landmark australia tutorial: semillon, sauvignon blanc and blends
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SEMILLON, SAUVIGNON BLANC & BLENDS
3 June 2009
HISTORY – OLD WORLD• Both Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc from well before 1500s.• Sauternes from start of 16 century.• Principal varieties Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscadelle – min 70%.• Not uncommon for Semillon alone to be 80%.• Dry wines of both Bordeaux, Loire, SW France and Provence.• Bordeaux 1988; Semillon – 11,815ha (48%), Sauvignon Blanc –
4,423ha (18%) of total 24,728ha. • Bordeaux AOC 2008; total white – 6740ha. • Semillon generally declining in favour of Sauvignon.• Modern styles eg 2007 Chateau Doisy Daene Blanc – 100%
Sauvignon.• Bordeaux blends Sauvignon must be min. 25%.
HISTORY – NEW WORLD• South Africa, 1822 - Semillon comprised 93% of total vineyard.• By 2004, less than 1% approx 1000ha.• Chile, Semillon important (1,800ha in 2004) but not as a varietal.• Semillon declining in Nth America 490ha in 2004.• Australia 2007 - Semillon 6,752ha (8.3% up on 2005).• Australia 2008 – Semillon 98,320t.• Australia 2007 - Sauvignon Blanc 5,545ha (19% up on 2005).• Australia 2008 – Sauvignon Blanc 66,880t.• New Zealand, Sauvignon – 7,000ha in 2006.• NZ- 2007 Sauvignon represented 59% of white varieties.• South Africa, Sauvignon – 6,500ha in 2002 and increasing.• Nth America, California Sauvignon – 9,500ha in 2004.• On the back of ‘Fume Blanc’.
THE GRAPEVINE AND THE COLONY• First Fleet – cuttings and seeds.• John Macarthur’s tour and collection of 1815/16.• France, Switzerland, Maderia and South Africa as sources.• James Busby’s tour and collection of 1832.• Private importations.• The Australian Agricultural Company, 1825 imported Maderia
(Verdelho).• 1840 the importation of cuttings into South Australia from the Cape of
Good Hope.• Nurserymen became in demand – Thomas Shepherd at Rushcutter
Bay.• Semillon imported as ‘Green Grape’ or ‘Wyndruif’ – wine grape.• Sauvignon Blanc mentioned by William Macarthur as a mid season
THE HUNTER VALLEY• 1828-1830 George Wyndham.• 1824 Busby Hunter Valley land grant finally planted by brother-in-law
William. Kelman in 1832 at Kirkton.• Busby collection split between Sydney Botanical Gardens, Kirkton
and Macarthur’s Camden Park.• Rapid expansion of the Hunter vine plantings from 1840s up to 80+ha.• 1850s – 200ha. Still most on Hunter River alluvial plain.• Semillon grown as Shepherds Riesling very successfully.• Why? Reasonably tolerant of poor weather, good flavour at low sugar
and large juice yield.• Fluctuating fortunes of the wine industry, total Hunter area under vine
in 1956 down to 466ha.• Semillon comprised 243ha and Shiraz 145ha (83% of total).• No mention of sauvignon blanc?• Why? Early clones poor yield and not tolerant of bad weather.
Region Semillon (tonnes)
Sauvignon Blanc (tonnes)
Barossa Valley 6,150 1,490
Clare Valley 845 165
Coonawarra 46 825
Hunter Valley 4,270 160
King Valley 116 2,255
Margaret River 6,136 5,840
Tasmania 6 1,200
Yarra Valley 140 1,570
Riverina 44,050 5,000
Inland Irrigated-balance 24,200 21,520
TOTAL AUSTRALIA 98,320 66,880
REGIONAL CHARACTERISTICS – SEMILLONHUNTER VALLEY
• Long history.• Consistent style – low alcohol 9.5% to 11.5%, no oak (initially
in big vats), long aging potential.• Vagaries of cork ruined many.• Young flavours – grassy, cut hay/straw, lime juice, talc,
vanillin, lanolin.• Can be snow pea/herbaceaous but not suitable for long term
aging.• Aged flavours – honey, toast, almond bread, vanillin, oak-like.• Back palate texture.
