Sémillon Food Pairing

Grilled salmon with couscous and herbs

Updated July 18th 2023

Sémillon is a somewhat mysterious grape variety that can be made in several different wine styles, from young and fresh to sweet late harvest style. The style of your bottle of Sémillon will determine the food it pairs best with. This wine guide will help you find the best food for different styles of Sémillon.

Do you prefer the young and crisp style, the full-bodied oaked style or the sweet late harvest style? The Sémillon grape can produce all of them. The different styles of Sémillon pair with different types of food, ranging from fresh salads to rich desserts. Let’s find out which food pairs best with your bottle of Sémillon!

About Sémillon

Sémillon is an exciting, yet sometimes underrated white grape variety. This golden grape is used in both dry and sweet white wines. It is mostly famous for being the main grape variety in the famous dessert wine Sauternes as well as in the popular Sémillon blend called White Bordeaux.

Semillon is mostly planted in Bordeaux in France. Hunter Valley and Riverina in Australia are also areas where Sémillon is grown on a large scale. In fact, Sémillon is used in many Australian white blends. In addition to France and Australia, Sémillon is also grown in the United States, South Africa, Argentina and Chile, but in smaller volumes.

Vineyard in Bordeaux in France

Sémillon is a versatile grape variety. It can be rich and full-bodied or lean and zesty. Sémillon wine is characterized by aromas of citrus, apple, pear, herbs, tropical fruit and flowers. It can sometimes be described as waxy or oily. Cold climate makes the citrus and floral flavors more dominant. Warm climate makes the tropical fruit more noticeable, and gives a creamy and buttery texture.

Sémillon vs Other Grape Varieties

Sémillon is a unique grape variety, but it has some similarities to other popular grapes. It is common to compare its texture to Chardonnay or Viognier, especially when it is oaked. The typical aromas of Sémillon are, however, closer to Sauvignon Blanc and even Pinot Gris.

Sauternes wines made of semillon

Late harvest Sémillon is often compared to Tokaji from Hungary, even though Tokaji wines are usually sweeter and have higher acidity.

Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon share some characteristics, but it is actually quite easy to tell the difference between them. Sauvignon Blanc is fruitier, more acidic and overall lighter. It also has a more distinct herbaceous or grassy profile. On the other hand, Sémillon is usually richer (even the younger styles), less acidic and with a more waxy texture.

Different styles of Sémillon

As mentioned earlier in this guide, there are several different styles of Sémillon. The most common styles of Sémillon are:

Young & Crispy Sémillon

Young Sémillon is often described as refreshing, tangy, zesty, fruity and crisp. It has characteristic notes of lime, pear, herbs, apple and floral aromas. This style is often produced in regions with cooler climates, such as Bordeaux and Hunter Valley. It is sometimes reffered to as cold climate Sémillon, although this style can also be made in regions with warmer climates. This style has relatively low alcohol, medium-high acidity and distinct citrus aromas. The style is medium-bodied and easy to drink. Some people find this style similar to Sauvignon Blanc.

Full-bodied oaked Sémillon

Rich and full-bodied Semillon is usually aged in oak, which gives a waxy, creamy and buttery texture to the wine. This style is popular in warm climate regions such as South Australia, California, South Africa and Argentina. It is sometimes called warm climate Sémillon, but this oaked style can also be found in cold climate regions. Warm climates make the wine's tropical fruit aromas, such as mango and papaya, more dominant. Yellow apple, pear, honey and biscuit are other aromas associated with this style. Some people find this style similar to oaked Chardonnay, but slightly more aromatic. Its texture can also be compared to Viognier.

Late harvest Sémillon

The sweet late harvest style of Sémillon is probably the most famous style of this grape variety. Sémillon is the main grape variety in the blend Sauternes, one of the most famous dessert wines in the world. Sauternes is made in Bordeaux in France, but the late harvest style is made in most regions where Sémillon is grown. This grape is prone to developing noble rot, also called botrytis, a type of fungus that gives the grapes a very unique character. Botrytis intensifies the sweetness level and adds flavors to the wine such as honey, ginger, wax, nuts and apricot.

Botrytis on semillon grapes

Sémillon blend

Sémillon is an excellent grape to use in blends. In Bordeaux it is one of the main grapes in the blend White Bordeaux (Bordeaux Blanc), which is a rich and creamy white wine with aromas of yellow apple, citrus and ginger. It is also very common to blend Sémillon in Australian white wines, often with Chardonnay.

