I had the pleasure of interviewing the Executive Chef and the Winemaker for Dolce a few weeks ago ((Dolce is part of the Far Niente group here in Napa Valley). They put together a delicious pairing: Brioche Bread Pudding with the Dolce. YUM!
Tag Archives: sauternes
The mention of botrytis draws very different reactions, depending upon who you’re talking to.
What is it? It’s rot. It belongs in this year’s harvest vocabulary because there’s lots of it around.
In my last post I talked about the problems associated with rain and, of course, rot is one of them. Some varieties are more resistant than others: Thin-skinned and tight-clustered varieties are the most vulnerable. We tend to think that tough-skinned varieties, like Cabernet Sauvignon, will weather a storm quite nicely unless it just goes on and on (which it hasn’t).
However – a friend who grows Cabernet grower told me that she’s had to thin out botrytis in her vineyard so it doesn’t spread. Bummer!
So, there’s that word again. It’s nearly always a bad word, but it does have a place in the world of winemaking. I sent a quick email to Roger Harrison, of RA Harrison Family Cellars, to check with him on his outlook for this vintage. His reply? “I’m the only man in the valley who’s smiling.”
You see, Roger only makes late-harvest, Sauternes-style wine and for that you actually need botrytis! Say what?
Yup! Under the right conditions, it perforates the grapeskins and the grapes start to dehydrate, concentrating the sugar and flavor. And, believe it or not the botrytis, itself, gives the wine a distinctive honeyed character that, once experienced, is never forgotten. Continue reading
Question from Renee: Hi! I was at a friend’s house for dinner the other day and she served a really sweet wine from a small bottle called Dolce. I don’t usually like sweet wine, but this was delicious! She said it’s a late-harvest wine and I didn’t want to look like an idiot so I didn’t ask what that means. What is it?
Reply: Hi, Renee. Thanks for writing! You have a very generous friend. That’s an expensive bottle of wine – I love it, too – I think of it as liquid gold…
Your friend was right – Dolce is in a category of wines referred to as late-harvest or botrytized wine. If you’ve ever heard of Sauternes, that was the model. This category also includes late-harvest, sweet German wines such as Beerenauslese (BA) and Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA). From Hungary, there’s the famous Tokaj. Ice wine (eiswein) isn’t usually botrytized, but it certainly qualifies as late harvest since the grapes are picked and pressed in a frozen state.
The term is quite literal. The grapes are harvested much later than normal – so late that they’ve begun to dehydrate and, in fact, begun to rot. Botrytis cinerea is famous in the wine world (the French call it the “noble rot”) for compounding the dehydration which concentrates the sugar, acid and flavors. This is because the rot perforates the grape skins and the watery juice seeps out. Botrytized wines have an unforgettable honeyed character, which I’m sure you noticed in the Dolce. Continue reading