Our guide to Hunter Valley Semillon with Phil Ryan
1) How do you pronounce SEMILLON?
This grape can be little tricky to pronounce. If you’ve been saying the “million” part like, like the money, then correct yourself stat!
If you’ve been saying Sem-ee-yon, which is the French pronunciation, then pour yourself another drink.
Some Aussies also pronounce it as SEM-eh-lon.
2) Where does it grow?
Semillon grows in many parts of the world including Australia, South Africa, Chile, Argentina. It is perhaps most revered in the South-West France in the Bordeaux wine region. Here it is blended with Sauvignon Blanc to produce the Bordeaux Blanc. Another popular style of wine made from the Semillon grape in France’s South-West are the Sauternes, a sweet dessert wine from the Sauternais region of Bordeaux. These grapes are affected by the Botrytis cinerea, as known as noble rot. A 375ml bottle of Chateau d’Yquem sells for over $400.
In Australia, Semillon is mostly planted in Margaret River WA, Barossa SA, while the Hunter Valley has become centre stage among the international wine writers for producing outstanding Semillon.
“In Australia’s Hunter Valley (semillon) is responsible for one of the most idiosyncratic and historic wine types exclusive to the New World.”
And it “… is one of the unsung heroes of white wine production.Jancis Robinson, echoing the British appreciation of Hunter semillon, writes in ‘The Oxford Companion to Wine.
3) Wine styles?
Hunter Valley Semillon is traditionally crafted with no oak influence and made in a dry style. If left to ripen will produce an off dry style where the slight sweetness matches nicely with spicy foods. It also a great introductory style for beginners.
Botrytis Semillon is a wonderful sweet dessert wine and ideal with strong cheeses and citrus or cream based desserts.
Semillon is also known to be blended with Sauvignon Blanc. However, many Hunter Valley producers craft excellent styles of dry white wine when blended with other regional favourites such as Verdelho and Chardonnay.
4) Young vs aged?
Hunter Valley’s signature style of Semillon is harvested early and picked in January. It is fermented bone-dry and bottle early without any oak influence. These wines are typically low in alcohol around 10-11%, depending on the growing conditions.
Hunter Semillon is appealing at many ages. As you cellar Hunter Semillon, it will transform from fresh bright citrus which is pale in colour into a deeper coloured, softer, richers fuller wine that compliments such an array of foods.
- When young 1-2 years, it is zesty and refreshing. Making it an ideal partner with seafood.
- 4-6 years, these wines soften and develop more complex.
- Then fully mature 10-20 years, aged Semillon develop beautiful honey toasty characters almost reminiscent of Chardonnay without the oak.
5 ) What to eat with Semillon?
- Young and Zesty – Match fresh shucked oysters, peeled prawns, white fish, goats cheese and sushi.
- Aged Semillon – Richer flavours such as smoked trout, pasta or risotto, pork, chicken, creamy and vegetarian dishes.
- Off Dry – Spicy Thai or Vietnamese
- Dessert style – Blue cheese or stinky washed rind cheeses, sweets such as Crème Brûlée or try with a really hot curry!