Noble Late Harvest is a special wine where a magical transformation takes place in the vineyard. It is a specific sequence of events that enables the “T” Noble Late Harvest to be made, let’s take a closer look at this iconic wine.
The term Late Harvest is used for wines made from berries that are left on the vine to gain extreme ripeness which drives up the sugar levels. In unique conditions, these ripe bunches pick up a fungus called Botrytis cinerea, which grows on the skins and slowly causes the very ripe berries to dehydrate. In the viticulture world, this fungus is known as Noble rot, hence Noble Late Harvest.
This Noble rot occurs in areas where there is just the right balance of wet and dry conditions that allow the fungus to grow once the bunches are established to safeguard them from being ruined. When the conditions are just right, the dehydrated berries concentrate the sugars, acids and minerals resulting in intense fruit character.
At the Ken Forrester estate in Stellenbosch, there is a unique combination of vineyard location and exposure to moisture that enables this transformation to take place. These vineyards are old vine Chenin Blanc averaging over 40 years in age, where the berries are painstakingly hand-harvested as late as May. The yield of these special berries is exceptionally low at only 2 tons per hectare.
The vinification of “T” Noble Late Harvest is a triumph of technique and wisdom since botrytis cinerea naturally grows an antifungal that can kill the yeast that is doing its best to ferment the sugary juice. Once the slow fermentation is complete, the wine is left on the lees to mature for 18 months in 400l French oak barrels imparting texture and depth.
The result is a bright golden wine that when swirled in the glass leaves “legs” for days showing you the sumptuousness to come. On the nose, the wine is fruit-forward with ripe peaches and dried apricots which opens up to fresh melon and pineapple. The palate follows through from the nose where the intense fruit character is balanced by great acidity giving this wine a tangy, sweet and sour zip. There are hints of clove and wood spice from the French oak that deepen the character and the finish is long-lasting leaving your mouth watering for the next sip.
This iconic dessert wine is bold enough to stand on its own as a digestif while effortlessly pairing with food. Consider serving this with a cheese platter of nutty Swiss Gruyère, creamy mature Brie or Gorgonzola with dried Turkish Apricots and melon preserve. For a sweet dish think of fruit-based desserts like a French fruit tart with zingy fresh berries and fresh sliced peaches or an apple Tarte Tatin. Ken Forrester’s “T” Noble Late Harvest is the perfect way to end a decadent meal with those who are near and dear to you, ensuring a memorable moment in time.