Sémillon an ambitious step too far?

From Sémillon we get some of the world’s great sweet wines and some of the world’s great dry wines. Like so many excellent, yet rather obscure grape varieties out there, it’s unlikely that it will ever reach the popular heights of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio. It doesn’t have that commercial appeal to succeed, but that for me is partly what makes it so interesting.
Wine fairs are great for this kind of thing. They are one of the ‘hazards’ you are faced with in the wine trade. There’s always some time, usually late afternoon, to go off and have some fun. Sample something intriguing that you’re not realistically in the market for. Something that stirs you inside, yet you wouldn’t dream of trying to sell in your home market.
I can recall myself trying Keith Tulloch’s Hunter Valley Semillon at the London Wine Fair last year. A terrific wine, light and fragrant, floral and zesty. Had we wanted it we could have taken this 94 point Halliday-rated wine to Ireland, but there simply isn’t the demand. It’s a shame, but people don’t want Hunter Valley Semillon.
I always think the supermarkets provide a pretty accurate indication of mass market demand, particularly when it comes to wine. The flavour of recent years has been Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, and sure enough the supermarkets have fed that demand. Oyster Bay was the star a few years ago. Now its inevitable decline is underway.
So what’s up next? Is it time for consumers to stand up and demand greater variety? Do we want to see Frappato, Pignolo or Moscophilero on the supermarket shelves? Don’t worry, I haven’t tried them either, but I sure would like to. Somehow I can’t see that happening, but it’s true that as consumers we dictate what becomes available to us.
Being a small and nimble independent, relatively speaking, we like to cater for a slightly more curious consumer. That’s part of our niche, and its part of what gets me excited about work everyday. I sell New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc by the bucket load, and I enjoy it, it’s still one of my favourites. But have someone ask for something a bit odd, or slightly off the beaten track, and I’m in my element. Helping that person open the door to a fun-filled land of discovery is almost as rewarding as discovering it for yourself.
Sémillon reminds me of that every time I drink it or hand sell it. An amazing wine with its own personality and such varied styles between Old World and New World, young and mature, tank fermented and oak aged. I feel, however, along with thousands of other great offerings, that for the masses, Sémillon becomes an ambitious step too far. Could it be too dry or too sweet? Could it be the low acidity, or the restrained nose? Or could it be that it doesn’t roll of the tongue as easily as Chardonnay and Sauvignon? Excuse me while I continue to ponder.
Click here to view our Sémillon and Sémillon blends (obviously some people still love them)

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