Let’s acquire more knowledge about Wines
View more related buyers guides
Published by TOP4 Team
One of the most refreshing white wines you can drink on a warm Sunday. Semillon is grown and made in most Australian wine regions, but tends to make the best wine in warmer regions. It makes the most distinctive - even magical - wines in the Hunter Valley in NSW, where it’s usually picked quite early, and made as an unwooded white wine, fairly low in alcohol.
When it’s young, within the first year or so after vintage, Hunter semillon is quite lean, crisp, fresh-tasting - like lemon grass and Granny Smith apples - but very light, like unwooded grape juice (which is, of course, all it is!).
But if you stash Hunter semillon away in a cool dark place and let time work its magic for a few years, those clean fresh flavours change, and the wine tastes more like freshly buttered toast drizzled with honey. You may even taste a bit of a lime jelly flavour.
In other warm regions such as Barossa or Clare Valley in South Australia, semillon grapes are usually picked riper and made more like chardonnay: matured in oak barrels. These wines taste more like lemon and vanilla. And in Western Australia semillon is often blended with sauvignon blanc to produce a super-crisp white wine full of zesty flavours like green pea pods.
Semillon is the perfect drink for a lazy sunny Sunday afternoon - and the perfect match for seafood.
Grenache is the most widely planted red grape vine in the world, and most of it can be found in the warm wine regions around the Mediterranean, where it’s been grown for centuries.
Grenache has also been grown here for more than 150 years. It thrives in warm regions such as the Barossa, McLaren Vale and the Clare Valley in South Australia, and produces particularly generous, flavoursome red wines.
Grenache is a very versatile grape. It makes great pink wine, full of fruity characters. Grenache grapes from old, low-yielding vines can make red wines with great perfume and intensity and grenache is often blended with other red grapes such as shiraz to deepen colour and add richness.
In grenache wines expect to find flavours such as raspberries, strawberries, spices, pepper, roses and even sweet leather. Also earth - as though the vines have suckled up the essence of the soil they’re grown in. Because it originally comes from the Mediterranean, grenache goes particularly well with Mediterranean food on a late summer’s afternoon - antipasto dishes, or anything with garlic is fantastic.
But watch out: grenache grapes are often pick when they’re really, really ripe, so the wine they make can be more alcoholic - 14 per cent is common, 15 per cent is not unusual. This strength gives the wine a richness and warmth, but if you’re not careful it can also lead to a very sore head.
You’ve probably noticed that more and more wines are sealed with screw-tops these days, you’re probably wondering why.
The main reason for the change is that cork, the traditional seal, is made from the bark of a tree and can be tainted by musty smells, that in turn can make your wine taste pretty ordinary.
The screw-top, on the other hand, is a reliably taint-free seal, so you are able to taste the wine exactly as the winemakers intended.
Some people are suspicious of screw-tops - they say they make the wine look cheap. But some of Australia’s most expensive and prestigious wines such as the $90 Cullen Cabernet Merlot now come on screw-tops - and if these winemakers are confident, you can be too.
Screw-tops have other benefits. For start, they help keep the wine’s flavour fresher for longer - even after you’ve opened the bottle. You don’t have to store them lying down, like you do with cork-sealed bottles to stop the corks drying out. And maybe best of all, it doesn’t matter if you lose your corkscrew.
Jargon - busting
Some wine labels seem like they’re written a foreign language. All those ‘hints of barnyard at sunset’ and ‘extended maceration prior to ambient yeast fermentation’ - there’s a lot of jargon to come to grips with before you’ve even opened the bottle.
The thing is, most wine words have a perfectly reasonable translation. Here are few of the more common ones and what the actually mean.
‘This wine has a lovely nose of blackberries and spices…’
Stop right there. ‘Nose’ just means ‘smell’, so the winemaker reckons this wine smells of blackberries and spices.
‘It has complex layers of flavour…’
If you can detect different smells every time you take a sniff, or taste different things every time you take a sip, then the wine you’re drinking is complex - and the more complex the wine, the better it is. ‘Layers’ is another way of saying complex.
‘good varietal characters…’
‘Varietal’ simply means ‘true-to-type’. In other words, this shiraz tastes like shiraz. (This is one of the less helpful words, really, isn’t it?)
‘with firm tannins…’
‘Tannins’ are the dry, savoury components of red grape skins. If a wine feels like it’s gripping onto your tongue and gums before you swallow, then it has ‘firm tannins’.
‘leading on to a lingering finish.’
The ‘finish’ is simply the after taste. And as with so much else in life, the longer the finish the better.