Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

A Soft Spot for Semillon

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

A Soft Spot for Semillon

Article excerpt


SEMILLON once dominated colonial vineyards in country's as far afield as South Africa, Australia and Chile.

Yet this golden-skinned, highyielding and easy-to-grow white grape has fallen out of favour in recent decades - which is a shame because it's capable of producing sublime sweet and dry wines.

Semillon's steady but profound decline can be highlighted by one simple statistic: in the early 19th century it accounted for more than 90 per cent of South Africa's grape production yet now it covers just one per cent of vineyard space.

However, it's far from a basket case and there are two corners of the world where semillon is still revered: Bordeaux and Australia.

In the former it's one of three grapes allowed in dry white wines - the others being sauvignon blanc and muscadelle. It's also the main grape for the region's world-famous sweet wines from Sauternes and neighbouring villages.

Sweet semillons are also produced Down Under but Australian makers have developed a unique dry version - pioneered in an area north of Sydney where the grape was for a long time misleadingly known as Hunter Valley Riesling.

One of those early producers was Mount Pleasant - a winery founded in 1921 and now part of the giant McWilliams stable.

Mount Elizabeth Valley In 1954 it released its first Elizabeth Semillon in honour of the Queen's inaugural visit to Australia and they've been winning awards with this renowned wine ever since.

The company has released two styles in the latest batch - a young fresh fruity version and a bottleaged deeper golden wine that tastes like it's seen an oak barrel or two but most definitely hasn't.

The youthful Mount Pleasant Elizabeth Hunter Valley Semillon 2013 has a refreshing floral nose of lemon and lime and hints of nuts.

It's an exceptionally wellrounded and classy wine - devoid a harsh edges and with good length. Yet despite being enjoyable, it lacks the wow factor which is perhaps why it only secured an International Wine Challenge (IWC) bronze.

That's in stark contrast to its super-charged big brother, Mount Pleasant Elizabeth Cellar Aged Semillon 2007. …

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