There’s nothing noble about rot – except when it comes to producing a honeyed Monbazillac, that is. The sweet dessert wine is made using grapes that have been affected by botrytis cinerea.
The fungal infection is the result of warm weather following a wet spell. That may not sound terribly appealing but it’s a vital part of the production of some of France’s best dessert wines.
Monbazillac lies just south of Bergerac in the Dordogne. The 16th century Château de Monbazillac (pictured) is set up on a hill and its garden affords stunning views across the Dordogne valley.
The local wines are made using the semillon, sauvignon blanc and muscadelle grapes. The grapes are left on the vine until they develop the rot.
“As anyone who has spent time in Périgord will tell you, the wine works beautifully with the local speciality: foie gras”
Sweet wines are said to have been made in the area since the 11th century, when monks forgot about the vines but wanted to put the rotten grapes to use anyway.
The process is similar to that used in Sauternes, but Monbazillac wines have yet to command quite the same prices or respect as their westerly neighbours. With flavours of honey, peach, apricot and elderflower, a good Monbazillac can be the perfect accompaniment to a dessert.
Or, as anyone who has spent much time in Périgord will tell you, the wine works beautifully with the local speciality: foie gras.