Hunter Valley Semillon is rightly regarded as an “Australian Original”, with magnificent examples coming from Tyrrell’s, McWilliam’s and the like. Picked early in the harvest season it is generally light and fairly modest in alcohol – and, it has to be said, somewhat simple in flavour when young. However, over time it grows in complexity with layers of honey and toastiness added to the primary citrus. It often tastes oaked when it has been nowhere near an oak barrel.
Barossa Semillon, made around a thousand miles to the west, is a different beast entirely. The grapes are usually picked when fully ripe and maturation in oak barrels is common for Semillon, just as for Shiraz, Cabernet and Chardonnay.
The Barossa Valley is based around the small towns of Tanunda, Nuriootpa and Angaston, north east of Adelaide in the state of South Australia. It’s a very picturesque area – well yes, most wine regions are – but in particular shows the rich Germanic heritage of the area. The small village of Bethany is the home of Bethany Wines. It was the first part of the Barossa to be settled, with the Schrapel family planting their first vines in 1852. The family firm is now run by brothers Geoff and Robert Schrapel from the 5th generation and some of their children now forming the 6th generation.
Bethany G6 Barossa Semillon 2010 (12.5%, €18.45, O’Briens)
Among the Bethany portfolio is this delicious Semillon. The alcohol is not that high at 12.5% but is a few pips higher than a traditional Hunter Valley Sem. During maturation it spent some time in French hogsheads which is definitely discernible, though not at all overdone. In both aromas and flavours there’s a blend of fresh citrus and mellow honey – and it’s totally delicious!
It’s sort of like drinking a dry Sauternes – which might sound funny, but actually makes a bit of sense when you consider that Semillon is one of the main grapes in Sauternes and is often barrel aged. And the G6 monicker? That refers to the 6th generation of the Schrapel family of course!