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In its benevolent form, over a period of cool mornings and warm afternoons, the grapes shrivel, concentrating and intensifying both sugar and flavor. The grape’s acid level remains high, however, which prevents the resulting wines from being cloyingly sweet.
The French call their botrytised wines Sauternes, the Germans Trockenbeernauslese and the Hungarians Tokay Aszú. In California we call them Late Harvest. Big and sweet in the nose, its ripe peach and sweet honey aromas display just how ripe the grapes were allowed to get before harvest (the grapes were picked at 35 Brix; the wine was finished at 13% residual sugar). And its broad, mouth-filling flavors of honeyed peach and citrus coat the palate; but just before it gets too sweet, its acidity appears on the mid-palate, cutting through the sugar and leading to a lengthy finish that features a bright, zesty end-note.
* Winemaker Challenge