Semillon (sem-ee-yon) is a chameleonlike wine. It can be bone dry, rich with ripeness or lusciously sweet. Many consumers are confused by its unusual name and wonder whether semillon is a grape or a French wine region. It is a grape, but much different from others of wider name recognition.
You may find semillon hidden behind a French Sauternes label or lost within a blended wine. The grape is widely cultivated in Australia and Chile, as wine lovers continue demanding quality wine for less than $10 a bottle.
Few producers let the grape shine on its own, but Hunter Valley has created an exceptional following for those seeking this grape solo. It is dry when young but after about 10 years begins tasting like rich buttery marmalade. Barossa Valley offers a different style with a more steely lime character.
Semillon grapes can produce a great wine, and it is in France’s Sauternes and Barsac regions that this greatness is most often revealed. The grape has a very thin skin, making it perfectly susceptible to noble rot or Botrytis cinerea, a fungus that growers welcome. Well-ripened semillon grapes are blended with sauvignon blanc. Semillon adds weight and the ability to age in oak while sauvignon blanc brings acidity and flavor.
- 2007 Lindemans Bin 77 Semillon-Chardonnay, Australia (about $10 retail)
- 2008 Jacob’s Creek Winery Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc, Australia (about $11) 2008 Penfold’s Rawson Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc, Australia (about $8)
- 2008 Rosemount Estate Semillon–Chardonnay, Australia (about $9)
- 2007 Cape Mentelle Sauvignon Blanc–Semillon, Australia (about $23)
- 2007 Leewin’s Sibling Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc, Australia (about $22)
- 2005 Chateau Haut-Bergeron Sauternes, France (about $39)
- 2000 Chateau D’Armajan Sauternes, France (about $40)