Hunter Semillons are un-paralled anywhere in the world. A multitude of Hunter wineries make great, great Semillons, in three styles which really relate to their age in the bottle and when they are released. They are:
- Crisp, new Semillons a year or two in the bottle
- Semillons stored for 5 years before being released
- "Museum" Semillons being bottled and stored 10 years before being released
While I like my young and medium-aged Semillons, "museum-released" and aged (10 years or older) Semillons are in a class by themselves. The older Semillons can still have a bit of acid, but have soften considerably, and developed a complexity and balance of tastes which is ethereal in experience. The golden color, followed by nosing such a wine (I actually use Riedel Montrachet glasses instead of the Riedel Semillon / Riesling glassware for my truly aged Semillons. See recent post on "What's in a Glass?") and flavors in your mouth provide one of life's most precious pleasures!
My favorite three Museum Semillons are the 1999 Tyrrell's Vat 1, the 1999 Meerea Park Alexander Munro, but top of the list is the 1990 Waverley Estate Semillon, their second vintage. Unfortunately, there is no more to be found and I have only two bottles of the 1990 Waverley Estate left in my cellar. However, the 1992 and 1996 Waverly Estate Semillons are magnificent also, and the 1998 and 2000 vintages are coming into their own.
I have done a tasting of the 1999 Tyrrell's Vat 1, the 1999 Meerea Park Alexander Munro, and the 1999 Waverley Estate Semillons and it was difficult to pick a winner. Each was truly outstanding in its own right.
A 10 - 20 year old Semillon can be truly magnificent. The only problem is that there is some variability in the taste caused by difference in cork. I had to pour a 1994 Waverley Estate down the drain because of a poor cork. They have been good and always replaced a bad bottle for me, but is can still be a disappointment when you have had one great bottle and open a second one of the same vintage to find a small and discernible difference. That is why I am a fan of moving from cork to screw-top.
As so often is the case when researching material for a post, I came across something already written which does a good job of describing what I wanted to say. A review of the Semillon grape from Wine Knowledge is worth a read and entirely matches my view on Semillon.
I have not recommended any Semillons from regions other than the Hunter Valley. There are certainly some great Semillons produced in Margaret River and the Barasso Valley, and certainly some magnificent Semillons produced in the Sauternes and Barsac regions in France, but my deeper knowledge and appreciation of Hunter Valley Semillons makes me favor the Semillons from that region over all others. My only exception to that would be the great dessert wines made from Botrytis Semillon from Sauternes such as Chataeu D'Yquem. (See my post on "Why I think Chauteau D'Yquem is the Best Wine in the World", my most-viewed post of all time!)