Category Archives: Botrytised Wine

Nov 11 2010

Botrytis Viognier: Worth Hunting for!

Posted on November 11, 2010 | By

In my last post, Part 2, The Riverina Shines with Some of the Best Botrytised Wines!, I talked about the wonderful botrytis semillons being produced in the Riverina, but I didn’t want to give you the impression that winemakers in different regions of Australia aren’t making excellent botrytised wines in other varieties.

In fact, at this year’s International Sweet Wine Challenge, the winner of both the Best Young Sweet – Other Varieties and Blends and International Sweet Wine of the Year was the Yalumba FSW8B Botrytis Viognier 2009 (rrp. $21.95), made by senior winemaker Peter Gambetta.

As was discussed in Viognier: A Difficult Grape makes a Great Wine!, viognier makes a very aromatic and full-bodied wine. In fact, Jancis Robinson refers to it as ‘the hedonist’s white grape variety’. No wonder it’s a perfect candidate for sweet, full flavoured botrytis wine. But as Robinson also rightly observes, it is often ‘the vitner’s headache’ – temperamental, low yields and slow development of its characteristic heady aromas challenge even the most experienced vitner. (Viognier by Jancis Robinson,, 3 September 2008)

Yalumba, the first winery to plant viognier in Australia thirty years ago, has demonstrated that with ingenuity and persistence very fine viognier can be made in Australia even of the botrytised kind.

Wrattonbully in the Limestone Coast area in the south eastern part of South Australia provides the ideal climate for Yalumba’s botrytis viognier. Fruit ripens naturally with high sugar and flavours in the warm summer. Vines are grown to encourage a dense canopy, as it reduces air flow and encourages the infection and growth of  botrytis cinerea, which is initiated and sustained by the dewy, cool mornings and sunny days of the long autumn. The grapes are difficult to press and several pressings are required to … Read the rest

Nov 11 2010

Part 2, The Riverina Shines with Some of the Best Botrytised Wines!

Posted on November 11, 2010 | By

In my previous post, Botrytised Dessert Wines: Part 1, The Alchemy Process!, I mentioned how important climate was for activating the dormant spores of botrytis cinera on the grapes to create the noble rot that is necessary for making wonderfully fragrant and flavourful sweet wine.

Fortunately, Australia’s Riverina shares many climatic similarities with Sauternes, the celebrated French sweet wine region and home of one of the most famous wines in the world, Chateau D’Yquem.

Like Sauternes, the Riverina experiences early morning frost and fog late in the growing season, allowing the all important botrytised mould to develop on the grapes. While the nights are cool, the warm, dry days when intermingled with just the right amount of humidity from light rains encourage the development of the noble rot.

Australia’s most lauded botrytised wine, De Bortoli Noble One, was one of the first botrytised wines produced in the Riverina and is still a benchmark for the style. Created by Darren De Bortoli at the family winery in Bilbul, this year the winery celebrated the 25th vintage of this famous wine with the release of the the 2007 vintage.

Since 2000 the wine has been made by De Bortoli  senior executive winemaker Julie Mockton. A blend of French oaked and un-oaked botrytis semillon, Noble One shares all the hallmarks of a great Sauternes. Typically bright gold in colour, this rich, opulent wine exhibits fresh and complex aromas ranging from peach, cumquat, nectarine and floral honey complemented with hints of well integrated sweet vanillin oak. The palate is rich, vibrant and luscious with layers of flavour including apricot, peach, citrus and subtle French oak.

Under the direction of winemaker Rob Fiumara, Lillypilly Estate also makes a very fine and reasonably priced sweet wine. The Lillypilly Estate Noble Blend 2008 (rrp … Read the rest

Nov 11 2010

Botrytised Dessert Wines: Part 1, The Alchemy Process!

Posted on November 11, 2010 | By

After the sublime experience of imbibing De Bortoli’s Noble One Botrytised Semillon 2006 at our wine tasting dinner last week, I was keen to learn more about how these magical botrytised dessert wines, which had delighted Thomas Jefferson in the 18th century, are made.

Possibly one of the most intriguing aspects of botrytised wines are the grapes used in their production. They are infected by noble rot – a fungus that attacks the fruit, absorbing water and shriveling the skins. The grapes look bloody awful but the best give forth an amazing liquid that has been described as nectar for the gods!

The most acclaimed botrytised wines are the French Sauternes and in particular the ethereal wines of Chateau D’Yquem, the only Sauternes to be recognised as Premier Cru Grande Superieur (Great First Growth) in the Bordeaux Classification of 1855.

The climate of the tiny Sauternes appellation is the key ingredient: early-morning moisture late in the growing season engenders the development of mould on the grapes, activating dormant spores of Botrytis cinerea. Providing the mists evaporate each day, drying out the vines and their fruit, the mould will tend towards noble rot rather than the soddy grey rot, which happens if the weather stays too damp. The noble rot  desiccates the grapes one-by-one, concentrating the sugars as the water evaporates without developing any off-putting, mouldy flavours, and, in fact, contributing an appealing flavour all of its own.

The best Sauternes are generally made from two grape varieties: semillon,and sauvignon blanc.  At Chateau d’Yquem, the grapes are picked by hand at least six times during the harvest season to ensure that only the botrytised grapes are selected.

In general, great Sauternes are characterised by their complexity, balance, opulence, vibrancy and a relatively high acidity that helps to balance the … Read the rest