Rotten Luck: Sauterne’s Noble Rot explained

What is Noble Rot and how does it create such concentration and complexity of aromas?

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Botrytis cinerea or noble rot is a parasite that ‘digests’ the skin of the grapes. It enables the water to evaporate and for the sugar and the acidity in the grapes to become super-concentrated. In addition the grape reacts and synthesizes an enormous amount of aromatic precursors before dying. It is in fact the grape’s self-defense mechanism that produces the magnitude of diverse aromas.

Typical aromas include; acacia, honeysuckle, peach, apricot, fresh orange, orange peel, candied orange, marmalade pineapple, mango, lychee, grapefruit, lime, fig, honey, cinnamon, coconut, fruit stones, dried fruits such as apricots and figs …..

The multiplication is impressive. Recent research over the past four years on the molecule present in grapefruit for example shows that as a grape ripens the amount of the molecule is concentrated by three times. When botrytis strikes it is multiplied by 1000!

There are four main stages of noble rot; castema, pourri plein, rôti…..


Here is the scientific explanation;

Le champignon attaque les baies il entre par des microfissures que l’on ne voit pas à l’oeil nu, ces microfissures apparaissent lors de la maturation. 

The micro-fungus attacks the grapes and enters by tiny cracks that develop during the ripening in the skin that we cannot see with the naked eye.

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Le développement se fait alors dans les parois superficielles des baies. quand toute les parties superficielles sont envahies par le champignon on parle de pourri plein , les baies sont marrons., chocolat. 

The micro-fungus develops in the outer lining of the berries. When all of the outer parts are invaded by the fungus we call this ‘pourri plein’. At this stage the grapes are a brown chocolate colour.

Alors le champignon produit des filaments qui émergent à la surface de la baie . Du coup la baie n’est plus protégée , ni hydratée, elle est alors totalement dépendante du climat.

At this point the fungus produces filaments that emerge from the surface of the grape. It means that the berry is no longer protected, or hydrated and is totally dependant on the climate.

L’évolution idéale est une dessication (vent et soleil) qui concentre les sucres dans les baies par déshydratation et le champignon meure car trop de pression osmotique sur sa membrane cellulaire. 

The ideal evolution is a dessication by the wind and sun that concentrates the sugars in the berrys by dehydration. The fungus then dies as there is too much osmotic pressure on the cellular membrane.

Sept 760

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