Fish ‘n Chips and a Hunter Valley Semillon – the perfect match!

???????????????????????????????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.”

Author: Conrad



    • Funny how things work out. 😉 Even if the fish monger was open I could have got deep fried still if I wanted too but my wife had planted the seed in my head for grilled salmon and I was actually a little disappointed the shop was closed.


  1. Had a bottle of Trellis Hunter Valley Semillon 2002, blind, at a tasting last month. I was the only one who liked it! What is wrong with folks these days? It is exactly as you describe, lemons and limes wrapped up in a luscious, honey and butter sandwich, liberally sprinkled with minerals, a tad salty and topped off with a nervous acidity. I guess its too much for some, they do not understand it, rather like white Rioja and the whites of the Jura.


    • Yeah, a lot of people just don’t seem to understand Hunter Semillon. I think the toasty apple, lemon and lime is a bit too strange for some in a wine. But, they can be so damn complex and bloody long! Thankfully this lack of popularity means that the best producers like Tyrrell’s, McWilliams and Brokenwood often sell their best examples for under $50 a bottle! It also means they are able to offer back vintage museum releases sometimes a decade or more old. Even McWilliams Elizabeth, which sells for under $15/bottle, will age for decades and can be spectacular after time. In the early 2000’s I found about 8 bottles of 1984 Elizabeth sitting in the cellar of a wine shop and took the lot. I’ve got 2 precious bottles left and every one of the others was an absolute delight!


  2. Intrigued that the Semillon was still going strong after ten years! Toasty apple plus citrus is my idea of bliss in a white, so I’ll have to check these out, and maybe lay a few down ; )


  3. Hi Wine wankers, thank you for dropping by to have a look at my art. I really like your blog, lots of great information. I have liked you on facebook and have sent a link to my husband, he is the wine wanker in our family. Thank you


  4. That wine even has a romantic name. Christopher Marlowe. He wrote Tamburlaine.
    ‘And sooner shall the sun fall from his sphere
    Than Tamburlaine be slain or overcome.’
    Sounds like an appopriate name for the wine. It’s funny, I nver think of white wine as a wine that ages well. Love the photo! Now I want fish and chips.



  5. What a great pairing and jeez I’d LOVE all that right now! YUM. [Now where the hell can we get some good fish-n-chips…? And I’ll have to check out the store I work in for the stock of Australian semillon…don’t have a CLUE] You know you should get kickbacks from wineries AND the fishing industry!


  6. Yo homie – you wank wine better than any other player in da HOUSE.
    Thanks for the like at my place. You are Lord of Lords.
    PS: hook me UP with some of that FOXY FISH!


  7. Really needed that giggle. I sampled a rather savage Aussie Shiraz last night – like brine with an extra dash of salt. I kid you not, my lips and tongue were burned when I woke up this morning.

    Moral of the story: never, ever, ever, accept a glass of cask wine, no matter how great a friend is doing the offering.


  8. Brilliant food pairing! I was just saying the other day how I wanted to research pairing wine with pub fare. LOVE it!


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