Semillon white wine comes from a golden-skinned grape that is cultivated in many different parts of the world. It is rarely bottled as a varietal wine because of its neutral flavor. It is mainly used as a blend for Sauvignon Blanc, Muscadelle and Sautennes. The vines were introduced to Australia in the late 1800’s and at one time this was the most commonly cultivated grape in South Africa.
The Semillon grape is easy to grow. The vines are quite vigorous and produce high yields. With the exception of rot, they are very resistant to disease. The grapes ripen early in warm climates, but they are susceptible to sunburn when the weather is really hot, even though they do have thick skins. They are best suited for cultivation in regions where the weather is hot and sunny during the day and is cool at night. The grape does have an oily texture and the wine produced from it does age well.
Semillon is the major white wine grape of the Bordeaux and Cotes de Gascogne regions of France. For a time, it was labeled incorrectly as Reisling wine in Australia, when it formed a major portion of the vineyards of this country. The grape is susceptible to noble rot, especially botrytis, which winemakers value because it increases the sweetness of the juice and therefore the wine because of the high levels of sugar that result.
In Australia, several varieties of Semillon [http://www.wineaccess.com/wine/grape/Semillon] are produced – a commercial wine used for blending, a sweet style quite similar to the Bordeaux wines, a complex wine from grapes that are picked early and a good quality dry wine.
The complex and dry varieties are unique to Australia and are allowed to age in the bottle. The sweet wine is yellow in color and has aromas of burnt toast or honey. When you take a sip, you will taste the complex flavors that have a long finish. The dry varieties of the wine have flavors and aromas of green apple, lime or lemon, much like a Viognier.
The wineries of Australia have led the world in the use of Semillon grapes affected by botrytis. When this develops on the grapes, it causes them to shrivel somewhat because it decreases the amount of water in the grape. By the time the grapes are ripe and ready to harvest, the juice is very sweet.
The wineries in this country have mastered the technique of bottling the sweet varieties of Semillon on its own and it is highly prized for its fruity flavors. Malolactic fermentation techniques are used in the production of this wine and other buttery white wine such as Chardonnay. These wines are aged in oak barrels, which add flavors of vanilla, butter and cream. This helps to round out the crispness of the taste.
Even though the wine does age quite well and has been known to have an excellent taste after several decades in the bottle, it is best when consumed young. It can be served with spicy foods, especially Thai cuisine that contains coconut milk and curry. It will also improve the taste of fruit salads, grilled fish and chicken dishes. For some the heady aroma and taste of the wine may be too powerful and in most cases one glass will suffice when you consume it in conjunction with a meal.