Legends Estates Winery’s 2013 Semillon. An easy drinking white with pleasing acidity from the Beamsville winery. (Bob Tymczyszyn/St. Catharines Standard/Postmedia Network)
Despite being one of the three most planted grapes in France, here in Canada Semillon is not one of the cool kids.
When it is grown here, it is used mostly to blend. Rarely do we see it as a varietal in bottle.
If it were being picked for a team, it wouldn’t be last, but near the end regardless.
But Serge Papineau at Legends Estates Winery is the champion for this under-appreciated grape in Canada.
Perhaps it’s because he has one of the best spots to grow it in, he figures.
“They’re always thrown in blends,” he said.
“Sem(illon) in Niagara-on-the-Lake is grown on clay, which takes up more water and you get a flabby wine.
“We’re mostly sand, so the plant doesn’t have a chance to pick up water and keeps the acidity,” he said as he pointed out the window to a vineyard that reaches out to the lake.
While Papineau doesn’t have the formal training from a college or university program, he has the hands-on education he gained working first at Henry of Pelham starting in 2000.
That year oenology was introduced at Brock University, and the spots were filled, said Papineau.
“I was already working in the business and didn’t want to give up my job.
“But I did buy all the textbooks. I did treat myself as a university student. I read them in my free time, but I never physically wrote the tests.”
Papineau worked from the bottom up — a cellar rat, cleaning tanks, then assistant winemaker until he landed at Legends.
“I’m the only one that does the production. It’s kind of the way I like it.
“I can be very particular about how things are done, all the choices are mine,” he said.
Which brings us back to the Semillon.
It’s the kind of wine he likes.
“I’m a dry style winemaker, so all my wines are dry and well suited for food.
“The Riesling drinker is the person I would recommend to try this because of the acidity levels. It has mineral, herbal spice, sometimes green tea and the grape itself has an oily texture to it.
“It’s known as a seafood wine. The oily character helps pair the wine with food.”
Cold tank fermented, the Semillon is more simple on the nose than a Sauvignon Blanc.
As Papineau described it, “It’s just a very clean, simple wine.”
Light in colour, it has a bit of greenness on the nose, with citrus, particularly lime on the palate.
Nice texture and nice acidity.
This is the perfect time of year for this wine.
Serve it with cheeses such as Compté, Gruyere or cheddar.
And it shines with food, especially seafood, or a roast chicken or turkey.
Legends’ award-winning Semillon is available at the winery in Beamsville and will be in Vintages at the LCBO later this year.
But the best way to try it is by visiting the winery and also tasting two more unique Niagara wines: a Petit Verdot and a Malbec that Papineau has bottled.