Week 27 – Semillon

We tasted: Tyrells Hunter Valley Semillon £13, M&S

Tasting Notes

Emma says: “I’m writing this in the last 5 minutes of England v Colombia and my first thought is that this really isn’t the wine to watch the nerve rattling experience of an England World Cup game.

Not that I have much experience of football supporting, being Andy’s girlfriend definitely has its down side, especially during the World Cup. The reason this wine doesn’t match, is that Semillon is a wine which in itself encapsulates a lot of tension being lean and bone dry with a piercing level of acidity. So right now every sip seems to make me more nervous.

We’re tasting a Hunter Valley Semillon which has a very particular style. They pick the grapes early so there is a high level of acidity and lower than usual alcohol, at around 11%. When youthful the wine can seem almost watery and neutral with a fresh lemon juice zing. Then as it ages it really comes into its own developing much more interest, often with a candle wax aroma, smoky complexity and rich lime flavours with a peppery twist. I have tasted some fantastically complex old Semillon. The one we’re tasting tonight is on the simpler end. I got a whiff of white smoke on the nose, a touch of wax but it was altogether citrus focused, lean and with that big zing of acidity. I like the fact that the fruit tastes pristine and clean but there didn’t feel to be much dimension yet in the style. Perhaps it needed a little more age.

We had it with pizza which I didn’t feel was the right match either, the delicate character of the wine was masked by the tomato of the pizza. I kept thinking sushi would have worked better.

[talking of matches, I’m never going to write a note during football again – in the time I wrote this Colombia equalised. And thank god England finally won or Andy would have blamed me]”

Andy says: “Emma has already blown our cover and given away the day we tasted this. Ideally we’d be a few more days ahead instead of throwing this crap together just before the newsletter deadline each week. But hey ho, England won.

Thankfully, my notes will be short, and not because I wasn’t really paying attention to the wine, I just have nothing to say about it. It was another one of those limey sour whites that I just can’t understand. I need to go back through my other write ups and see what the connection – other than my poor palate and lack of wine vocabulary – is.”

Buying Guide

Semillon is a grape that was often blended with Sauvignon to make Bordeaux whites. It then found fame as a single grape in Australia, specifically Hunter Valley where is makes elegant low alcohol whites that age well. So try to find an Australian version to get a pure taste of the grape.

3 thoughts to “Week 27 – Semillon”

  1. I wasn’t familiar with this style of wine and it was a wonderful surprise. I absolutely loved it! I tried the Lindeman’s Bin 1355 Limited Release Semillon 2013 from Hunter Valley (Waitrose, £9.99).

    In appearance it was pale straw with an almost imperceptible tint of green. The nose was a gorgeously fresh, minerally bouquet of flint, wax and wool. There was some fruit in the background – lemon and perhaps some pear – and a vegetal touch too (would raw courgette make sense?).

    The palate was very light – lovely and fresh and summery. It was very dry but with the flinty minerality nicely balancing the lemony sourness to give a refreshing thirst quencher. It wasn’t complex and there wasn’t a big finish (just a tart wave goodbye), but that was part of the easy-going summery charm.

    Overall it was very elegant. The low alcohol makes it a perfect, refreshing light white for the summer; but the savoury, waxy minerality keeps it serious. It’s not a ‘great’ wine, but it’s fantastic for the price (£9.99) and one my favourites so far.

    One of the wonderful things about 52 grapes is that you try new things – and I’m very glad I tried this.

  2. Wine -Tyrells Hunter Valley Semillon, 2017 (M&S £13)
    Bottle says – floral, ripe citrus fruit

    Funnily enough, I’m writing this about 10 mins after Eng-er-land got knocked out of the World Cup (This is the first football match I have watched in over 20 years, and the pratfalls, histrionics and haircuts have reminded me why). I also find posting wine reviews preferable to joining my family in watching Love Island. (I find self-medicating paper cuts with lemon juice preferable to watching Love Island). I’ve also unknowingly picked the same wine as reviewed above. I am also on holiday and am drinking wine out of the wine glasses in the house we are renting, and they are bright pink, small, about 5mm thick, and rather rubbish. A pretty odd week all in all; so this wine couldn’t be more appropriate!

    The wine is an odd pink colour (see above). I get virtually no aroma from this wine; just very faint generic fruit, and perhaps a tiny hint of pear drops, but I’m scratching for things here, to be honest. The wine also tastes very ‘thin’ and watery. I can see why it works so well blended with Chardonnay; the way it calms the butteriness of an oaked Chardonnay down, and makes it taste fresher, and less ‘fat’. The flavours are also very faint; I got wax, but no smoke, just a mild generic fruit flavour. There are other really subtle wines I like that I have mentioned before on here, such as Muscadet and Macon-Lugny, but these wines still manage to retain their own character; the Semillon is much harder to love, perhaps as Emma says, it needs more aging.

    I’m really glad I’ve tried it, and would like to try an aged example at some point, but this was not one of my favourites; you can’t win them all, I guess.

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