Classic aromas of Semillon are: Pineapple, Lemon, Yellow Peach, Mango, Buttered Toast and Honeycomb
Semillon is a white grape variety that hails from Bordeaux, France. It is now widely planted in the regions of Pessac-Leognan and Sauternes where it makes dry whites and sweet wines, respectively. Though it was historically planted on the other side of the river in St Emilion – which is most likely where Semillon gets its name from – it has been planted here since the 1730s.
In both dry and sweet wines Semillon is blended with Sauvignon Blanc. Semillon is much more susceptible to botrytis (the noble rot that allows for sweet-wine production) than Sauvignon Blanc which makes it the leader of the blends of the famous wines of Sauternes.
France has the majority of Semillon in Bordeaux and 11,693ha in total. A fair majority of it is made into sweet wines from the appellations of Sauternes and Barsac, though the dry white production under the simple ‘Bordeaux AC’ regional name is growing every year.
Thanks to the famous white Bordeaux blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, it is planted in most places you find Sauvignon Blanc in large quantities. The largest regions by far are: California (890ha), Chile (1,727ha), Argentina (973ha) and Australia (6,715ha).
In Australia it is the second most planted white grape, after Chardonnay. Here it is most famous in the Hunter Valley where it makes a single varietal wines. It is famous thanks to a single wine, a wine that was made by mistake but took the world by storm, that wine: Tyrrells’ Vat 1 Semillon. It was the ‘Vat 1’ that proved to the world, mainly the new world, of the abilities that Semillon is capable of – namely ageworthiness. This being said Semillon is also widely produced into some fantastic dry whites that are blends with Sauvignon Blanc, the most famous and refined of which are coming from Magaret River in Western Australia.
Semillon did used to be a very important grape in South Africa – being one of the oldest white varieties planted on a commercial scale at one point. It is now only 2% of the national vineyard planting with 1,153ha. Many of the best examples of Semillon here are single varietals, or Semillon heavy blends with SB, and are aged in oak.
Semillon gives wines that are medium bodied with moderate acidity. In their youth they can often be neutral in their aromatic profile and are best after a couple of years of age. The leading aromas are apricot, mango, lemon, yellow peach, nectarine, pineapple and orange. More mature examples will start to give flavours of barley sugar, beeswax, honeysuckle, buttered toast and coconut.