Drink Academy: Sémillon

Through sémillon changes dramatically from youth through twilight, it always carries itself with an air of nobility. With berries of golden rose, young sémillon shows bright, sometimes racy acidity, citrus and hay/herb notes. With bottle age, these wines tend to fatness, with a waxy, honeyed heft that gains weight and complexity.

{SEMM-ee-yohn} or {SEEM-a-lon, in Aussie-speak}

The early-ripening, thin-skinned grape is highly susceptible to rot, making it one of the most desirable to establish botrytis (noble rot) affected wines. It is one of the major grapes in the exalted sweet wines of Bordeaux – Sauternes. However, sémillon is relatively rare today. After a blaze of popularity (it was one of the most planted white grapes in the world), it has fallen out of fashion, making finding a pure sémillon a challenge. Australia, especially in the Hunter Valley, is the rare exception, producing brilliant, age-worthy sémillons that compete with the top wines in the world. Noble, indeed.

Here’s a link to a wiki article on wine rating.


Bartier Bros.
Sémillon 2013

Okanagan Valley, BC
*$20 +487900
Fantastic texture for such a youthful wine (Bartier’s sems gain complexity quickly with bottle age). Flush with youth and herbal apricot, white peach, wildflowers, sea buckthorn and fine spice lifted with shining acidity and through surprising length.

89 points.


L’Ecole No. 41
Sémillon 2011

Columbia Valley, Washington State, USA
*$28 +74518
Just a shadow of age has revealed alluring mature notes of honeycomb and pistachio, scented apricot blossom and lemon pith, and herbal, earthy lees across a subtly waxy, full bodied palate. Fluid acidity carries into a lovely lengthy finish.

90 points


Seta 2011

Napa Valley, California, USA
$50 +578633
This is a showy, rich, full-bodied and positively ballsy Napa white that works. Ripe, creamy sémillon plays with the bright tropical melon fruit of sauvignon blanc, resulting in cashews, waxy figs, honey and perfumed vanillan spice that carry through a long finish.

89 points.


Vat 1 Sémillon 2005

Hunter Valley, New South Wales, Australia
*$60.00 +192989
Beautiful to taste with nearly a decade of time, and from a very good vintage. Intent eraser and struck stone to open. Evolved, heady notes of honeycomb, chamomile, nuts, lime pith, biscuit and seashell stream through the intense palate. Acidity has focus, palate has breadth and the finish is long.

93 points.


Chateau Armajan des Ormes
Sauternes 2009

Bordeaux, France
$30 (375ml) +147090

Candied lemon peel and crystalline ginger aromas lure to a pretty, juicy palate of honey, marmalade, apricot jam, dried peach and finely grated dried coconut on the lingering finish. Sémillon is joined by sauvignon blanc and muscadelle, as is common in Sauternes.

90 points.


De Bortoli
Noble One Botrytis Sémillon 2010

New South Wales, Australia
*$35 (375ml) +554766
Concentrated, pure and persistent notes of eraser, honeycomb, beeswax, apricot paste, green fig, tangerine, candied lime peel and smoked stone. Rich and unctuous across the palate, with tactile layers of herbal syrup and honeyed intrigue. Length for days. One of the iconic sweet wines of the world.

94 points.

Learn more about wine through Drink Academy.

Taste your way through numerous Aussie semillon at the 37th annual Vancouver International Wine Festival February 20-March 1.

Written By:

Treve Ring is a wine writer, editor, judge, consultant and certified sommelier, and has been with EAT Magazine for over a decade.\r\n\r\nIn addition to her work with EAT, she is a Wine Critic and National Judge for ...

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