hist-brewing: Botrytis

Jeff Renner nerenner at umich.edu
Wed Jun 7 06:11:37 PDT 2000

Shroom <shroom at theriver.com>wrote:

>Of course, there is the historically-based perspective, in which one can argue
>whether grapes were first artificially fermented (using botrytis fungus
>naturally found on grapes, and yielding what is today "late harvest" type

You are confounding two different fungi.  Botrytis cinerea, or noble rot,
attacks the skins of grapes on the vine in certain weather situations in
late autumn, most notably in the case of Sauternes in Bordeaux, France, and
in the Rhein, Mosel and Saar wine regions of Germany.  This concentrates
the sugars of the grapes by shriveling them, and produces flavor changes.
These shriveled grapes are pressed to make a very thick, syrupy must, which
leaves high sugar levels in the wine when fermented out.  These prized
sweet or very sweet wines (Sauternes and Beerenaulesen or
Trockenbeerenauslesen) are very expensive due to the risk taken by the
vintner in leaving the grapes exposed to actual rot, and also due to the
small yield.

The actual fermentation of wine, both these sweet wines and ordinary wines,
is done by a different organism entirely, the yeast Saccharomyces
cerevisiae.  Its name means beer yeast, but is actually the same species as
wine and bread yeast.  It was probably first domesticated by humans for
wine as it is found naturally on grape skins, and then used to leaven bread
and ferment beer.  There are now, of course, many thousands of different
strains, each of which is better suited for one or another purpose.



Jeff Renner in Ann Arbor, Michigan USA, c/o nerenner at umich.edu
"One never knows, do one?"  Fats Waller, American Musician, 1904-1943. 

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