Semillon

Most often seen in white blends where its weight and texture fills out the fruit and acidity of sauvignon blanc. As a single variety, the most unique, delicious and long living come from the Hunter Valley, NSW.

What kind of wine is semillon?

Semillon is a wine that has always flown under the radar. Surprisingly this is the second most planted white grape in Australia, with more land devoted to it than sauvignon blanc, riesling or pinot grigio. But despite this ubiquity it remains criminally overlooked, still best known for its place in the double act that is semillon sauvignon blanc (SSB). In fact for a long time the single varietal version was mislabelled riesling, perhaps in the hope that people would start to buy it. Semillon deserves far greater respect than it’s been granted in the past. It’s a unique package – full-bodied like chardonnay, but with a taste that leans more towards sauv blanc and pinot gris.

What does semillon taste like?

The taste of semillon depends heavily on when the fruit is picked. Made from less ripe fruit it will offer up zesty notes of lemon and green apple, while riper fruit will point the palate more towards pear and papaya. Climate and production techniques will also change the taste markedly – Hunter Valley semillons are known to be fresh, crisp and earthy, while Barossa semillons are far deeper, sweeter and more complex. Semillon is full-bodied yet fresh, and is often described as having a waxy texture – something that wine connoisseurs might describe as lanolin. It can be oaked, although unoaked semillon is far more popular.

Is semillon dry or sweet?

Semillon is a dry white. But that doesn’t mean it’s totally devoid of sweetness – semillon grapes, particularly when picked ripe, serve up a veritable fruit salad to the palate, with enough grapefruit, citrus, apple, pear, peach, green papaya and mango to make Carmen Miranda’s hat stand jealous. While semillon table wines are dry, the grape can also be used in syrupy sweet dessert wines, the best of which come out of the Riverina area of New South Wales.

Is semillon always blended with sauvignon blanc?

The semillon – sauvignon blanc combination originated in France, where it is known as White Bordeaux, and the two grapes do play off each other particularly well. This traditional blend has become just as popular in Australia as it has always been in its home, but high quality semillon more than holds its own as a standalone varietal against SSB (or indeed SBS – there’s no wrong answer). If you’re shopping for a white, grab a bottle of semillon, as well as a semillon sauv blanc blend. By tasting the two together you’ll better appreciate the unique experience offered by 100% semillon.

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