The fungi be thanked
The Sémillon grape is the basis of the legendary sweet wines of Sauternes. Its origins are there, in the southern part of the Bordeaux region. Its secret to success is its susceptibility to the Botrytis fungus, which pierces the skin of the ripe berries. Thus the water evaporates, and the sugar in the fruits concentrates. The musts are as thick as syrup. They present the citrus-fresh, fruity aromas of the Sémillon varieties. In addition, the Botrytis fungus contributes complex notes of honey, dry apricot and candied orange to the wine. The Sémillon is closely related to the Sauvignon blanc, and almost all sweet wines from Sauternes and its surroundings contain a small proportion of Sauvignon. The dry whites from Bordeaux are the opposite: the Sémillon mostly plays the supporting role. In early-19-century South Africa, Sémillon was the most planted grape. However, only vanishingly small quantities still grow there today. However, the vine has since taken root in California and Australia.