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Semillon: Sauvignon Blanc’s little secret

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Formulating wine blends to achieve tastes that are greater than the sum of their parts has been practiced for 1000’s of years. And even today, there is no sign of this “winemaker’s blending predilection” letting up.

One of the best examples of this is the extraordinary effort that goes into most top shelf Sauvignon Blancs. But just what bouquet and flavor are they looking for? For most of us Sauv Blanc lovers it’s only a short list:

  1. Citrus (grapefruit & lemon)
  2. Stone fruit (peaches, pears and apricot)
  3. Lemon grass, flowers, stony earth, and fresh greens (like a farmer’s field and garden)
  4. A bakery oven (warm bread, muffins, & cakes)
  5. Spices (cinnamon & oak)
  6. Crisp acidic finish (tang and zip, but not too much)
  7. Total enhancement of seafood (fish and shellfish come alive, like with a perfect garnish)

To some, this may not seem like such a big deal, but there are so many blah Sauvignon Blancs out there that it could take a month to count them. Most are very basic, containing only grapefruit with a splash of lemon, quaff, and that’s it. But the best can take you a world away, into a lush green countryside filled with growing things, so alive!

One way to get introduced to that “special ingredient” in an award-winning Sauvignon Blanc is to get your hands on a bottle of 100% Semillon. This classic grape varietal has been used by France’s Bordeaux region for centuries to fill in that “hole” often left in pure Sauvignon Blanc, complexity.

Semillon has the added flavors that, when blended in small quantities with Sauvignon Blanc, lend an incredible variety to the finished product. Even though there are also “holes” in a straight Semillon, the combination of the two is classic, and sumptuous.

Want to try it? Just order a bottle or more of Semillon (it’s dry, not sweet) from V. Sattui in Napa (a direct-order winery), chill it down and give it a taste. Then blend it with a very basic Sauvignon Blanc (like Trader Joe’s Charles Shaw brand) at about 1 or 2 parts Semillon to 10 parts Sauv Blanc.

The secret‘s out, top shelf Sauvignon Blancs are often blends (they can blend up to ~20% of other varietals and not label it). Hey, find a blend ratio you like, serve in a carafe, and see what happens, winemaker.

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