What? Noble rot. ("What's noble about rot?" the tongue-in-cheek Wine for Dummies asks). Botrytis cinerea causes grapes to shrivel, essentially preempting their transformation into raisins. The fungus thrives in humid weather, rain, fog, and mist, and is a vintner's nightmare unless-and this is key-he or she hopes to make dessert wine. In that case, botrytis is heaven sent. By concentrating the sugar in the grapes, botrytis causes flavors to deepen and intensify. Because acid levels remain high, however, the resultant wines aren't overly sweet. Rather, grapes affected by botrytis produce complex, luscious, aromatic honeyed wines such as the famed dessert wines of Sauternes. While the wine industry has experimented with artificially inducing noble rot, for now, at least, Mother Nature rules.
When? April 4, Robert Barral, The New England Culinary Institute