The world of white wines offers hundreds of varieties and one variety that has caught my attention is semillon, specifically from the Hunter Valley in Australia.
Semillon is perhaps best known when harvested late with botrytis to produce Sauternes and Barsac, some of the world’s greatest dessert wines. As a young wine, it is commonly blended with sauvignon blanc for Bordeaux blends. But in the Hunter Valley, Australia’s oldest wine region, semillon is a wine to watch out for.
Chuck Hayward, founder of Vinroads and the former Australian and New Zealand Wine Buyer at JJ Buckley Fine Wines, is a big proponent of Australian wines. “My interest in Aussie wine started in the late ‘80s when the first ‘cheap and cheerful’ wines entered the US. They were just really good values, full of flavor and easy to like,” he explained. Hayward started Vinroads as a consulting outfit dedicated to marketing and education for Australian and New Zealand wines in the U.S.
So many times, I hear people say that they do not like white wine or they prefer red wine. To me, there is a time and a place for every wine.
And, as much as I love red wines, I am currently obsessed with white wines. Chenin blanc, assyrtiko, grenache blanc, riesling, gruner veltliner, vermentino and so on, the vast diversity of white wine in the world is what I find exciting. I have now added semillon from the Hunter Valley, Australia to that list.
When you think of Australian wine, you probably think about shiraz. But in the Hunter Valley, located in New South Wales, two hours from Sydney, semillon is the iconic wine of the region.
Semillon, a golden-skinned grape, is the famous variety blended with sauvignon blanc to make Bordeaux blanc. With “noble rot” from botrytis, semillon is the dominant variety in the sweet dessert wines of Sauternes, Barsac and Cérons. But outside of France, semillon’s other primary home is the Hunter Valley.