Monday, October 26, 2015

Rot hits Wölffer Estate Vineyard, and they like it

The 'noble rot' up close.
Some of the grapes at Wölffer Estate Vineyard on Long Island's North Fork are rotten, and winemaker Roman Roth is thrilled.

As Roth reported on Saturday, "We struck gold!"

Roth, who is a partner in the Wölffer operation, explained that the "noble rot" -- formally known as Botrytis cinerea fungus -- was found on pockets of the vineyard's own Chardonnay grapes and on its purchased Riesling grapes after a perfect growing season, one of the driest on record.

As wine writer Jancis Robinson explains in her book The Oxford Companion to Wine -- "When noble rot attacks ripe, undamaged white wine grapes ... [it] can result in extremely sweet grapes which may look disgusting, but have undergone such a complex transformation that they are capable of producing probably the world's finest, and certainly the longest-living, sweet wines. ... The defining factor of a great vintage for sweet white wine ... is the incidence of noble rot."

This isn't the first time Roth has encountered the welcome fungus.

"The last botrytis-infected wine we made, Descencia 2012 -- now sold out, earned 94 points from Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate. This time we're going for 100."

Roth notes that the sugar level for these gnarly grapes, harvested last Thursday, is a huge 73.5 Brix. The average usually is in the range of 40. The 73.5, he claims, is "The highest Brix east of the Rockies, if not in the entire U.S."

Wölffer Estate Vineyard is located at 139 Sagg Road in Sagaponack. It also has a wine shop located at 3312 Montauk Highway. The phone number for both is 631-537-5106.

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