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High praise for this graceful, ethereal semillon

2019 Château Climens, Asphodèle, Grand Vin Blanc Sec, Bordeaux, France 

£26.50, bbr.com

Climens’s owner Bérénice Lurton makes some of the greatest sweet wines in the world, but her illustrious property had never made dry whites until recently. In 2018 she launched a dry white wine named Asphodèle, after the delicate, wild lilies which grow in the chalky soils on the estate. Biodynamically certified since 2014, this 100% semillon wine is unlike anything I have tasted and the 2019 vintage is a gem.

Semillon as a monovarietal dry wine is, arguably, at its finest in select cuvées from the Hunter Valley in New South Wales, Australia. Wineries such as Tyrrell’s, Mount Pleasant and Brokenwood make celestial creations with naturally low alcohol and little oak intervention. They start life water white and then age like clockwork for two or more decades. Most dry white Bordeaux employ the services of sauvignon blanc alongside semillon in the blend and oak during maturation – when I heard that Bérénice’s wine was a pure semillon with no oak used whatsoever, I was extremely excited. This is one of the most graceful, ethereal and delicious French semillons I have tasted. It is silky-smooth, cucumber-tinged and extraordinarily pretty on both the nose and palate. It might seem an odd observation, but this wine does not taste like a Bordeaux interpretation of a Loire style of white wine, but a French version of an elite Hunter semillon. This is the highest praise I can offer.

Matthew Jukes is a winner of the International Wine & Spirit Competition’s Communicator of the Year (matthewjukes.com).


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