The Sem But Different

It reminded me of the one about London and the streets there being paved with gold. ‘I’m not falling for that one again,’ I thought. But then it turned out to be true: Clare Valley really did have a Riesling trail! You can even taken a short detour from this path of enlightenment to Polish Hill River and drink even more Riesling. And they leave it to you to work out how good the Cabernet and Shiraz are.
But if the Cab and Shiraz are well-kept secrets, Semillon is the Treadstone of Clare. You don’t need a bunch of fake passports and black belt in kali to get to the truth, though. Twenty bucks and an open mind will do it.
It was Tim Adams that gave me my initial taste on that first visit to Clare long ago. I’ve since enjoyed this same wine with several years of age, when it’s deep golden green, toasty, waxy and mellow lemony. Winemaker Brett Schutz says this is the drop he reaches for at the end of a hot day’s work in the Clare summer. “A lot of people who come to the cellar door are amazed by it,” he tells me.
The reasons for their amazement, I suspect, are threefold. One: Semillon. Once the most widely planted quality white-wine grape in the world, these days it often has to settle for the role of Tweedledum to Sauvignon Blanc’s Tweedledee. Two: Clare. People who know Semillon as a varietal table wine will be familiar know the piercing youngsters and glorious aged numbers from the Hunter Valley. At a pinch they may know it in the Barossa, where the wonderful Peter Lehmann Margaret Semillon flies the flag. But not Clare. And what was the third reason again? Oh yes, this wine is bloody good.
Oak is part of the story here, and also in the fine renditions at Mitchell and Mount Horrocks. At Tim Adams, fruit sourced from the Watervale sub-region is given about 12 hours’ skin contact before barrel fermentation in new French hogsheads. It doesn’t go through malolactic fermentation and sits on lees for about nine months. In 2010, about 65% of the final blend was fermented and aged in barrel, with the rest in stainless steel to retain lift and freshness. Once bottled, it’s left for up to 24 months before release to soften the acid and let everything come together.
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Tim Adams Semillon 2010 Clare Valley

Gleaming medium lemon in colour, with the slightest tinge of green. The nose shows freshly squeezed lemon, pastry, roast nuts and cream, plus a touch of toast and smokiness. On the palate, it gives an initial impression of being blunt and even broad but tapers quickly as puckering lemon, quince and lime pith spear their way through the mouth, with cream and nutty characters folded through. It’s a touch more than medium bodied, with texture and some grip. Refreshing, cleansing acidity takes hold from the mid-palate and leads to a finish that is long and clean, with a lemon soufflé afterthought. Drink with crayfish risotto.

RRP $23 – Alcohol 13% – Tasted 11/12/13

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