REGIONAL CHARACTERISTICS – SEMILLONBAROSSA VALLEY
• Various styles.• Past have included high alcohol 13% +.• Modern Barossa – selected vineyards, lower alcohols 11-12%,
no oak.• Benefitted greatly from screw cap.• Similar range of flavour/aroma profiles except for citrus
spectrum.• Bees wax and ‘weight’ in front palate.
REGIONAL CHARACTERISTICS – SEMILLONMARGARET RIVER
• Similar to Barossa Valley.• Hard to get flavour at low sugar therefore often 13-14% alc.• Higher sugar increase in herbaceous (methoxypyrazine)
character.• Canopy management to decrease grassiness.
REGIONAL CHARACTERISTICS – SAUVIGNON BLANCMARGARET RIVER
• Perfect climate.• Strong varietal character.• Gooseberry, tropical, herbal with rich mouth feel.• Faults – under ripe, sweaty, baby powder, lantana, nettles.• Straight varietal – now days seldom oaked.
• Subtle differences to Margaret River.• Adelaide Hills, more grassy, citrus.• Orange, cooler region – acid spine and grassy not tropical.
REGIONAL CHARACTERISTICS – SAUVIGNON BLANCADELAIDE HILLS AND ORANGE
• Blends likely to dominate before single varietals due to history. • 1968 Mondavi – Fume Blanc.• Tame Sauvignon’s aggressive grassy character with oak.• 1978s - Tim Knappstein, Clare Valley Fume style.• 70s/80s – Di Cullen, Margaret River – oak fermented Sauvignon.• 1981/82 – Iain Riggs, Mclaren Vale – both varietal and blends.• Di Cullen – Sauvignon Blanc should be made like Cab Sauvignon.
invested with mid-palate weight and pronounced oak.• Hazelmere Estate (Riggs) – less oak more fruit.• 1990 – Brokenwood, Hunter Valley. McLaren Vale Sauvignon (70%)
and Hunter Semillon (30%).• Better winemaking – better varietal character.• More suited to Margaret River (Mediterranean/ maritime).
“…Chardonnay got away first, then married with oak and
conquered the world. Sauvignon Blanc was seen as a lighter and fresher alternative – and of lower value because no one had ever
tasted a great one. Nor did it gain with age. ….A new wine idiom had
arrived. It could recruit drinkers who had scarcely noticed wine
before, and it has.”
1. 1998 Tyrrell’s Vat 1 Semillon, Hunter Valley
2. 1999 Brokenwood ILR Reserve Semillon, Hunter Valley
3. 2002 Peter Lehmann Margaret Reserve Semillon, Barossa Valley
4. 2003 Tempus Two Zenith Semillon, Hunter Valley
5. 2005 Vasse Felix Semillon, Margaret River
6. 2006 McWilliam’s Lovedale Semillon, Hunter Valley
7. 2008 Thomas Braemore Semillon, Hunter Valley
8. 2008 Shaw and Smith Sauvignon Blanc, Adelaide Hills
9. 2008 Angullong Sauvignon Blanc, Orange
10. 2008 Logan Sauvignon Blanc, Orange
11. 2008 Goundrey G, Sauvignon Blanc/ Semillon, Mt Barker
12. 2008 Cape Mentelle, Sauvignon Blanc/ Semillon, Margaret River
13. 2008 Brookland Valley, Semillon/ Sauvignon Blanc, Margaret River
14. 2007 Rosemount Show Reserve, Semillon/ Sauvignon Blanc, WA
15. 2007 Lenton Brae Wilyabrup, Semillon/ Sauvignon Blanc, Margaret River