Why Does WSET Love Hunter Valley Semillon? #WorldWineTravel

World Wine Travel Writers Seek White Wines from New South Wales
Our World Wine Travel group made an unexpected discovery: outside a few well known regions, Australian wines are very poorly distributed in the US. Bummer! This month we’ll focus on white wines from New South Wales if we can find one. If not, we’ll interpret the theme very liberally with another wine from Australia or some other creative connection. Scroll down to the bottom of this post to see what we’ve been able to dig up!

Wine regions of New South Wales. Map courtesy of australianwines.com

Hunter Valley Semillon
Despite what the promotional material says, Hunter Valley is a hot, almost sub-tropical climate. Located at 32-33° latitude, it is at the limit of the typical 30-50° latitude belt for growing grapes. It sits on the Tasmanan Sea side of the Great Dividing Range, so it gets much of its rain in the summer. It has a long history of growing grapes, but these are very unusual conditions! Hunter Valley Semillon (they pronounce the “ll”) is harvested super early to avoid the autumn stormy season. It’s a high acid, citrusy unoaked refreshing white wine. It’s harvested so early, it usually ends up less than 11% abv. As a young wine, it is often quite neutral, even simple. Surprisingly, it ages beautifully, acquiring notes of toast, honey and hay.

WSET Fascination with Hunter Valley Semillon
My guess is that the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) fascination with Semillon is due to its importance for historic sweet wines like Sauternes from Bordeaux. Looking elsewhere in the world where it is grown, Hunter Valley in Australia appears. Hunter Valley Semillon is covered briefly even in introductory WSET level 2. WSET loves to include it in tasting exams where it can very easily be mistaken for an inexpensive Italian Pinot Grigio. One of the wines in my May 2021 Diploma tasting exam was a Tyrell’s Hunter Valley Semillon 2019 with 10% abv. It takes a brave blind taster to call it a simple wine with low alcohol, but that’s what would score points!

Silkman Hunter Valley Semillon, still showing its youthful side. Patience!

Silkman Blackberry Vineyard Semillon Hunter Valley 2015 ($38 at wine.com) 10.5% abv
Eye: Pale lemon
Nose: Medium intensity aromas of apple blossom, bright fresh lemons, lime, seashells, slate
Mouth: Dry, tart high acidity, light body, low alcohol, medium intensity, medium plus finish. Flavors follow the nose highlighted with bright lemon/lime, seashells and distinct slate note, finishing with a touch of almond.
Observations: I looked for the oldest Hunter Valley Semillon I could find, hoping to taste some of the flavors associated with aged Semillon. Alas, my wine was a well made, nice refreshing wine, but it had not acquired the signs of age yet. I guess I will need to exercise more patience with a future bottle.

Hunter Valley Semillon with Shrimp and Rice Noodle Summer Salad
Hot summer days lead to easy recipes and minimal heating of the kitchen. In Minnesota, we love our sweet corn, so we’re always willing to boil a pot of water. We enjoyed our refreshing Hunter Valley Semillon with the Shrimp and Rice Noodle Salad, perfect on a summer evening.

Shrimp and Rice Noodle Salad

• 16 oz. cooked, peeled & deveined shrimp, 15/30 count
• 1 clove garlic, minced
• 4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
• 3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
• 1 cup sliced red and yellow cherry tomatoes
• 1 medium cucumber, seeded and cut into 1/2-in. cubes
• 10 oz. rice noodles, cooked and chilled
• Pinch red pepper flakes, for garnish
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

• Whisk together the garlic, EVOO, lemon juice, salt & pepper in a large bowl.
• Toss the dressing with the rice noodles, tomatoes & cucumbers
• Top the noodle mixture with the shrimp and sprinkle with the red pepper flakes.

World Wine Travel Writers Explore New South Wales Whites
Take a look below at the wines our writers found, you’re sure to find something that will interest you, too. How about your market, do you see New South Wales wines on your shelves? Why not join our chat? Just look us up on Saturday July 23, from 10-11am CDT on Twitter. You’ll find us at #WorldWineTravel. Hope to see you there!

8 Responses to “Why Does WSET Love Hunter Valley Semillon? #WorldWineTravel”
  1. robincgc says:

    I find that Hunter Valley Semillons have a lanoline note that is unmistakable. It is an aroma I was not familiar with in wine and it took me aback when I first tasted them. Now it is my tell tale sign of an Australian Semillon. They do take a while to age. While we were there we had some 10-year-old Semillons that had developed beautifully, but I had a 2014 for my pairing that was, like yours, still very youthful. I wonder how much of that is due to the oxygen exchange on the Stelvin Screw caps. The 2005 I had was much more developed, but still seemed to have lots of life in it.
    (I don’t remember anyone I met in person in the Hunter Valley pronouncing the “ll’s” by the way)

  2. Deanna says:

    Such great info! I did not know that WSET held so much esteem for HV semillon but good to know as I plan to take the classes next year. I could do with some of that rice noodle and shrimp salad too! Yum!

  3. Wendy Klik says:

    A perfect summer meal Jeff.

  4. Very interesting! I had no idea that Hunter Valley Semillon was a WSET thing. Curious also now about the landline note that Robin mentioned. PS That final photo is so peaceful and beautiful!

  5. I had the same experience with my bottle of HVS, also from 2016 – I was hoping it would be starting to show some of the secondary characteristics, but alas, it was fresh as a daisy. Next time I’ll have to buy two bottles at least.

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] Jeff with Food Wine Click is sharing “Why Does WSET Love Hunter Valley Semillon?“ […]

  2. […] its Shiraz, also known as Syrah. Other main grape varieties grown in the region include Riesling, Semillon, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon. Fortified wines have been traditionally produced in the region as […]

  3. […] Jeff with Food Wine Click is sharing “Why Does WSET Love Hunter Valley Semillon?“ […]

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