Crisp semillon, perfect with seafood

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Choose the right wine every time - Taste Food and Wine 2008 by Matthew Jukes and Tyson Stelzer

The dominant aromas in dry Semillon (pronounced sem-ee-yon) are honey, lemon and lime juice, which make it a perfect match with seafood and light, fresh salad based meals.

Young semillon is crisp and acidic and Hunter Valley varieties are renowned for their lemony characters. Older semillon becomes rich, buttery and smooth and is great with creamy Indian dishes, such as kormas. And then there's the sweet semillon and botryis varieties, which are a standout with deserts and fruit platters - but that's another story. diped into Taste Food and Wine 2008 to find some great dry Semillons.  

Peter Lehmann Barossa Semillon
2006    $11
This is the sort of wine that you should have ready in the fridge when you come back from work because it’s not remotely challenging and it does that ‘no-brainer thing’ brilliantly. All it’s saying is, “Relax, put your briefcase down, switch off and chill out.” This is a creamy, fruity, not overly intellectual wine to drink with friends when the conversation is more important than the booze. With hints of herbs and waxy lemons, PLS is an all-purpose crowd-pleaser with surprising ageability – if you can keep your hands off it.

De Iuliis Semillon
2007    $16
New wave Hunter Semillon is the new black (or should that be ‘the new white’?) – if only everyone on the planet would realise this. We have the privilege of being the messengers of good news – De Iuliis (however you pronounce it) is your entry point to this spectacular style of world class wine. It’s lighter and less grassy than most SBs in flavour and alcohol, and yet every bit as long and intriguing on the palate. For $16 you’re investing in an affordable, everyday drink with layers of unexpected class. The fresh, tropical flavours of the great 2007 make it ready to go right now.  

Tyrrell’s Lost Block Semillon 2007    $16
Lost Block is a baby version of Vat 1 (read on), and the main difference is that this edition is ready to drink – good news! Made with the same precision, by our dear friend Spinner (Andrew Spinaze), in the same winery, with the same kit, this wine takes Tyrrells’ famous wines to the people. Get out there and find Lost Block – this is your mission if you choose to accept it.

First Creek Semillon
2007    $17
With pulpy lemon sherbet fruit and a more confected (in a nice way) feel, this is a more-ish, juicy, grapey Semillon with abundant citrus flavours and a pliable, squelchy finish. Served ice-cold, this is a wicked aperitif, but its intrinsic richness makes it able to cope with reef fish and main courses, too.  

Brokenwood Semillon
2007    $19
With breakneck acidity and considerable G-Force on the palate, Broken-wood Semillon will take you from 0 to 100 in under 4 seconds. Strap yourself in for one hell of a ride because Riggsy and PJ have managed to bottle an entire theme park in this bottle. Get on board for some wild, hot-tub quaffing.

Cockfighter’s Ghost Hunter Valley Semillon
2007    $19
With more flavour handles to grip onto than most youthful Hunter Valley Sems, this wine is not to be used in the aperitif slot of your entertaining schedule. Its depth of flavour and honeyed notes demand that you shuffle it down the list to serve with main course chicken or fish dishes. We suspect that this wine will have two distinct lives ahead of it – its initial 2008 youthful fling, after which it will go into hibernation for a year or two and emerge as a devastating diva. We watch and wait with lasciviousness.

Andrew Thomas The O.C. Semillon
2007    $20
Unlike the lemon- and lime-driven Semillons in this section, Thommo’s 07 has hints of orange zest and quince which make it all the more exotic. This gives us all yet another reason to visit the Hunter in the course of our drinking diaries. With a mass of experience working with some of the big names in the business, The O.C. parades Thommo’s talent for all to see. Even Mischa Barton would blush.

Meerea Park “Epoch” Semillon 2007    $20
2007 Ewok is one of Meerea Park’s best ever Semillon releases. This estate has threatened to produce something amazing for several years, but somehow just managed to duck under the Empire’s radar. 2007 is, we hope,  the beginning of a run of definition and craftsmanship, which makes this Semillon more than worthy of its position in your drinking calendar this year. With brilliant fresh lemon notes, this is one of the best Semillons we have seen, with the precision and brilliance of a fully charged light sabre.

Willow Bridge Estate Reserve Semillon 2006    $20
Just to prove that Willow Bridge really has nailed its Reserves, here’s the other half of the white grape duo and in this incarnation it sings a mightily confident solo in the glass. Spicy and complex, this is a fairly chunky white wine proposition which can take on pork, veal and even a cruiser-weight turkey without ducking the challenge.  

Tim Adams Clare Valley Semillon 2006    $21
Unoaked Semillon should be a doddle (although so many people muck it up). When you bring oak barrels into play there are all sorts of hidden traps, so you have to be ultra-confident and immensely talented not to cock it up. If you do, you’ll lose the character of the variety and waste the investment in the carpentry in one fatal move. Tim has been doing Semillon for decades and what is more remarkable is that he manages to keep it hovering around the $20 price point. While it ages extremely well, our preferred drinking window is sooner rather than later, when the freshly baked brioche notes and vanilla pod moments interact beautifully with the citrus missile that is Tim Adams Semillon.

Keith Tulloch Semillon
2007    $28
We all know that ill-informed Sydney-siders drink oceans of mediocre Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, but with forward-drinking Hunter Semillon on tap, AH Sauv re-discovering its uniqueness and this wine ‘BTG’ in every decent bar, it is a real mystery to us as to why they think they are remotely on the same page as the rest of the country. Keith is fast becoming one of the most intricate engineers in the business. He uses his intimate knowledge of every one of his vines to team talk this Semillon into lime and lanolin perfection. The 2007 is delightfully zesty and approachable right now, so give SB a wide berth if this beauty saunters into view.

Tyrrell’s Wines Vat 1 Hunter Semillon
2000    $45
Attempting to compare the two greatest Semillons in the world is like trying to judge the most pure solo (Lovedale) against a symphony (Vat 1). There is no way to compare perfection with perfection. Vat 1 is a full philharmonic blend of vineyards and the lively 2000 is one to grab while it’s still in its adolescence. The product of a long, cool vintage, this wine is in its prime for drinking now – it’s the prom queen you want to take home tonight. We have also seen a sneak preview of the 2007, and if you happen to one day spot it at the cellar door, do not hesitate to cart out as much as you can cram into your boot.

McWilliams Mount Pleasant Lovedale Hunter Valley Semillon 2006    $55
Lovedale never fails to put a ridiculously large smile on our faces. This wine is a dream come true for anyone remotely interested in dry white wine. The fact that all you have to do these days is twist the top off and let perfection flow from the bottle is, frankly, laughable, because nothing this good should ever be this easy. Drinking perfectly now and for the next 5000 days without missing a beat, this is surely one of the remarkable dry white wines of the world. We have also experienced McWilliams Mount Pleasant Lovedale Hunter Valley Semillon 2007 ($55) and we are still grinning like goons.


Reproduced with permission. © Copyright Matthew Jukes and Tyson Stelzer 2008 Members can purchase the latest edition, Taste Food and Wine 2009, from our online partner Seekbooks at a 12.5% discount, postage and handling extra.



  • Lower Hunter (NSW)
  • Hunter including Newcastle (NSW)
  • Upper Hunter Valley (NSW)
  • Hunter Valley (NSW)
  • Barossa Valley (SA)
  • Clare Valley (SA)

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March 10th, 2009
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