Noble rot isn’t something that sounds very appealing to most people. However, this form of grey fungus or mold in grapes is the essential factor in helping to create sweet wines. When carefully cultivated, it causes the grape to shrivel which concentrates and intensifies both the sugar and flavor.
According to legend, the first written account of a sweet wine made from grapes infected with noble rot occurred in the mid-1600’s in the Tokaj region of Hungary. Abbott Maté Szepsi, priest in charge of production at the Zssuzsanna Lorántfly estate, ordered the harvest to be delayed because he feared an attack from the Turks. He harvested and vinified the putrefied grapes separately, and soon discovered its benefits in creating sweeter wines. However, word of wine made from botrytised grapes had already appeared in the Nomenklatura of Fabricius Balázs Sziksai, which was completed in 1576.
Almost a century later, Tokaji became the leading wine across the Royal Courts of France and Russia.