The region that first saw Semillon rise to prominence was the Hunter Valley. It is here where a unique minerally, lemony style is produced, which is crisp and lean when young and is made without the influence of oak or malolactic fermentation. However the wine undergoes a transformation with age, evolving into a complex, nutty, honeyed wine of great depth and complexity. Hunter Semillon is one of the few Australian white wine styles that can age gracefully over an extended period.
Elsewhere is Australia, notably in the Barossa Valley, oak is used to give Semillon complexity. This results in a broader, richer style, which often lacks the potential for long-term ageing. Not as much patience is required with these wines, as they are best consumed when young.
Clare Semillon is delightfully perfumed, with delicate floral and pineapple aromas dominating the aroma. It is an excellent choice for those who shy away from oaked Chardonnays but who find Rieslings too aromatic. Semillon also excels in the Margaret River. A faint grassiness is expressed, which is particularly attractive when blended with Sauvignon Blanc.
Semillon is often seen blended with Chardonnay, particularly in mass-market wine styles. The freshness of Semillon provides a necessary balance to the often overly rich Chardonnay. It is a blend that has been very successful for Australia, both domestically and internationally.
Semillon grapes have tightly packed bunches and relatively thin skin, making them very susceptible to botrytis infection. This allows Semillon grapes to be made into dessert wines, known affectionately as 'stickies'. When made in this manner, the wines take on a honeyed character, which complements the apricot character imparted by the botrytis. The Riverina has had particular success with these styles.
Semillon is one of Australias wine jewels and it is important that
it does not become over looked in the Chardonnay dominated market
place. It is a wonderful variety for the wine lover to experiment
with. When young, it is perfect on a hot summers day served with
freshly shucked oysters. When it shows some age, it is a wonderful
accompaniment to smoked salmon. And in winter, nothing beats the
De Bortoli 'Noble One' dessert wine, partnered with a creamy blue
cheese and a roaring open fire. Pure heaven.
© Toni Paterson 2002