Semillon

White grapeIf you love a crisp dry white, they don’t come any crispier than a Semillon. This thin skinned delicate grape has an abundance of natural acidity which means it is often used as a blending in warm climate whites to make them taste fresher.

If you want to try the purest form of Semillon it might be best to start with the Australian Hunter Valley version. This style is interesting in the fact they early pick the grape to maximise its acidity and then give it bottle age. The result is delicious. The natural waxy lemon character of Semillon remains but with age it softens and gets creamy and complex toasty spicy characters develop.  It is also naturally lower in alcohol which is a bonus; typically 11% abv.

Then you should probably try the other classic style where Semillon is used as a blending partner with Sauvignon and sometimes a touch of Muscadelle. That is the original Bordeaux white, something that is overshadowed by its red brother but is well worth rediscovering. In the moderate climate region the Sauvignon is bold and herbaceous and the peppery lemon of the Semillon becomes a natural partner adding an interesting dimension to the style.  In Western Australia they are also producing blends from these two grapes which are similar but with an extra dose of riper citrus fruit.

A newer emerging style is Semillon in its pure form picked at full ripeness and often oaked from South Africa. These have richer lemon flavours and a bold toasty spice profile due to a combination of the grape and oak flavours.

Finally this is also one of the grapes key in making the most famous dessert wine in the world Sauternes. It’s thin skins means it easily produces botrytis, the good type of rot that happens to dessert grapes, making them become so intensely sweet and luscious.

The Facts

An aromatic grape, with naturally high acidity. Can be austere and sharp in youth due to high acidity and delicate fruit. Benefits from age, especially in its early picked style where high quality versions can age decades to produce honey’d sweetness and smoky complexity. It’s natural peppery character means it delivers harmonious flavours when oaked.

Alternatives

Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Furmint, Assrytiko

Classic Regions

France: Bordeaux (as blending partner with Sauvignon)

Australia: Hunter Valley, Margaret River (Bordeaux blend styles)

USA: California

South Africa: Stellenbosch

Food Matches

Salmon, sashimi, fish in white sauce, scallops, chicken breast