by Fred McMillin
for October 30, 1997

A Harvest From Hades

Prologue: Disaster! The world-class Riesling grapes should have been harvested two weeks ago. Now they were moldy, shriveled and brown. However, the Bishop of Fulda was traveling and only he could give the orders to start picking. His messenger had been delayed, some say by thieves, others by a lovely woman. In any case, he ultimately arrived, the rotting grapes were harvested, and wine was made...absolutely superb dessert wine. The year was 1716.

The Rest of the Story: The monks had discovered Botrytis cinerea (bow-try-tihs sin-eh-ray-uh). It is a member of the fungus family. If there are some alternating wet and drying periods in the fall, a graycoat sometimes forms on the grapes. Filaments pierce the grape skin, allowing moisture to escape and concentrating the sugar. Other chemical changes occur that add apricot and honey flavors.

In California, Mike Grgich scored well with a '93 Botrytis Riesling. He's now released the premier bottling of a 1994 Late-Harvest "Violetta," that has dazzled the critics. In the World Wine Championships it earned a 94; the "Wine Spectator" rated it 95... 12% sugar balanced with refreshing acidity...the Bishop of Fulda would find this one "absolutely superb," too.

The Wine:
1994 Late Harvest Violetta, Napa Valley
Grgich Hills Cellar
Rutherford, Napa Valley, CA
Food Affinities—Feature it against a simple background that's not too sweet...semi-sweet crackers with slices of pears and white cheese.
Contact—Gail Golden, (707) 963-2784 or (800) 532-3057
Price—$26 (375 ml.), $50 (750 ml.)

Postscript: Miljenko Grgich has a daughter named Violet.

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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