by Fred McMillin
for December 3, 1998


Botrytis Bliss


Botrytis cinerea is a fungus known since ancient times. It produces the great sweet table wines of the world, but precise conditions are necessary... warm, humid days and cool, dry nights (to slow the growth). If too dry or cold, no botrytis (bow-try-tis) develops. If too warm or humid, growth is too fast, leading to black rot and total loss of the crop.

...Vintner's Art, Johnson and Halliday

The Rest of the Story

"The 1991 harvest season in the Napa Valley, being very wet, provided the perfect opportunity for Botrytis cinerea to develop. The result was a Late-Harvest Sauvignon Blanc with magnificent aromas and extremely rich, honey-apricot-caramel flavors. It should age well for 30 years." Those are the words of master winemaker Kent Rosenblum, who founded America's leading urban winery, Rosenblum Cellars, exactly 20 years ago. He likens this wine to the great sauternes of France, such as Chateau d'Yquem.

The Wine

1991 Concento d'Oro
Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley
Rosenblum Cellars, Phone (510) 865-7007
Rating—EXCELLENT. of the 15 or so California white dessert wines my panel has tasted this year, this one clearly was the best.
$15 for 375 ml.


 Tasting at Chateau d'Yquem The above reminds me of a great serendipity in Bordeaux. My wife and I were doing a piece on the local Lillet aperitif. It developed that the Lillet family were close friends of the d'Yquem owners. They wound up giving us a private tour and tasting of arguably the home of the world's greatest dessert wine. Pictured is Mrs. Lillet (R) tasting with Mrs. McMillin (L).


About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.



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