Noble rot, also known as grey mold, is both a bane and a blessing for winemakers. Scientifically known as Botrytis cinerea, it is known to be devastating to many wines, though for select types of wines like Sauternes, Tokaji Aszu, and Spätlese German Rieslings, the presence of this fungus is actually highly desirable.
Botrytis cinerea infections result in withered grapes and can lead to a finished table wine with off-flavors and aromas. Not only does this reduce the desirability and quality of the finished wine, but it ultimately leads to significant economic losses for the winery. On the other hand, in other wines like the ones mentioned above, the presence of Botrytis cinerea is actually desired, since the infection is partially responsible for the desired flavors and aromas of these finished dessert-style wines.
Another type of wine that relies on withered grapes for its quality is Amarone. Unlike Sauternes, Tokaji Aszu, and the like, Amarone grapes must be withered by drying and not via infection by Botrytis cinerea.
One problem arises is that it is rather difficult to tell the difference between grapes that are withered on their own versus grapes that are withered due to Botrytis cinereainfection. Since Botrytis cinerea is known to alter the chemical composition of Amarone wines, having the ability to distinguish between infected and non-infected grapes would be extremely helpful in producing desirable Amarone wines.
A new study in the journal Food Chemistry has taken a novel approach to distinguishing between infected and non-infected grapes by evaluating the individual proteins in both and comparing them to determine if certain proteins may be used as infection markers for possible use in real-time vineyard or winery assays.