Bethany Semillon (2006)
I have to declare my love of Semillon from the start. This feels uncomfortable because loving Semillon is deeply unfashionable these days. But like Riesling, and Rick Astley, maybe it is time for this 80s throwback to be appreciated for a second time, because like Riesling (now drier, developed, a million miles from Blue Nun) and Rick Astley (no longer miming in a trench coat but inspiring en-masse Rick-rolling), Semillon is a million miles from the quasi-Colombard workhorse it was. Or, there are at least more serious winemakers doing more with Semillon than just blending it with Sauvignon Blanc; the dross is still there and can pretty much be avoided by the over-£6-good-under-£6-risky rule.
The Schrapel family wear their history on their (bottle) sleeves and certainly can lay claim to some long-standing vineyard plantations which were started in the 1840s. The Semillon vines are more youthful at forty five years old and they benefit from the excellent Barossa climate and natural irrigation that runs off to the Tanunda Creek. More Semillons reaching the UK tend to have been grown in the Hunter Valley; both regions can generate deep, golden Semillons of considerable punch and quality. Funnily enough, the Bethany Semillon is only 11.5% but tastes much meatier. It also tastes as though it has been in oak for some time, and evidently in French oak, but barrelling only lasted for 3-4 months. Much of the fruit has gone, except that Semillon signature of lemon, giving way to white flowers, honey, and some buttery toastiness. In fact, lemon curd on toast would be a fair foodie equivalent. I chilled my bottle right down in the freezer before serving – if this was served at all on the warm side it would be quite cloying and would dampen the interesting floral notes into one sweet chomp.
I got this as part of a mixed case from Barrels and Bottles, a Chesterfield-based wine shop and cookery school bizarrely located in a massive grey cube on Sheepbridge industrial park. Looking online, this wine seems to retail at a range of prices from £10 to £15. If you like your whites fruity, light or zippy, don’t waste your money; if you enjoy white Burgundies, banana cake, or backing the second-time-around candidate, give it a whirl.