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October 4, 2010 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

Mouldy grapes make great wine

This week’s column focuses on sweet wines, in particular those made with grapes that have been infected by a fungus that is known in the wine industry as noble rot. The technical name for noble rot is Botrytis cinerea and when it infects wine grapes it dries them out which increases the concentration of sugars as the grapes are reduced to raisins.

Noble rot is relatively rare and only tends to strike in areas where conditions are damp. For example, a vineyard may have a slight dip in it where moist or foggy air collects allowing the rot to develop. Wineries that want the infection but do not have the spores present in the natural environment will spray the fungus on artificially. However, when it occurs naturally, only certain grapes on a bunch become infected meaning that some noble wines are literally harvested berry by berry, making the process highly labour intensive. Once pressed in the winery, the juice is a dirty brown colour which is far removed from the fined golden wine that ends up in the bottle.

Wine of Da Week

This week’s wine of the week comes from Johner Estate which is a fantastic boutique winery in Gladstone that arguably produces New Zealand’s best value for money wines. With the goal of producing top notch Pinot Noir, Johner was set up in 2001 by Karl Johner and his son Patrick who are both originally from Germany. Karl is the winery’s official winemaker and he spends a portion of the year in Germany; when he’s away manager Steven Bates takes the wheel.

The Johner Estate 2009 Noble Pinot Noir ($17) is a unique wine that is captivatingly golden in colour and made entirely from infected Pinot Noir grapes. Once it is poured into the glass, the wine sloshes around in a relaxed manner giving off rich, honey aromas with a subtle but complex layer of apricot and spice.

Recently I had this wine with two lovely ladies and we matched it first with blue cheese and then vanilla bean ice-cream and berries. Both combinations were ridiculously good with the latter producing a mind blowing caramel dimension. I wholeheartedly recommend trying these two matches if you want a textbook example of wine and food marriage.


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