Both my wife and I were in the mood for some good old deep-fried battered fish and chips the other day. Naturally, the first type of wine that came to mind was a Hunter Valley Semillon, known for its lemon and lime flavours and great acidity that make it the perfect match for the grease in battered fish with its sprinkling of lemon juice.
Hunter Valley Semillon is an interesting beast. It’s a dark horse that even a lot of Aussie wine drinkers don’t know much about. In its youth it can be quite tart with strong lemon and lime citrus flavours and a bit of green apple. For the average white wine drinker it’s sometimes a bit too intense. But after a few years it goes into a cocoon and re-emerges 5 to 10 years later as a totally different wine, and can keep ducking in and out of stages of evolution for several decades. After each stage it becomes far more complex and far more exciting, well in my opinion anyway, developing smokey, toasty, nutty and honey notes. And it’s a wine that sees not one bit of oak!
Although dangerously deep-fried was all that was on my mind my wife pushed for me to pick up grilled salmon just to be on the healthy side. So I popped down into the cellar and grabbed a bottle of 2003 Tamburlaine “Natural Selection” Semillon. (Tamburlaine is an organic winery that holds a special place in our hearts because it is actually where we got married). Being 10 years old I was expecting the Tamburlaine to still deliver enjoyable levels of apple, lemon and lime but to follow through with the far more complex toasty, nutty and honey driven flavours that would go well with salmon.
Our local fish monger cooks up a brilliant grilled salmon but he was closed so we had to go with the original deep fried fish and chips plan from our local chipper instead. Hmmm, what to do? Go get a younger Hunter Semillon now that we weren’t having salmon or just stick with the aged Tamburlaine. I couldn’t be stuffed going back down into the deep dark dungeon so we stuck with it.
And what a great decision it was to be lazy! The wine was an absolute delight, still delivering a fresh enough level of lemon and lime to go with the battered fish but also delivering a real nutty and totally buttery complex flavour that sat so well with the oil from the deep fry. There was also that backdrop of honey that lasted a long time in my mouth. Nom, nom, nom!
So if you ever come across a Hunter Valley Semillon grab it, especially if it has a few years on it. Make sure you bring it out next time you have seafood drizzled with lemon or lime, and it would even go well with lemon chicken!
And here’s a couple of quotes from acclaimed wine writer Jancis Robinson MW…
“Hunter semillons are one of Australia’s great gifts to the wine world. Lean and screeching of citrus when young, they develop into ample and toasty wines after a decade or more, despite being often picked at under 11 percent alcohol and receiving no oak treatment.”
“If you find any Hunter Semillon, give it a go. It has a figgy, citrus character unlike any other wine and the volcanic nature of the soil can sometimes manifest itself, especially with age, as a sort of minerally twang on the palate.”