2018 Botrytis Semillon
TROPHY WINNER HUNTER VALLEY WINE SHOW
Like many great things, this one was created accidentally. We started making this dessert style wine back in 1999 mainly because our Semillon vines had bumper yields that year, so we left a block out, unpicked as we literally ran out of tanks in the winery. In the meantime, the grapes became infected with the fungus botrytis cinerea which is the classic ‘noble rot’ responsible for many of the great sweet wines of the world. At the time, Andrew had reservations about making this technical and specialised style, but he went with his intuition, and the finished wine was great. He made it again the next year, this time on purpose and the wine went on to win a trophy for Best Sweet Wine at the Decanter Wine Awards in London. We have made it ever since and it has won more trophies and medals for Margan than any other wine.
Why we love it
Most people love this wine because it is a sweet style, but it is not too sweet or cloying. It has hallmark acidity which Hunter Valley Semillon gives which creates a balanced wine with a fresh finish.
We have one unique block of Semillon vines on our Timbervines Vineyard. We leave these grapes out for another month later than for dry Semillon and this allows for extra ripeness and sugars to accumulate up to 24 baumé (a sugar measurement). The fungal spores that create the ‘noble wine’ live in this vineyard and we do what we can to nurture them and encourage their growth. Semillon grapes have thin skins which make them susceptible to this fungal attack which covers each berry as a mould, draws out water and concentrates the sugar and acidity. We also leave about 20 to 40% of fruit that isn’t botrytis affected as these grapes primary fruit flavours and freshness. Nature makes all these decisions for us and it changes each year depending on the vintage conditions.
The grapes come into the winery and are crushed and de-stemmed. They go into the press to gently extract the juice which is difficult as the grapes are shrivelled like sultanas. The juice undergoes a long, cool fermentation which is also slow as the juice is very sweet and the yeast struggle to convert the sugar to alcohol. Residual sugar sweetness of around 11 baumé is left and the alcohol is low at 11% abv. Unlike sweet wines of other regions, we don’t use oak to mature the wine and we bottle it early to maintain freshness.
True to the style of classic sweet wines this one has a luscious palate with apricot marmalade, honeysuckle and pineapple. The finish is long and refreshing with citrus notes. It is a beautifully balanced wine.
Sweet wines can be versatile as they pair well with savoury foods such as pate and salty cheeses such as a blue. The sweet and savoury provides an interesting contrast. Of course, they are a great way to end a meal as well and this style isn’t too sweet, so it won’t overpower a dessert. Great match with panna cotta, creamy and fruit desserts. Or enjoy chilled, as a stand-alone sweet finish. The acidity ensures it will cellar well for about a decade.