Originally from Bordeaux, Semillon is a golden-colored grape that's responsible for some of the finest wines in the world. When young, it is imbued with a lemony intensity which gently mellows over time.
With its large berries and thin skin, it is prone to a benevolent form of rot called botrytis or noble rot. When affected, the grapes shrivel up like raisins and lose water making the juice incredibly concentrated and sweet, whilst retaining the acidity that gives the wine its crispness.
In Bordeaux, Semillon is often blended with Sauvignon Blanc to produce dry white Bordeaux and Sauternes - the world's most famous and longest-living unfortified dessert wine (made by using grapes affected by noble rot).
Semillon is a well-established variety in the New World, especially in Australia's Hunter and Barossa Valleys where it is "one of the most idiosyncratic and historic dry white wines exclusive to the New World." (Oxford Companion to Wine)
It was once known as Hunter Valley Riesling (indeed, when aged, it can sometimes develop the steely, 'kerosene' character reminiscent of mature Riesling). Elsewhere in Australia, Semillon is often blended with Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay.
Gold in color with a rich, lemony, lanolin character.
Wines to Try
Château d'Yquem, De Bortoli Nobel One, Tyrrell's Hunter Valley, Laithwaite Sémillon
Bordeaux, Hunter Valley, Barossa Valley
- In Australia, Semillon wines were labeled Hunter Riesling, or occasionally Chablis or White Burgundy, until the 1980s.
- Semillon is sometimes oak-fermented and oak-aged - especially in the New World.
- Semillon has a great capacity to age - some examples can be cellared for up to 20 years.