Your Wine IQ

Sémillon


International Varieties: Chardonnay   Gewürztraminer   Muscat   Pinot Gris   Riesling   Sauvignon Blanc

Major Varieties:   Airén    Chenin Blanc    Grüner Veltliner    Müller-Thurgau    Pinot Blanc    Sémillon    Silvaner    Trebbiano    Viognier

Regional Varieties:   Albariño    Aligoté    Amigne    Arneis    Chasselas    Colombard    Cortese    Fiano    Grechetto    Grenache Blanc    Malvasia Istriana    Marsanne    Muscadelle    Muscat of Alexandria    Ortega    Palomino    Parellada    Petite Arvine    Prosecco    Rieslaner    Roussanne    Savagnin    Scheurebe    Seyval Blanc    Tocai Friulano    Torrontés    Vermentino    Welschriesling


Sauternes

Sémillon is best known in exclusive
sweet wine Sauternes. Pictured here is a
bottle of Château d'Yquem, an exclusive
example that uses 50% Sémillon in its blend.
Photo by Monster1000 on Wikipedia.
License: License: Creative Commons SA 3.0.

Sémillon is a white grape well-known for its sweet wine production, but it is also commonly used in dry wines. Since arriving in Australia in the early 19th century, Sémillon has thrived there. Easy cultivation has made the grape popular elsewhere. Plantings have decreased since the mid-20th century, when they reached an all-time peak, but steady Sauternes production will undoubtedly keep this grape in the limelight.

Sémillon's ease in cultivation (and general resistance to disease) is balanced out by scarce resistance to rot. This attribute, which would often be considered a weakness, has been utilized to the maximum by producers of botrytized wine. The most famous example is Sauternes. Heavy and low in acidity, the wines have incredible ageability and can last 100 years or more.

Sémillon wine can often have incredible tropical fruit flavors. In Bordeaux, Pessac-Léognan produces some very good white wine, although the red remains more well-known. Sémillon was rarely popular until Sauternes producers discovered its great reaction to botrytis. Sémillon now is the crucial grape in Sauternes. Since 1959, Château d'Yquem has produced Sauternes made of 50% Sémillon (the other half is Sauvignon). This wine is one of the most expensive and lauded in the world, with rankings of 100 and high prices.

Sémillon is also appreciated in Australia, where Hunter Valley is the primary place for growth. Other valleys are also Sémillon hubs. Australia's warmer climate results in better dry wines than those of France. Rich and honeyed even when dry, these uncompromising wines also display good aging potential.

France and Australia are still the primary countries for Sémillon growth, but others are taking a stab at the grape. South Africa, South America, and the US are among the new contenders.