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Sipping Semillon

Semillon is a thin-skinned white grape. It offers flavors of lemon, lime, orange, fig, grass, and honey. It is high in alcohol, low in acidity, heavy in body and waxy in texture. The grape grows in France, California, Chile, Australia and Argentina. It is often blended with Sauvignon Blanc for a dry white wine. It is the major white variety in Bordeaux, Graves, and Sauternes. The classic white Bordeaux is a mix of Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and often Muscadelle. In Sauternes the vine is exposed to the "noble rot" of Botrytis cinerea. This consumes the water content of the fruit, concentrating the sugar present in its pulp. The grapes shrivel and the acid and sugar levels are intensified. Made of 80 percent Semillon, Sauternes cellar well for decades. If you have a sweet tooth and a fat wallet, try the most expensive dessert wine in the world, Chateau d'Yquem (shah-toh dee-kehm). Although the highest price ever paid for a bottle of white wine was for a 1787 vintage of Chateau d'Yquem, which sold for $100,000 in 2006, other Sauternes can be had for around $60. From California, Beringer Vineyards Nightingale 2004 ($40) and Far Niente's Dolce 2003 ($85) are also more affordable and lovely dessert wine options. Dessert wines are typically sold—and price—in 375 ml (half) bottles. And some are also sold in 750 ml size bottles. So sip slowly!

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