About Sémillon Food Pairing

The different styles of Sémillon make it fun, yet challenging to pair it with food. Younger styles work best with lighter and more delicate dishes like sushi, fresh vegetables and seafood. Rich and oak-aged Sémillon works well with richer dishes, including roasted chicken and strong cheeses.

To find the best food for your bottle of Sémillon, you need to take into consideration the following characteristics of the wine:

Sémillon should be served chilled. The best serving temperature is 9-13°C (48-55°F).

Best food for young & unoaked Sémillon

Fruity, young and crisp Sémillon is a great wine to more delicate dishes. This style is zesty and has low alcohol, which makes it a good pairing with light salads, shellfish, fish, spicy foods and cheeses. Try it with the following:

Spring rolls with sweet and sour sauce

Tips! The young style of Sémillon is similar to Sauvignon Blanc. Take a look at our Sauvignon Blanc Food Pairing guide for more food paring tips.

Best food for full-bodied & oaked Sémillon

A rich and full-bodied Sémillon aged in oak pairs well with richer dishes, such as chicken or other lean meats with creamy sauces. It also pairs well with heavier fish and seafood dishes, especially with butter. Try it with the following:

Chicken curry in cream sauce

Tips! This rich and creamy style of Sémillon pairs well with the same type of foods as a Viognier or oaked Chardonnay. Take a look at our guides Viognier Food Pairing or Chardonnay Food Pairing for more tips.

Best food for late harvest Sémillon

Late harvest Sémillon food pairing is probably the most interesting of them all. Noble rot (Botrytis) gives the wine unique aromas and characteristics. The result is a sweet dessert wine that pairs wonderfully with different types of foods. Famous late harvest Sémillon food pairings are:

Dried fruits and nuts in a bowl

Sémillon with Foie Gras

Foie gras with Sémillion is a classic wine and food pairing. Choose a late harvest Sémillion to serve together with the foie gras. The sweetness in the wine will perfectly match the salty and savory characteristics of the foie gras. You will not be disappointed!

Foie gras served on a toast

Sémillon with Spicy Foods

Young unoaked Sémillon together with flavorful spicy food, especially Asian cuisine, is another great wine and food match. Thanks to its refreshing citrus taste, young Sémillon works very will with spicy dishes like Indian curries and spring rolls. Its medium-body profile holds up to aromatic dishes and pairs well with spices like star anis, ginger and cinnamon.

Cinnamon, star anis and red pepper

Good pairings for a young Sémillon include:

Sémillon with Fish

A young and crisp Sémillion is an excellent choice for sushi. The flavor profile of the wine balances raw fish, pickled ginger and wasabi perfectly. For rich fish dishes, such as salmon with butter or cream sauce, pair it with an oaked Sémillon.

Two pieces of salmon sushi

Sémillon with Shellfish

Sémillon goes well with almost all kinds of shellfish. A rich shellfish dish like crab or lobster with butter is best served with an oaked Sémillon. A young and zesty Sémillon can be served together with shrimps, clams and many other types of shellfish.

Lobster served with lemon

Sémillon with Poultry

Sémillon is an excellent food pairing with poultry. Chicken, turkey and other lean meats with different types of seasonings pair well with this medium-bodied white wine. Due to its fruity profile, Sémillon pairs well with both sweet and savory flavors. A young Sémillon can be paired with light dishes such as chicken with lemon and vegetables, whereas an oaked Sémillon pairs well with heavier dishes, such as roast chicken or a dish with cream sauce.

Chicken with spices and cream sauce

Sémillon Cheese Pairing

There are several cheeses to pair with Sémillon. The style of the wine will determine which cheese to pair with it.

Blue cheese

Tips! Try a Sauternes or another late harvest Sémillion together with roquefort cheese, dried fruit and nuts. It is a perfect match!

Sémillon with Vegetables

The fresh acidity and the low alcohol make young Sémillon a good choice for crispy salads as well as roasted vegetables. Pair it with the following:

Fresh salad with shrimps

Sémillon Dessert Pairing

The late harvest style of Sémillon is perfect to pair with sweet desserts, ideally those containing honey, caramel, apple, apricots or nuts to match the aromas of the wine.

Some of the best Sémillon dessert wine pairings are:

Creme brule

Tips! Always match the sweetness in the wine with the sweetness in the food. In our Wine & Desserts Pairing guide you will find useful tips.

Enjoy your wine and food!

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