Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Quick Swirl: Peter Lehman Barossa Botrytis Semillon (PB)

This rich Australian dessert wine sits a deep amber in the 375 ml bottle. Botrytis Cinerea is a fungus that brings a delighted smile to the growers of grapes in many parts of the world. It is this wonderful little mold that makes possible the luscious golden nectars from Sauternes and the great Chateau D’Yquem. Under just the right conditions, this fungus establishes on the grapes sending its hyphae (little mold tentacles) into the individual grape sucking water out of the grape to nourish the mold. In the process, the grape is essentially dehydrated thus concentrating the sugar content of the grape. That’s the upside. The down side is you can imagine how many grapes (that look more like raisins) you need to get enough juice to make anything. And now you understand part of the relative high cost of such desert wines. This Australian was $14 (remember this is a half-bottle).

The Botrytis gives a distinctive aroma to the wine adding a honeyed and in this case, a melony bouquet to the wine. In the mouth it sits rich and thick, wildly sweet but in this instance it is almost, not quite, “cloying.” Cloying is a term that means the sweetness is not balanced out by a solid acid foundation that makes the wine almost too sweet.

How can you tell if you’re not familiar with such elements of tasting? Here’s my rule of thumb. If after you have had 2-4 ounces and you think, that was nice, but I’ve had enough, odds are, the acid was not quite sufficient. On the other hand, if you could easily down the entire bottle by yourself without really thinking about it, you’ve probably got a dessert wine with a great balance of sweetness and acid. There’s still some in the bottle for tonight…

After a few minutes some nice vanilla and caramel flavors emerged as well. It’s okay and it’s still a treat but I’ve had better by the same producer for even a couple dollars less.

No comments: