A grape that vibes like many other varietals depending on where it is grown, Sémillon originated in France, where it is the fourth most planted white grape. It is often blended with Muscadelle or Sauvignon Blanc, which is most commonly known as White Bordeaux Blend.
Considered a chameleon grape, Sémillon can change flavor profiles depending on the climate. In hot climates, like California, South Africa, and Argentina, Sémillon typically displays ripe fruit notes like mango, peach, and papaya and can be aged in oak, giving it a similar vibe to Chardonnay. Whereas in cooler climates, like Bordeaux, Hunter Valley Australia, and Washington, Sémillon closely resembles Sauvignon Blanc with its high acidity and notes of lemon, lime zest, and grapefruit. This versatile varietal is best paired with sushi, goat cheese salad, roasted chicken, or Indian fare.
Sémillon is highly susceptible to being struck by botrytis, also known as noble rot, which should be it's downfall but actually makes the grape extremely sought after. The combination of Sémillon and this fungus results in luscious sweet wines. Regions like Sauternes have the perfect conditions of morning mist and afternoon sun for botrytis to develop. The fungus pierces Sémillon’s thin skin, leading to a loss of water, which leads to the sugar levels rising. These wines have distinctive notes of honey, nuts, and spice.
Whet your whistle with these Sémillon wines:
Grape Photo Credit: Doris Schneider, Julius Kühn-Institut (JKI), Federal Research Centre for Cultivated Plants, Institute for Grapevine Breeding Geilweilerhof - 76833 Siebeldingen, GERMANY