Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc are two of Australia’s most important white wine varieties, for very different reasons.
Sauvignon Blanc has more or less taken over the world in the last decade or two with Savvies, particularly those from New Zealand’s Marlborough region, becoming the ‘go to’ wines for millions of consumers around the globe. As a nation, we have joined the rest of the world and fallen head over heels in love with a style from overseas, sometimes to the exclusion of our own wines, and it is easy to see why. From the moment you put your nose to a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, you are enveloped in rich and fragrant aromas. Whether grassy and herbal in style or packed with tropical fruit, Sauvignon Blanc is not backward in coming forward. On the palate the flavours are bold and the wines tend to be crisp and refreshing. It’s a winning combination.
Such has been its popularity that we have seen an inevitable backlash, a sure fire indicator of l success. Like Chardonnay before it, Sauvignon Blanc has become a wine that sparks strong opinions. Its devotees are countless but there will always be those that wish to turn away from the most popular varieties, in search of the next big thing. I believe there’s a place for all styles and varieties, and just as the ‘Anything but Chardonnay’ club has quietly disappeared, I reckon Sauvignon Blanc will re-engage its detractors soon enough. In an increasingly competitive and educated market, producers like Marlborough legend Allan Scott are developing more interesting, more individual Sauvignon Blancs that stand up to comparison with varieties sometimes considered more complex.
The importance of Semillon , on the other hand, comes not from ubiquity but from its heritage and class. It’s a variety that Australia has made its own. Semillon is rarely produced as a single varietal table wine outside Australia, and certainly not with our success. Hunter Valley Semillon in particular is a unique treasure of which every Australian wine lover can be proud. Crisp, citrusy and refreshing in its youth, it’s a fantastic wine to enjoy with seafood. (Try it with natural oysters or even fish and chips). Give a Hunter Semillon five or six years in the bottle though and it really starts to get exciting. Toasty and honeyed characters begin to emerge, adding an extra dimension and incredible depth to the wines.
These two quite different varieties also work beautifully together, with Semillon adding structure and cellaring ability to the powerful fruit flavours of the Sauvignon Blanc. It’s the classic blend found in the white wines of Bordeaux and we make some fantastic examples here in Australia too, with Western Australian winemakers in particular showing the way.