The White To Watch: Semillon Comes Into Its Own

Posted: Jun 25, 2018

Semillon, a longtime supporting player, is coming out of the shadows to take lead roles.

Sometimes the newest great thing is hiding in plain sight. And that’s exactly the case with a white wine variety that has been around forever but has very little recognition to show for it: Sémillon. In France, Sémillon is a crucial blender with Sauvignon Blanc in white Bordeaux (and the lead player in legendary sweet Sauternes). In fact, the grape is one of the most important whites in the country, just behind Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Its lack of recognition might be chalked up to the fact that the French drink wine by place instead of variety; it’s a white Bordeaux, not a Sauvignon Blanc/Sémillon blend.

In the States, the wine simply hasn’t gotten a lot of love on a grand scale. Sure, a few winemakers have channeled the Bordeaux model and splashed some Sémillon into their “SB,” but until recently, few have splashed in enough to call the bottle Sauvignon Blanc, so not many people knew it was there. (Apologies to the stalwart band of producers who have been making 100 percent Sémillon and blends in the shadows. Your time has come.)

Now, more producers are giving Sémillon the lead role in their white Bordeaux blends (and giving the wine a fanciful name because they can’t call it by either variety). And joining the aforementioned stalwart band are a few more 100 percenters.

Look for Sémillon to be starring now in both California and Washington, where Nina Buty, founder and president of Walla Walla Valley’s Buty Winery produces an exciting blend of Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle (a lesser player in the whites of Bordeaux). Buty explains what Sémillon brings to the table, in her view: “I love its texture and concentration. Sémillon tends to be a richer, more unctuous grape, with fig and lanolin.”

About that last descriptor, it’s a thing! (A good thing, if you think of that character in terms of mouthfeel as opposed to spa product.) Buty says they choose to dominate their Bordeaux-style blend with the variety because of the depth—“the foundational bass notes”—it offers. “Besides,” she adds, “Sémillon is often the underdog, and I love a great underdog!”

Happily, Sémillon’s growing presence is creating a whole new category for white wine lovers to explore. Those already in the know call it SBS. Here are a few special bottles on our radar at the moment.

By Sara L. Schneider
June 16, 2018
Source: Robbreport

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