For lovers of innuendo, the very word ‘Semillon’ is bit of a godsend. For many wine producers though, a Semillon blend is a means of getting ‘Sauvignon’ or ‘Chardonnay’ on the label while keeping the price keen. For a select few, it’s a grape to be celebrated for what it can achieve on its own.
Semillon wines, young or aged, can be relied upon to deliver a good smack of lemon. Which is another reason to add it to Chardonnay, since it can become a little bit ‘heavy’ in warmer wine regions. But the Hunter Valley in Eastern Australia is the home of the aged Semillon, a style with a character all of its own.
Taking our seven-year old example, there’s still plenty of that lemon, but it’s not sharp. The ageing has mellowed it a little. The label claims ‘lemon sherbert’, and I might just let them get away with that.
Then there’s the powerful savoury flavour, which is a tricky one to pinpoint, and it’s really what the style is all about. The label goes for the rather simplistic (and in my view rather inaccurate) ‘toasty’. Searching around online, I’ve also seen the much wackier ‘cream soda’ and the rather cruel ‘catty’. I can see where they’re coming from, but I don’t quite agree with any of them. So I’m going to throw my hat into the ring with ‘creme fraiche’. And I think that’s pretty damn close.
Speaking of dairy products, the label rightly makes claim to a buttery texture. It seems to coat your tongue, much as if you were munching on a well buttered piece of toast (but without the toast flavour). Don’t go thinking this is detectable for just a fleeting second either. No, it seems to make itself comfortable there as the lemon and creme fraiche continue to play with your palate long after you swallow.
What this wine isn’t is a ‘crowd pleaser’. Frankly, it’s a style that would probably offend a lot of casual wine drinkers, and have them convinced you’ve bought the cheapest, nastiest plonk from the off licence around the corner. Very embarrassing, especially when it actually costs £10 per bottle (I managed to get one for £8 while it was on offer though).
This is a wine for wine lovers who are open-minded about exploring different styles, and are prepared to take some time to get the hang of them. If that’s you, go grab a bottle. But don’t come crying to me if you happen to think it’s more ‘catty’ than ‘creme fraiche’.