Sémillon is a golden-skinned grape used to make dry and sweet white wines, most notably in France and here in Australia. The history of the Sémillon grape is hard to determine. It is known that it first arrived in Australia in the early 19th century and by the 1820s the grape covered over 90 percent of South Africa's vineyards, where it was known as Wyndruif, meaning "wine grape".
Sémillon is widely grown in Australia, particularly in the Hunter Valley north of Sydney, where for a long time it was known as "Hunter River Riesling". Four styles of Sémillon-based wines made there: a commercial style, often blended with Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc; a sweet style, after that of Sauternes; a complex, minerally, early picked style which has great longevity; and an equally high quality,dry style, which can be released soon after vintage, as a vat or bottle aged example. (Hunter Valley Semillon is never matured in oak.) The latter two styles were pioneered by Lindemans, Tulloch, McWilliam's Elizabeth, Drayton's and Tyrrell's, and are considered unique to Australia.
Most examples of these bottle-aged Hunter Semillons exhibit a buttercup-yellow colour, burnt toast or honey characteristics on the nose and excellent complex flavours on the palate, with a long finish and soft acid. Young Hunter Valley semillon is almost always a dry wine, usually exhibiting citrus flavours of Lemon, Lime or Green Apple. Cooler year Hunter Semillons seem to be the most highly sought after, with some of the 1974 and 1977 vintages still drinking well. The newer, fruit accentuated styles are championed by the likes of Iain Riggs at Brokenwood and The Rothbury Estate. Sémillon is also finding favour with Australian producers outside of the Hunter Valley in the Barossa Valley and Margaret River regions. The Adelaide Hills is becoming a flourishing region for Semillon with the cooler climate producing some wines of great complexity. Vineyards such as Amadio and Paracombe producing some premium blends of the classical style.