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Botrytis wine: How sweet it is

White vine grapes infected with “noble rot” make sweet wines that can be "truly sublime."

“Noble rot” refers to a fungus that transforms white wine grapes into “misshapen brown blobs,” said Thom Elkjer in Wine Enthusiast. Called Botrytis cinerea, it dessicates the grapes used to make “lusciously textured, deeply sweet” wines that can be truly sublime. Here are three we highly recommend, with ratings based on our 100-point scoring system.

Schloss Johannisberger 2006 Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese Goldlack (Rheingau) (97, $486 for 375 ml) “Late-harvest botrytis wines perhaps reach their pinnacle” in Germany’s steep river valleys. “Almost chewy in texture,” this incredibly sweet wine has a fascinating flavor of dried apricots and citrus. “The finish lasts for minutes.”

Château de Fesles 2005 Bonnezeaux (93, $41 for 375 ml) France’s Bordeaux region creates two famed botrytis wines made with Sémillon grapes—Sauternes and Barsac. In the Loire Valley, sweet wine is made with Chenin Blanc. This “great sweet Chenin” is a “superb dessert wine” that will also age well.

De Bortoli 2006 Noble One Botrytis Sémillon (New South Wales) (93, $32 for 375 ml) Completely natural botrytis wines are rare in Australia, but winemakers artificially induce botrytis. This honey-colored wine delivers “a complex array of flavors balanced with decent acidity.”

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