When people talk about a ‘Bordeaux Blend’ people tend to assume that they mean a combination of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cab Franc etc etc. But actually, a blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc is just as ‘Bordeaux’ as its red counterpart and is becoming increasingly popular in South Africa.
Several of the Five Star whites in the latest Platter Wine Guide are blends of Sauvignon and Semillon and this is a category which is growing in popularity at the less expensive end of the market as well. Slightly rounder than a straight Sauvignon, Sauv/Sems are generally great food partners with the richer Semillon often providing a touch of oaky spice to the blend. Here is a list of 6 of my current favourites.
2009 Hermanuspietersfontein No. 5 R126 from the cellar
This is the wine which won Bartho Eksteen the title of Winemaker of the Year last weekend and it is thoroughly well deserved. This is actually classed as a Sauvignon because the Semillon component is only 15% but makes its presence felt with lively green fig notes and herbal honey finish. Both the Sauv and the Sem have been in oak of varying ages and the result of great complexity, palate weight and depth of flavour. Worth every cent.
2009 Nitida Coronata Integration R115 from the cellar
This is almost 50-50 with a slight bias in favour of Sauvignon – a speciality of Nitida’s for many a year. The Semillon part was barrel-fermented and adds a spicy tang to the wine with the Sauvignon bringing its traditional green peppers and peas. The result is a wonderful food wine – particularly good with sushi – which should improve over the next two to three years.
2008 Black Oystercatcher White Pearl R83 from Wine Concepts, Newlands
Slightly different proportions here with Semillon dominating (80%). Only 30% of the Semillon was barrel-fermented and aged which gives a refreshing crispness to the wine – the fact that it’s a cool climate down in Elim simply adds a savoury twist and additional minerality as well. Refreshingly fruity with a good few years to come.
2009 Highlands Road ‘Sine Cera’ R60 from the farm
A straightforward 50-50 blend here with neither part having seen so much as a whiff of oak.Owner and winemaker, Justin Hoy, likes his Sauvignons to last so this wine is currently very zesty and green with lots of straw and figs – give it another year or so and you’ll have something truly delicious and a great match for all kinds of food.
2010 Villiera Down to Earth Sauvignon/Semillon R34.99 from selected retailers
Villiera are masters at making excellent quality wines which completely over-deliver on their price points and in my view, this is an absolutely stunning example. Made from mainly Sauvignon Blanc (77%) it has the classic tropical fruit and figs of the variety balanced out by the greener notes of the Semillon with hints of herbs and garrigue. Very good partner for fishy things.
2010 Arniston Bay Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon R31 from Welmoed Cellar
Arniston Bay have zooshed up their packaging and seriously improved their wines at the same time to make this really good value, better-than-average glugger. There is no oak on either component so the wine is fresh, racy, zippy with plenty of lively citrus fruit and a little added palate weight from the herbal/waxy Semillon part. Nice stuff