If you are a habitual dry white wine lover and you regularly imbibe wines such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Muscadet, Pinot Blanc or Riesling, why not give Sémillon a try?
Sémillon wines are generally off-dry and full-bodied, with honey and citrus flavours and they can be paired with a wide array of delicious food.
What is Sémillon Wine?
Pronounced se-mee-yon, Sémillon is a golden-skinned, plump, white grape used to make dry and sweet white wine, mostly in France and Australia. The Sémillon grape is native to the Bordeaux region where in the early 1700s it was known as Sémillon de Saint-Émilion because the pronunciation is similar to the town’s name. It arrived in Australia in the early 19th century and by 1820 the grape covered over 90% of South Africa’s vineyards, where it was referred to as ‘Wyndruif’ (wine grape).
Sémillon is relatively easy to cultivate and consistently produces six to eight tons of grapes per acre from its vines. It is resistant to disease, except for rot. In warmer climates, the grape ripens early, acquitting a pinkish hue. It is best suited to areas with sunny days and a cool night because it has thin skin so there is the risk of sunburn.
Sémillon wines are somewhat heavy, with low acidity and an almost oily texture. It has a high yield and together with Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle, Sémillon is one of only three approved white wine varieties in the Bordeaux region.
The grape is also important in the production of sweet wines such as Sauternes and to be used for making sweet wine, the grapes have to have been affected by Botrytis (“noble rot”), a fungus that dries out the grapes, concentrating the sugar and flavours in the grape berry.
Outside of Australia’s Hunter Valley, Sémillon typically produces wines that are low in acid which are commonly blended with more aromatic and flavorful varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc. Sémillon, the golden grape, produces France’s famous and revered sweet wines, notably the expensive dessert wines of Sauternes and some of the best dry white wines in Australia, particularly those of the Hunter Valley.
Where is Sémillon Wine From?
Sémillon grows in many parts of the world including Chile, South Africa, Australia and Argentina. It is most celebrated in France, where it originated, in the Bordeaux wine region where it is blended with Sauvignon Blanc to produce the Bordeaux Blanc.
What Wines Are Made From Sémillon?
Some top-class Sémillons are the sweet white Bordeaux Châteaux d’Yquem and Climens, the dry white Bordeaux Châteaux La Mission, Haut-Brion Blanc and Tyrrell’s Vat 1, McWilliams Mount Pleasant and Margan in Australia’s Hunter Valley.
Other Examples of Sémillon Wines
- 1961 Chateau Haut-Brion Blanc, Pessac-Leognan, France
- 2009 Chateau Coutet Cuvee Madame, France
- 1959 Chateau Caillou, Sauternes, France
- 1921 Chateau Climens, Barsac, France
- 2018 Tyrrells Wines Johnno’s Semillon, Australia
- 1995 Chateau Tirecul-la-Graviere Cuvee Madame, Monbazillac, France
How is Sémillon Wine Made?
Being a dry wine, Sémillon requires distinctive conditions in order to produce quality wine. Because it lacks the acid required to balance its weight, it is often blended with Sauvignon Blanc. Muscadelle is also added to increase the fruitiness of the white Bordeaux Blend. Some Sémillon wines are barrel-aged, but they are usually fermented in stainless steel.
Sémillon is easy to grow and can produce about eight tons of grapes per acre. In warmer climates, the grape is harvested when it’s not fully ripe, resulting in more acidity.
What does Sémillon Wine Taste Like?
When vinified, sweet wine made from Sémillon can take on many flavours, notably stone fruit such as mango, nectarine, apricot and peach, with secondary notes of citrus, nut and honey. Other fruit flavours include lemon, apple, pear and green papaya. One of the wine’s most notable features is its silken texture, produced by the concentration of sugar and glycerol.
Depending on where Sémillon is grown it can range from being a zesty, palate-cleansing wine to a rich, lemon-flavoured, creamy wine similar to oaked Chardonnay.
What Food Can You Pair with Sémillon Wine?
Because Sémillon wine has a fresh zippy flavour, it goes well with bolder aromatic dishes. It is lovely with Indian spices, Asian spices and even woodsy spices like cinnamon and star anise.
White Bordeaux has a reputation as a sushi lover’s wine – no doubt due to how Sémillon balances raw fish and pickled ginger. A classic dish with Sémillon dessert wines (like Sauternes) is Foie Gras and it also goes brilliantly with salted caramel ice cream.
This wine pairs well with white meats including chicken, pork chop, ham, turkey, Foie Gras and duck.
With fish, it goes down well with trout, arctic char, catfish, red snapper, grouper, skate, cod, hake, blackfish, haddock, redfish, halibut, black cod, monkfish and Chilean seabass.
Spices and Herbs
Shallot, Dill, Chive, Saffron, Coriander, Clove, Cinnamon, Star Anise, Fennel, Turmeric
Pair it with richly flavoured and nutty cow’s milk and sheep’s milk cheeses such as Compté, Gruyere and Cheddar.
Vegetables & Vegetarian Food
Go for roasted, spiced and stewed vegetables and try salads with citrus-based dressings and dried fruits and nuts. Source the following which will go well with the wine: Kabocha Squash, Butternut Squash, Corn, Almond, Sesame, Carrot, Bell Pepper, Green Onion, Zucchini, Leek, Potato and Yam.
As a table wine, Sémillon will pair with a range of seafood, pork, veal and chicken. The acidity of Sémillon will cut through rich cream or cheese-based dishes such as carbonara, pomme aligot or Parmigiano-Reggiano risotto. It goes well with oysters but if you don’t have any, try some seared scallops, served on a bed of fresh green leaves, or a fillet of your favourite fish cooked in a parcel with some lemon and a handful of herbs.
Is Sémillon Wine Expensive?
You can order Sémillon wines online from Virgin Wines. The price depends on what you choose but in general, the wines are eminently affordable. Some examples are:
- Hummingbird Semillon 2021, fresh and vibrant wine for £9.99.
- El Nubarron Semillon 2021, a sweet lemon peel infused wine from Chile for £10.99
- Keith Tulloch Hunter Valley Semillon 2018, an Aussie wine that can be kept in the cellar for a long time costs £15.99
- Chateau Coutet Cuvee Madame £234.00
What is Sémillon Wine Similar To?
Chardonnay, Trebbiano, Alsacian Pinot Gris, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Albariño, Grüner Veltliner, Italian Pinot Grigio.
Sémillon wine is loved for its full body, like Chardonnay, but with flavours similar to Pinot Gris or Sauvignon Blanc. In the US, Sémillon wines are sold at an affordable price, given their quality. Despite the fact that it’s relatively cheap wine, Sémillon has the potential to stand alongside the most popular white wines in the world.