Steenberg Vineyards spearheads ‘semillon renaissance’

Date posted:
June 15, 2011

Steenberg Vineyards in the Constantia Valley is driving the imminent renaissance of semillon in South Africa, with winemaker JD Pretorius flying the flag.

 

Renowned as a top producer of sauvignon blanc, Steenberg Vineyards is also being recognized for its world-class semillon varietals and blends, recently scoring two coveted accolades for its Steenberg Semillon 2010. A 100% semillon, this refined vintage not only made it onto the Top 100 SA Wines ratings guide, but also won a gold medal at the prestigious International Decanter World Wine Awards.  

 

The limited release Steenberg Semillon 2010 is the epitome of the Constantia Valley’s best. According to Pretorius, it’s an excellent “food wine” which has a good natural acidity, but with much more body than sauvignon blanc. 

 

This elegant wine has overtones of delicious peach and apricots and hints of crème brûlée and lemon meringue on the palate, followed by quinces and tangerine on the aftertaste. It has great structure and length with a soft creaminess that lingers on the palate.

 

“This semillon spent a total of eight months in a combination of new and second fill French oak barrels, adding a light toasty character to the mainly fruit driven wine, which makes it a wonderful match for almost any meal,” he enthuses. Only 350 x 12 cases have been produced and the cellar door price is R190 per bottle. 

 

Pretorius believes that the time has come to acknowledge semillon as an outstanding cultivar with great potential. He recently demonstrated this most effectively at a 20-wine semillon “blind tasting” held at Steenberg for a group of wine writers, retailers, wine stewards and sommeliers. It seems that Pretorius has garnered a stronghold of followers among the ranks of experienced wine aficionados, to support him in his quest to take the “semillon renaissance” into the future.

 

In the early 1700’s, semillon (known then as “the green grape” for its bright green leaves) was by a mile the most planted grape variety in the Cape. More than 90% of all vines planted were semillon, and even today semillon vines tend to be on average far older than other varieties, resulting in particularly resonant wines.

 

South Africa’s dry semillons are full-bodied with plenty of personality while being both racy with a slightly green herbal quality, yet lots of weight and fat, and seem to have the ability to age gracefully and interestingly. 

 

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