In the early days of South Australian winemaking a grower planted a collection of the Semillon Madeira clone in the Barossa Valley sometime in the 1930s. The cuttings most likely came from South Africa. One in every 30 vines demonstrated the naturally occurring genetic trait of having pink grapes instead of the more usual white.
Red Semillon, or Semillon Rose, remains a fairly unique variety with only a few old vines growing predominantly in South Africa.
In 1995 the Southcorp viticulturist and winemaker Neville Falkenberg went to the trouble of hand selecting canes from the red berried vines and transplanting them as a distinct variety in three cool climate vineyards alongside their white skinned Madeira cousins. Neville believed the Red Semillon had slightly thicker skins and fuller, larger berries and would be better at resisting cool climate mould than the white variety. He also found the red berries fuller flavoured with more of a citrus and melon character than the normal Madeira variety. When they virus tested the vines before grafting the Madeira to Cabernet in 2012, they were fascinated to discover that the Red Semillon had a different virus profile and therefore is noticeably different to the Madeira at a DNA level.
The Top Note Noble Rose Story
Having bought the vineyard they spent two years looking for someone who could tell the Top Note team about Red Semillon. Semillon was proving tricky to sell at cost but they decided to hang on to it because no-one else had it and, because the pink berries are just so gorgeous!
Past owners of the property had experimented making a Semillon from the Red Semillon grapes but the colour didn't come through in the finished wine. They liked the idea of making something pink from the pink grapes, and figured that if they dried the grapes by cutting three quarters of the canes and letting the bunches dry out the skin deterioration might help with colour transfer. With helpful family members they went through and cut the requisite canes when the grapes reached 13 Baumé. Luckily 2012/13 was the driest growing season in the Adelaide Hills for 17 years and so they managed to dry the grapes (and intensify the sugar) up to 18 Baumé before they eventually harvested. They lost a lot of grapes in the meantime, to birds who got in under the nets, and a particular group of large and clever kangaroos who sucked whole bunches off the vines like candy.
The Noble Rose
Top Note released their first Red Semillon based vintage in 2013 with their Semillon Rosé. Continuing this new tradition of delicious rare dessert wine, The Noble Rose 2017 achieved the best ranking in a sweet wine tasting by an industry panel featured in the Autumn 2019 Wine & Viticulture Journal. They reviewed the Noble Rose as being "brilliant", "rich and inviting", "18-carat gold in colour", with a "pretty bouquet" of toasty, buttery, honey, mango and fig notes. The wine is "lovely sweet citrus, with candied peel" on the palate with a "fine mouthfeel; rich and round, with a long finish and a shot of crisp, clean acidity."
“Brilliant, “18-carat gold in colour” “rich and inviting”; “pretty bouquet” with toasty, buttery, honey, mango and fig notes. On the palate, “Lovely sweet citrus, with candied peel” with a fine mouthfeel; rich and round with a long finish and a shot of crisp, clean acidity.”
Article taken from The Top Note