Great Grape Day — “Semi-Yawn?”

When the message came across from Andrew, informing us that this month’s “Great Grape” was going to be Semillon, my first thought was “Wha’?” Semi-yawn? What? I asked someone at my wine store, and they said, “Yes, it’s the main grape in Sauternes“. Sow turns? I admit — I still have a lot to learn.

Honestly, I knew it was a blending grape, and I’ve seen it on the labels of some Australian Chardonnay blends, but I had, basically, no clue about it as a single varietal.

A little research followed: As mentioned, yes — this is the backbone of those incredibly expensive Sauternes — and, at one time, Semillon was the most cultivated grape in the world. It’s a very high-yielding grape that can be grown almost everywhere with sunny days and cool nights. In Australia and South Africa, the grape once took up as much as 90% of the vineyards (and was initially misidentified as Riesling).

That is obviously no longer the case, but it’s still a popular blending grape.

Most white Bordeaux and Graves, as well as those famous Sauternes, contain a fair amount of Semillon in the blend with the Sauvignon blanc and Muscadelle. It’s harvested a fair amount as a blender with Sauvignon Blanc in California. Until recently, however, it wasn’t used a great deal as a lead varietal in “common” wines. Like Viognier, it’s finding a niche of fans that want something somewhat tart and crisp but want more body than a Sauvignon Blanc provides.

I was pleased to see that my local store had a couple of bottles in stock. Since I’ve been on a Pacific coast wine kick lately, I went Washington:

Chateau St. Michelle 2003 Semillon — A curious wine, this one. The nose is melons and something that the bottle calls “sweet red peppers,” but I would never have come up with that particular descriptor. It’s a little lemony, in my estimation — and the feel of it is quite thick. Almost like a tarter halbtrocken Riesling. The finish is lemony and pretty juicy. Chateau St. Michelle uses a fair amount of Semillon in their Sauvignon Blanc, and they return the favor — the blend is 3:1 Semillon/Sauvignon.

Honestly, I thought it was a decent wine, but it probably wouldn’t be my first choice at this price point — it’s around $8-9 most places, but I’ll probably keep a bottle on hand in case folks want to try something a little different.

Information and Links

Join the fray by commenting, tracking what others have to say, or linking to it from your blog.

Other Posts
Semillon. ‘S wonderful. ‘S marvelous. Well, one of out three.
Meet Semillon

Reader Comments

Be the first to leave a comment!