Semillon. With an oily, waxy mouthfeel that rolls off the tongue as smoothly as its name is pronounced, a good Semillon is the ideal dinner date to any serious spicy curry or thai dish. And yet for all of her lip-smacking pairing capabilities, Semillon remains a white cultivar that is often overlooked and underappreciated…
Back in the 19th century, Semillon grapes accounted for more than 90% of all planted vines in South Africa. Today, that figure has decreased to a staggeringly low 1% – confirming British wine journalist, Jancis Robinson’s description that:
“Semillon is a very odd grape indeed. In most vineyards, it sits around sullenly, like an overweight schoolgirl, showing awkward fatness or just plain dullness in the wines it produces. In some places though, as if under the spell of the fairy godmother, it can be transformed into a raving beauty.”
On an unassuming October afternoon, Neil, Jacques and myself had a moment to encounter one such raving beauty… Uitsig’s Semillon 2013.
A complex and herbaceous nose, with hints of spanspek melon and fresh lime, give way to a clean, full-bodied and almost lanolin waxy finish on the palate.
Confirming this, Neil remarks, ‘Whereas a Sauvignon Blanc would fall apart with a spicy dish, this has the mouthfeel and substance to coat a range of spices and flavours…’
Fit for both spicy food and seafood – Semillon’s dexterioty makes it a wine that’s often harder for the general public to predict and therefore pair dishes with. In other words, many people steer away from Semillon simply because they don’t know what to expect. While Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blancs each have their trademark characteristics, it seems Semillon is able to swing from one extreme to the other.
Grown in warmer climes, lime and buttered toast will lavish your senses, reminiscent of Chardonnay. Grow Semillon in cooler places, and Sauvignon Blanc’s citrusy, lanoline-texture and asparagus-like characteristics come to the fore.
So in which camp does Uitsig’s Semillon belong? Remarkably, both. Being a relatively old vine (22 years to be precise), and grown on sandy soil that has required its roots to go deep and its growth to be less vigorous (producing smaller, more concentrated bunches of fruit), Uitsig’s Semillon provides a wonderful viscosity on the palate – combined with a creamy, honeyed follow-through. The net result? An ideal ‘food wine’.
Perhaps that’s why many a chef has clamored to pair their dishes with this Semillon. Or why it won an enviable double gold at the Michelangelo Awards and an equally impressive 4.5 stars in John Platter’s Guide.
In any case, all three of us agree that this is a wine that continues to get better and better over time.
“Barrel fermented in big 600 litre French Oak barrels, only 15% of this wine is put in new barrels. We want no taste or smell of oak in this wine – so that the site and vineyard is not masked but can speak for itself.” Jacques continues, “For almost eight months, this wine is left to mature in barrels. The vintage before us has also enjoyed two additional years of ageing since bottling.” Unlike some whites, Semillons tend to age gracefully. “Semillons typically have a relatively low acidity and pH level, this allows them to age incredibly well, albeit be a little tight to begin with. That’s why we can afford to hang back on releasing it… it’s a wine that just gets better and better over time.”
So what dishes would work with this show-stopper? Quite a few it turns out…
Open Door’s own octopus dish would make a sensational pairing. As would oysters, salmon, crayfish and any spicy Asian, Indian or Thai dish. To wrap up our spicy date, we settled on a fragrant chicken and prawn curry from renowned food blogger and chef, Sam Taylor.
So why not give our recommended recipe a go, and prepare to meet your match (and your dish’s dream date) in a chilled glass of Uitsig Semillon 2013.