Ahhh the Hunter Valley, Australia. Characterised by long, sweltering summers and grim, bitterly cold winters. However, it’s these climatic conditions that give way to the wine that the region is renowned for world wide. Semillon.
Semillon is a white grape varietal that is widely grown across the Hunter Valley wine region. A refreshing white wine that stylistically is generally on the drier side of the spectrum. During ripening, the berries are large and very juicy, and when eaten just prior to harvest, it’s like biting into a freshly cut lemon or lime!
When drinking them while young, they are full of delicate citrus flavours and loaded with acid. Perfect on a hot, summers afternoon when relaxing in the pool, hanging beachside or enjoying fresh seafood and salads.
After 3-5 years though, the flavour profile totally flips. It goes from refreshing citrus and acid, to heart warming honey and toast. The colour of the wine transitions from green apple to straw and Amber. The acid drops away giving light to a wine that is still light, yet oh so delicious. All the while maintaining its widely celebrated friendship with seafood, but now slowly becoming best friends with cheese and antipasto platters.
The reason Semillon is so widely planted across the Hunter, is because of the ancient river beds that sprawl across the region. Semillon as a varietal loves sandy, free draining soils. In particular, sandy loams and alluvial soils. An exquisite example of this is seen on Ivanhoe Estate. This small family cellar door and vineyard has two blocks of Semillon, each planted on different soil types. As you sit on the back veranda, you overlook their creek bed block of Semillon. Being planted in 1996, this block of Semillon is grown on sandy alluvial soils and gives way to clean, crisp and acidic white wines. However, their long row Semillon is planted on the other side of the property and is grown in rich loam soils of a darker and richer nature. The fruit of these vines gives way to a wine that is richer with flavour but lower in acidity. Both wines however are honest and true to the Hunter Valley style of Semillon.
In the cellar, Semillon has the potential to age for 10-15 years. This is a result of the wines high acidity. The wine ages and becomes amber in colour with lifted honey notes teasing the palate as well as adopting more earthy characteristics. Some aged Semillons smell like you have just opened the doors to a hay shed! (my favourite aged Semillon aroma)
Although widely planted and celebrated across the Hunter Valley, stylistically, Semillon comes in many shapes and forms. The traditional Hunter Style is crisp, acidic and driven with citrus. However, newer styles of Semillon are emerging and showcasing a softer, almost sweeter character. Referred to as “off-dry” or “sweet” Semillons, these wines still dance across the tongue with lemon and lime, but finish more roundly and humbly.