Semillon is Australia’s fifth most important popular grape variety. Early in our viticultural development, it was the major white variety. Yet today it remains an enigma: a frustration to many producers, overlooked by the public, but adored by enthusiasts.
More often best-supporting actress than famed leading lady, little of our Semillon ends up as a single varietal wine. With a classic French heritage - particularly in its historical home, Bordeaux - it is almost always blended with Sauvignon Blanc. Outside this corner of France, Semillon almost disappears until you reach Australia where this subtle, gracious grape reveals its class in an outstanding and distinctive way.
Australian Semillon first rose to prominence in the Hunter Valley, and much of its production remains there today. The Hunter’s Semillon has a unique mineral, lemony style - crisp and lean when young, and fermented without the influence of oak. However, with age, the wine undergoes a transformation, evolving into a complex, nutty, honeyed wine of great depth and flavour. The best wines age gracefully for 20 years or more.
Elsewhere in Australia, notably in the Barossa Valley, some oak is used to give complexity. This results in a broader, richer style with strong grassy, lemon and tropical fruit flavours. Less patience is required with these wines, as they are best consumed when still young.
Clare Valley Semillon can be delightfully perfumed, with delicate floral and pineapple aromas. Semillon also excels in Margaret River. A faint grassiness is expressed, particularly attractive when blended with Sauvignon Blanc.
Semillon grapes have tightly packed bunches, their relatively thin skin makes them susceptible to botrytis fungal infection (botrytis cinerea). This so-called ‘noble rot’ consumes the grapes’ water content, shrivels the fruit and concentrates the sugar present in its pulp. This allows Semillon grapes to be made into dessert wines, known affectionately as ‘stickies’. The results are intense, luscious wines full of honey and apricot fruit characters. New South Wales’ Riverina region has particular success in producing these delicious, sweet wines.
Semillon is one of Australia’s wine jewels - a wonderful variety for wine lovers to experiment with:
Released with bottle age this is a wine which will still continue to evolve over many years the toasty lemony flavours becoming richer and more intense. A classic benchmark Hunter Semillon, it has earned its place in the Langtons Classification of Australian Wine.
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