I’ll bet you know what White Bordeaux is – but have you ever heard of the Sémillon grape? White Bordeaux is always a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon added to build out the body. Sauvignon Blanc has a following the world over, but alas, the lonely Sémillon grape suffers in some oblivion.
Cue Australia’s Hunter Valley – this version has a real following in Sydney (located only 130 km to the south and out on the coast), but elsewhere few have heard of this special wine. But now you have, so there are no more excuses.
The best examples of Sémillon are made in the Hunter Valley, are of high quality, are much more interesting than an innocuous Pinot Grigio or a pedestrian Sauvignon Blanc, are unoaked and have delightfully low alcohol levels. Other examples exist around the world and they may be oaked and will almost always have a higher level of alcohol.
Hunter Valley is Australia’s most populated state and this wine it produces is internationally known, although it only comprises about 3% of their annual crush. The ironic thing about this growing region is that it’s incredibly hot – odd for a place that has built its reputation on the back of a premium white wine. Humidity and cloud offset the heat.
The Sémillon from the Hunter Valley produces wines that can live for 10-20 years and develop rich tones of butter, honey and nuts. All of these flavours and aromas normally indicate that wood of some sort has been used – but that’s the second cool thing.
No trees were killed during the maturation of this wine.
This Sémillon is clear and bright and pale lemon with a developing nose of medium plus intensity and aromas of lemon drop, toast, honeysuckle, jalapeno pepper and minerals.
The palate is dry with medium plus acidity, medium body, low alcohol, medium plus intensity and flavours of lemon, pomelo, grapefruit, light leaf, lime rind and more toastiness. The finish is medium plus.
This wine is WSET Very Good; the flavours and aromas are nicely balanced by the strong acidity and although the alcohol is low, the wine has solid structure. It’s got a nice complexity, is deliciously refreshing and the toasty flavours are intriguing.