Grown in: Bordeaux (France); Riverina, Margaret River, Hunter, Barossa Valley (Australia)
A.K.A.: Hunter Riesling (Hunter Valley, Australia); Semillon (without accent é, in Australia)
Profile: Susceptible to botrytis — both the good and bad kind — Sémillon comes both dry and sweet, and its piercing acidity can either balance sweetness or make for a lively table wine. It also has a textural richness. In Australia, it’s typically made in a very dry style in stainless steel tanks, while over in Bordeaux, dry white wines often have a portion of Sémillon mixed with Sauvignon Blanc. Or, it can be picked when it’s shriveled and sweet, then aged in barrel as they do in dessert-wine appellations like Bordeaux’s Sauternes.
In dry wines, tart green apple and lemon fruits dominate, while grassy or hay-like notes develop into waxy and honeyed nuances with age. And in dessert wines, Sémillon shows off flavors of orange marmalade or apricot jam along with spicy-sweet cinnamon, ginger and vanilla. Barrel-aging can add even more baking spice notes.
Two to Try: Brokenwood’s straight Sémillon is an entry-level Hunter Valley benchmark. From there, you can graduate to their single-vineyard offerings or their ILR Reserve to get an idea of Sémillon’s big potential. As for a Sémillon-heavy Sauternes, try Château Laribotte’s classic version.