Botrytis cinerea, a.k.a. Noble Rot (noun): a kind of mold that grows on grapes late in the growing season.
But don't let the idea of moldy grapes fool you! This noblest of rots is a crucial component to many fine wines.
When noble rot sets in, the grapes shrivel up like raisins, concentrating the sugar inside. Much of this sugar remains after the grapes are fermented, eventually producing an intensely sweet white wine.
The Sauternes region in Southwest France produces some of the best sweet wines following this method, particularly a vineyard called Chateau d'Yquem. Some Californian vineyards have also started to experiment with the effects of noble rot on late-harvest wines.
Incidentally, the alcohol content for these wines is quite high--around 14-percent--so pace yourself! Though it's a fantastic dessert wine, sweet Sauternes can also pair well with cheeses and many rich meats.
Have any of you ever tried a wine made from grapes with noble rot?
(Photo Credit: Chateau des Moulins a Vent)