The wine park

Grape Varietals

Semillon

Semillon_wine_grapes

Hunter-Valley-Semillon

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Introduction

Sémillon is a golden-skinned grape used to make dry and sweet white wines, most notably in France and Australia. The origin of the Sémillon grape is hard to determine. It is known that it first arrived in Australia in the early 19th century and by the 1820s the grape covered over 90 percent of South Africa's vineyards. Today, it accounts for just 1% of South African Cape vines. In the 1950s, Chile's vineyards were made up of over 75% Sémillon. It was once considered to be the most planted grape in the world, although this is no longer the case.

Semillon Wine

Sémillon, which is relatively easy to cultivate, consistently produces six to eight tons of grapes per acre from its vigorous vines. It is fairly resistant to disease, except for rot. The grape ripens early, when, in warmer climates, it acquires a pinkish hue. Since the grape has a thin skin, there is also a risk of sunburn in hotter climates; it is best suited to areas with sunny days and cool nights. The Sémillon grape is rather heavy, with low acidity and an almost oily texture. It has a high yield and wines based on it can age a long time.

In France, the Sémillon grape is grown mostly in Bordeaux where it is one of only three approved white wine varieties along with Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle; it is also usually blended with these varieties. When dry, it is referred to as Bordeaux blanc and is permitted to be made in the appellations of Pessac-Léognan, Graves, and other less-renowned regions. In this form, Sémillon is generally a minor constituent in the blend. However, when used to make the sweet white wines of Bordeaux such as those from Sauternes, Barsac and Cérons it is often the dominant variety. In such wines the vine is exposed to the "noble rot" of Botrytis cinerea which consumes the water content of the fruit, the grapes shrivel and the acid and sugar levels are intensified.

Sémillon is widely grown in Australia, particularly in the Hunter Valley north of Sydney. Four styles of Sémillon-based wines made there: a commercial style, often blended with Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc; a sweet style, after that of Sauternes; a complex, minerally, early picked style which has great longevity; and an equally high quality, dry style. The latter two styles are considered unique to Australia. Hunter Valley Sémillon is never matured in oak. Most examples of these bottle-aged Hunter Semillons exhibit a buttercup-yellow colour, burnt toast or honey characteristics on the nose and excellent complex flavours on the palate, with a long finish and soft acid. Young Hunter Valley Semillon is almost always a dry wine, usually exhibiting citrus flavours of lemon, lime or green apple. Sémillon is also finding favour with Australian producers outside of the Hunter Valley in Barossa Valley, Margaret River and The Adelaide Hills producing some wines of great complexity.

Other regions producing Semillion include Chile, Argentina, South Africa, New Zealand and America where some wineries in the Washington State actively produce Sémillon for Ice Wine and Late Harvest wines.

Interesting Facts

  • Sémillon in Australia, for a long time was known as "Hunter River Riesling".
  • Cooler year Hunter Semillons seem to be the most highly sought after, with some of the 1974 and 1977 vintages still drinking well.