Sweeneys Wine Merchants in Glasnevin, North Dublin, are both my favourite merchants to visit and happen to be my local wine shop, so I was sure to drop in to see what bargains they had on offer in their summer wine sale. Everything they had more than a couple of bottles of was open for tasting so it was “try before you buy” for about a dozen whites and reds, with a solitary rosé holding station in the middle.
Of course I tried all of them (just for completeness, you understand), but which most piqued my interest? There turned out to be a theme – all were Sémillon / Sauvignon Blanc blends, but from different areas.
Around ten years ago I did a “wine-walk” at the London Fine Food & Wine Show with the theme “Sémillon and Sauvignon – better on their own or together?” Wine walks are informative and good craic – a wine writer / personality / celebrity takes you on a tour of the show, stopping to taste around half a dozen or so wines from all over the show and talks you through them. I find them more engaging than the classroom-style talks, even if they can get a bit crowded at the peak times of the show.
Nowadays Sauvignon Blanc is most closely associated with Marlborough and New Zealand in general, since the Cloudy Bay and Montana phenomenon. Sémillon (usually without the accent) is most commonly seen on its own in Australia – it has become a speciality of the Hunter Valley in NSW. But, like many grapes grown round the world they both originated in France. Before the Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc explosion it was best known as the variety behind Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé, plus some slightly lesser status Loire whites.
Both grapes are allowed in White Bordeaux (along with Muscadelle which is less common) and it is together where they can reach the heights. Sauvignon gives the freshness and acidity, Sémillon the richness and body.
So what were the beauties I picked up?
Thomas Barton Graves Blanc 2007
A famous name from South West Bordeaux.
Chateau Bonnet Entre Deux Mers 2009
An oaky wine from Bordeaux, in between the Garonne and Dordogne rivers.
Hollick Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2007
A blend of grapes from the Coonawarra and Mount Benson areas on the Limestone Coast in South Australia.
Clairault Swagman’s Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2005
From Margaret River in Western Australia – a rare area in Australia known for blending the two grapes together.