Description 1 of 2

Common synonyms: Wyndruif (South Africa)

Parentage of the grape: undetermined, likely native to Bordeaux and/or surroundings
 
History of the grape: Little is documented about the early years of this grape, which is surprising due to its distinguished popularity in the regions where it is grown. It has been used in quality production in France, in the areas in and around Bordeaux for centuries. It is there that it is found in elegant dry white wines, most often blended with Sauvignon Blanc. But perhaps even more importantly, its predisposition for Botrytis cinerea (a.k.a. “noble rot”), which has an astounding effect on the grape (as long as it is healthy), pinpointing its sugars and aromas for the Cadillac of sweet wine, Chateau d’Yquem of Sauternes. These wines can take long cellar aging and are some of the most sought after and expensive wines in the world. In more accessible forms, it is found in the late harvest dessert wines of lesser grade Sauternes (which are still magnificent), Barsac and Monbazillac. In the 1820s, it made its way to Australia, particularly Hunter Valley which has become world renown for some its Semillon productions, South Africa and the Americas. 
 
Characteristics of the grape: As a dry white it is crisp and lemony, sometimes grassy, with slight perfumed and/or herbal aromatics. The ones from Hunter Valley often take some cellar aging, which gives them more intense, rich complexity. As a sweet wine it becomes more honeyed, with caramel, apricot (fresh and dried), brown sugar, white flowers, orange blossom, nuts, figs and toffee.
 
Regions where the grape is currently important: Bordeaux: Sauternes, Marsac, Monbazillac, Graves, other parts of Bordeaux in blends. Australia: Hunter Valley, Barossa, Clare, Mudgee, Riverina. California, Washington, Chile, Argentina, South Africa. 
 
Type or types of wines the grape produces: dry white wine, late harvest dessert wine, Botrytis sweet wine, ice wine. 
 
– Description from Amanda Schuster

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Description 2 of 2

In North America, Semillon is finding a place as a varietally-labelled wine in Washington State and southern Oregon. Although in California its popularity rises and falls, it is rarely used without Sauvignon Blanc, with which it makes generic, blended white wines. This thick-skinned grape is the base -- combined with varying percentages of Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle -- of some of the world’s most luxurious dessert wines. Most notably, the legendary wines of Sauternes and Barsac rely on this grape for weight and nutty complexity. Overripe Semillon grapes, when matched with some unique climactic conditions, have a tendency to be affected by the noble fungal disease ‘Botrytis’. As a varietal in the production of dry whites, Semillon rarely makes exciting wine outside of Australia. In Australia’s Hunter Valley, Semillon can produce age worthy whites, developing rich, toasty, buttery wines of impressive complexity. Throughout the wine world, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc continue their relationship, historically nurtured in Bordeaux. Together, Semillon and Sauvignon are common blends of value-priced wines, in which Sauvignon Blanc’s natural acidity is used to coax Semillon’s fuller flavors to life. Curiously, Semillon is the second-most planted white variety in Chile.

Thank goodness for you, Semillon, for your charitable work has not gone unnoticed in the world. As the spokeswoman for “Grapes Living with Botrytis” you have truly shown your noble colors. This is a serious affliction that can make the driest of characters intoxicated with sweet and luxurious desires. When you are not volunteering at the Centre of Botrytis Research in Sauternes, we certainly appreciate tales of your eccentric escapades 'Down Under'. Some may think you are a little nutty. It is a good thing that you are thick skinned. – Description from Appellation America (view original content)

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