What is Semillon Wine?
Semillon was one of the first grape varietals to be planted with enthusiasm in Australia. It has truly made its home in New South Wales, particularly the Hunter Valley. Australia and France are the only countries that use the grape diligently in their winemaking process. If Australia can claim a particular style as truly original in the wine industry, it is Hunter Valley Semillon. This wine has low alcohol and high acidity and therefore has incredible longevity.
While Australia has an international reputation for unique Semillon, the popularity is limited. Considering the light and lean characteristics of Semillon, making it a great match for food and the appealing low-alcohol content, it would seem to be a blind spot for wine lovers around the world.
Common Semillon Wine characteristics
Semillon wine tastes tend towards austerity and are lip-smacking little numbers when they are young. Both, the Hunter and Barossa Valleys are known for excellent wines made from the grape where the youthfulness and purity can be found. Semillons from the Barossa Valley are slightly fuller in body and perhaps fruitier whereas Semillons from Western Australia are grassier and more herbal than that of other regions.
Semillon aromas are of green apple, blossoms, lemon and perhaps lanolin. Palates range from tart lime juice, green pear, crunchy green apples to tropical fruits, nuts, passionfruit and grass. Examples from the Hunter Valley have high acidity, so time in a cellar can benefit the region’s Semillon. Ageing gives Semillon a golden hue and aromas of brown toast while taming the tangy characteristic of younger examples.
Pairing food with Semillon Wine
Semillon is truly underrated as a food wine both in Australia and overseas. These crisp, fresh, zingy wines are perfect with light shellfish. A Hunter Valley Semillon will pair well with Sydney rock oysters, sashimi or simple scallops in the shell. Richer styles of Semillon, or those that have aged, pair better with richer food such as lobster or smoked fish.
Goat’s cheese is a go-to match for Semillon, although most fresh cheeses will also go well. A white-mould cheese such as Camembert will partner well with Semillon, particular those sweeter varieties. Zingy, tangy young Hunter Varieties pair with a cheddar cheese with some reciprocal bite.
Notable Semillon Wine regions
While Semillon is planted in South Africa, Chile, America and Argentina, it is mostly associated with France and Australia.
The sub-region of Sauternes in Bordeaux is famous in France and throughout the world for producing sweet white wines using the Semillon varietal. The most famous producer is Château d’Yquem. The winery holds the unique classification of Premier Cru Supérieur, which translates to ‘Superior First Growth’ meaning Château d’Yquem is the best of the best (First Growth) wineries in the region.
Hunter Valley, Australia
In Australia Semillon grapes are grown in Western Australia, Tasmania and South Australia but the best are from Hunter Valley where the purity of the fruit is carried into the wine. It's pale, almost watery to look at and acidic to taste. It is also light, clean and fresh with low alcohol which is a particular drawcard for Hunter Valley Semillon. The characteristics are due to the wine being bottle-aged rather than in oak casks.
The future of Semillon Wine
Hunter Valley Semillon continues to be a unique example of Australian winemaking. In contrast to the blockbuster reds from the Barossa Valley, Hunter Semillon is clean and light. This continues to inform international perceptions about the depth of Australian winemaking. The Australian wine reputation for restraint, elegance and lightness is, in a large way, thanks to Hunter Valley Semillon.
- Hunter Valley
- White Wine