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Semillon: Sauvignon Blanc’s little secret

Posted on: February 17th, 2016 by Tom Peiffer No Comments

2011 SemillonFormulating wine blends to achieve tastes that are greater than the sum of their parts has been practiced for 1000’s of years.  And even today, there is no sign of this “winemaker’s blending predilection” letting up.

One of the best examples of this is the extraordinary effort that goes into most top shelf Sauvignon Blancs.  But just what bouquet and flavor are they looking for?  For most of us Sauv Blanc lovers it’s only a short list:

  • Citrus (grapefruit & lemon)
  • Stone fruit (peaches, pears and apricot)
  • Lemon grass, flowers, stony earth, and fresh greens (like a farmer’s field and garden)
  • A bakery oven (warm bread, muffins, & cakes)
  • Spices (cinnamon & pepper)
  • Crisp acidic finish (tang and zip, but not too much)
  • Total enhancement of seafood (fish and shellfish come alive, like with a perfect garnish of lemon)

To some, this may not seem like such a big deal, but there are so many blah Sauvignon Blancs out there that it could take a month to count them.  Most are very basic, containing only a little grapefruit with a splash of lemon, quaff, and that’s it.  But the best can take you a world away, into a lush green countryside filled with new growth, so alive!

One way to get introduced to that “special ingredient” in an award-winning Sauvignon Blanc is to get your hands on a bottle of 100% Semillon.  This classic grape varietal has been used by France’s Bordeaux region for centuries to fill in that “hole” often left in pure Sauvignon Blanc, complexity.

Semillon has the added flavors that, when blended in small quantities with Sauvignon Blanc, lend an incredible variety to the finished product.  Even though there are also “holes” in a straight Semillon, the combination of the two is classic, and sumptuous.

Want to try it?  Just order a bottle or more of Semillon (it’s a dry, not sweet white) from V. Sattui in Napa (a direct-order winery), chill it down and give it a taste.  Then blend it with a very basic Sauvignon Blanc (like Trader Joe’s Charles Shaw brand or one of their others) at about 1 or 2 parts Semillon to 10 parts Sauv Blanc.

The secret‘s out, top shelf Sauvignon Blancs are often blends (they can blend up to ~20% of other varietals and not label it as such).  Hey, find a blend ratio you like, serve in a carafe, and see what happens, winemaker.

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About the Author - Tom Peiffer

Tom has been an avid wine consumer and collector for over 20 years. This pastime has taken he and his family on many visits to wine growing regions, including Arizona. During these excursions, with the accompanying tastings and lectures, it became clear that there is no "magic bullet" wine. For each wine contains its own character, strong points, and weaknesses. Sharing these experiences to help anyone purchase locally available wines is his goal.

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