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Sémillon Wine Guide: Flavor Profile of French Sémillon

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Aug 28, 2020 • 1 min read

Learn about one of France's most popular white wine grapes, the Sémillon, which is a golden variety equally suited to sweet wines and dry wines.



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What Is Sémillon?

Sémillon is a white wine grape variety from the Bordeaux region in France. Sémillon is primarily a blending grape, but it is also used in varietal wines and can be either sweet or dry.

What Are the Characteristics of Semillon Grapes?

Sémillon grapes are deep gold to copper in color. The grapes are fairly easy to grow, with high yields, making them a favorite of growers. They have thin skin and are susceptible to noble rot (Botrytis cinerea), which concentrates the sugars in the grape and makes for prized dessert wines. Generally low in acidity, the flavor of a Sémillon-based wine depends both on climate and harvest time.

Where Do Sémillon Grapes Grow?

Sémillon grapes originated in Bordeaux, which still produces more of this grape than any other wine region in the world. Sémillon is the main grape in Sauternes and Barsac, sweet white wines from Bordeaux made from late-harvest grapes affected by noble rot. Small amounts of Sémillon are blended with sauvignon blanc and muscadelle to produce Bordeaux blanc (white Bordeaux wine) in the appellations of Graves, Pessac-Léognan, and Entre-Deux-Mers.

Sémillon is also somewhat popular outside of France. In Hunter Valley, Australia, Sémillon grapes are harvested early to produce varietal wines with a low alcohol content and good aging potential. Hunter Valley Sémillon has sparked a trend in the country, with Sémillon whites now produced in Barossa Valley in South Australia and Margaret River in Western Australia.

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What Do Sémillon Wines Taste Like?

Sémillon is often compared to its relative, sauvignon blanc, as well as Alsatian pinot gris and riesling. Like Chardonnay, Sémillon is full-bodied and can be oaked to bring out buttery notes. Sémillon from warmer climates, such as Chile, California, and South Africa, tends to have apricot and mango fruit flavors, while Sémillon wines from cooler climates, like its native Bordeaux, Hunter Valley in Australia, and Washington state, tend to have more citrus flavors. Wherever they're grown, Sémillon wines tend to have waxy, lanolin flavors as well.

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