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All About Semillon

With only 50,000 acres planted around the world, Semillon isn't one of the most popular grapes, but it sure does make a special bottle of wine. With its golden skin, the Semillon is an elegant fruit capable of growing in both hot and cold climates. This versatility makes it a world traveler, as it's grown primarily in France and Australia, but also parts of the United States, South Africa, Argentina and Chile.

What separates Semillon from its white wine contemporaries is its flexibility. Depending on the climate and a multitude of other factors, Semillon becomes either a dry or sweet dessert wine. The difference lies in whether or not it gets a visit from Mr. Fungus. This fungus, known as Botrytis, is a major cause of fruit rot across the world, but in the dessert wine industry, it's a blessing.

Although a bit of an eyesore, the fungus acts as a natural fermenter, removing moisture but leaving behind minerals, fruit acids, sugars and an improved final product. Sauternes, which is one of the most famous dessert wines in the world, hails from Bordeaux and is produced using this growing method.

Dry Semillon wines stave off this infection from the vine, resulting in a higher alcohol-by-volume content and a fuller, but still medium, body. The dry versions often change drastically in taste based on their production climate, but flavors almost always contain lemon, pear, apple and green papaya. Warm-climate Semillon imparts even more tropical flavors like mango, while grapefruit, lemon and lime make an appearance in cold-climate versions. The warm-climate Semillon may also receive oak barrel treatment to add buttery, toffee-like notes.

Spice is nice with every glass of Semillon, as the medium body mixes well. Asian and Indian cuisine are two of the more exotic options, but chicken, turkey and fish work just as well. Semillon is also great by itself, slightly chilled between 45 and 55 degrees.