What is Semillon?
Semillon is a gorgeously adaptable grape that makes one of the most unique dry white wines as well as appearing in some of the world’s most famous sweet wines.
Hunter Valley Semillon – produced just north of Sydney – is one of Australia’s iconic dry whites. Unpromising when young, it develops into a powerful, toast-and-citrus, relatively low alcohol charmer that becomes more delicious with age.
In Western Australia and Bordeaux, Semillon is blended with Sauvignon Blanc to make fine, refreshingly dry wines, sometimes aged in oak.
Around the world, Semillon is blended in with Chardonnay or Colombard to make low-priced party whites.
In warm, damp climates Semillon is susceptible to ‘noble rot’ which intensifies its sweetness, and the resulting luscious juice is used in making the sweet wines of Bordeaux (including Sauternes and Bergerac). In Riverina, Australia, the De Bortoli family make the sensational ‘stickie’ (sweet wine) Noble One.
Body: light to full bodied
Tastes: dry styles – ripe citrus sweet styles – rich and honeyed
AKA: Semillon in France; SemChard (often used to describe a Semillon Chardonnay blend)
Often blended with: dry styles: Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Sweet styles: Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle, also Ugni Blanc (Trebbiano), Colombard
Spotter’s guide: France: Bordeaux, in dry and sweet styles; Chile; Australia: Hunter Valley, also widely, in blends
Keep or drink? Australia’s best Hunter Valley Semillons can last for easily 10 years, as can the finest of the sweet wines from Sauternes. Otherwise enjoy the wines when young
Price range: from £4.49 for a ‘SemChard’ to well into three figures for a top Sauternes. Good Sauvignon/Semillon blends are around £8, Hunter Valley Semillons from £12