on their potential to develop Botrytis cinerea.

A popular myth is that the practice originated independently in Germany in 1775, where the Riesling producers at Schloss Johannisberg (Geisenheim, in the Rheingau region) traditionally awaited the say-so of the estate owner, Heinrich von Bibra, Bishop of Fulda, before cutting their grapes. In this year (so the legend goes), the abbey messenger was robbed en route to delivering the order to harvest and the cutting was delayed for three weeks, time enough for the Botrytis to take hold. The grapes were presumed worthless and given to local peasants,[1] who produced a surprisingly good, sweet wine which subsequently became known as Spätlese, or late harvest wine. In the following few years, several different classes of increasing must weight were introduced, and the original Spätlese was further elaborated, first into Auslese in 1787[2] and later Eiswein in 1858 (although Eiswein is usually made from grapes not affected by Botrytis).[3]

Viticulture and uses

Botrytis cinerea on Semillon grapes in Sauternes

Internationally renowned botrytised wines include the aszú of Tokaj-Hegyalja in Hungary and Slovakia (commonly called Tokaji, Tokajské or Tokay), Sauternes from France - where the process is known as pourriture or pourriture noble, and Beerenauslese or Trockenbeerenauslese wines from Germany and Austria. Other wines of this type include the Romanian Grasă de Cotnari, French Coteaux du Layon, French Monbazillac, Austrian Ausbruch and South African Noble Late Harvest (NLH). Depending on conditions the grapes may be only minimally botrytized. Botrytis has also been imported for use by winemakers in California and Australia. In some cases inoculation occurs when spores are sprayed over the grapes, while some vineyards depend on natural inoculation from spores present in the environment.


  1. ^ A Short History of Riesling
  2. ^ Karen MacNeil The Wine Bible Workman Publishing 2001 page 540 ISBN 1-56305-434-5
  3. ^ A History of Schloss Johannisberg

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • noble rot — noun Etymology: translation of French pourriture noble 1. : an alteration of various wine grapes that is caused by the action of a fungus on the grapes when allowed to hang on the vine until overripe and that is responsible for the characteristic …   Useful english dictionary

  • noble rot — Winemaking. the fungus Botrytis cinerea, which is cultivated in some winemaking processes, esp. in the making of French Sauternes, where the ripened grapes become shriveled as a result of its introduction, thereby concentrating the juice and… …   Universalium

  • noble rot — noun a grey mould (Botrytis cinerea) that is cultivated on grapes in order to perfect certain wines. Origin 1930s: translation of Fr. pourriture noble …   English new terms dictionary

  • noble rot — /noʊbəl ˈrɒt/ (say nohbuhl rot) noun → botrytis …   Australian English dictionary

  • noble rot — noun Date: 1905 a botrytis fungus (Botrytis cinerea) that infects various usually overripe wine grapes causing shriveling which results in increased sugar and flavor content and is responsible for the characteristic flavor of sauternes and… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • noble rot — noun A benevolent form of the fungus Botrytis cinerea which, in the right conditions, leads to a concentrated sweet wine …   Wiktionary

  • noble rot — Botrytis cinerea (parasitic fungus or mold that attacks grapes but that in certain climates produces great sweet white wines) …   Eponyms, nicknames, and geographical games

  • Noble One — De Bortoli Wines Noble One Botrytis Semillon is an award winning sweet white wine, developed by Darren De Bortoli during the 1980s. Since its release Noble One has been awarded 100 Trophies, 335 Gold medals and 113 International Awards. In 2005… …   Wikipedia

  • noble mold — noun see noble rot 2 …   Useful english dictionary

  • Noble patria, tu hermosa bandera — (deutsch: Edles Vaterland, deine schöne Flagge) ist die Nationalhymne von Costa Rica. Die Melodie von Manuel María Gutiérrez wurde 1853 zur Nationalhymne, der Text wurde im Jahre 1900 von José María Zeledón Brenes hinzugefügt. Liedtext Noble… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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