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Sémillons That Deserve the Spotlight

Retailer Dan Fredman explains why this former blending wine is now a star

Jeff Siegel By June 4, 2021
A photo illustration of wine retailer Dan Fredman, showing a vineyard and wine bottles in the background.
Photo illustration by Allison Kahler.

Dan Fredman was managing a Dallas wine shop at the beginning of the pandemic when his car stopped working. So what did Fredman do? Walk the 90 minutes to the store, of course. Because wine must go on.

In his three-decade career, Fredman has been a wine marketer and publicist as well as retailer; his clients have included Argentina’s Catena Zapata, Australia’s Levantine Hill Estate, Stoller Family Estate in Oregon, and the Austrian Wine Marketing Board. Today, he lives on California’s Central Coast.

Fredman has also found time to play the bass professionally and race speedcars at tracks up and down the San Joaquin Valley. Along the way, he has amassed a sizable wine label collection — though he’s long past knowing exactly how many there are since, he says, “I rarely, if ever, have seen a wine label that didn’t pique a compulsion to know what the bottle’s contents taste like.” 

That includes his affection for Sémillon, the French white grape best known for its role in white Bordeaux blends. 

That Sémillon is often overlooked doesn’t surprise Fredman; it is best known as blending material, after all. Hence, he has even more incentive to help wine drinkers find out just how terrific it is on its own — and, perhaps, add a few more labels to his collection when he finds yet another Sémillon.

bottle of Château Graville-Lacoste Blanc Graves

Château Graville-Lacoste Blanc Graves 2019 ($18)

Some white Bordeaux producers may be skipping the Sémillon, using 100% Sauvignon Blanc, but not Hervé Dubourdieu at Château Graville-Lacoste, which has been in his family for 130 years. The blend remains traditional: 75% Sémillon, 20% Sauvignon Blanc, and 5% Muscadelle. The result, says Fredman, is crisp and invigorating with oodles of mineral and floral character, boosted by the producer’s 45-plus-year-old vines. Says Fredman, “You know how everyone says to eat oysters with this kind of French white wine? This is exactly that kind of French white wine.”

bottle of Dirty & Rowdy Sémillon Napa Valley

Dirty & Rowdy Sémillon Napa Valley 2018 ($33)

Yes, 100% Sémillon. Yes, Napa Valley. Take that, Cabernet Sauvignon, says Fredman. This Dirty & Rowdy wine, from the winery of the same name owned by Hardy Wallace and Matt Richardson, is fermented with plenty of skin contact in a ceramic egg, which helps it show off the funky side of Sémillon. The result is savory and orange-ish, with a bit of tang on the finish — a sensory tanginess, not the powdered drink for astronauts, he says. The food pairing can even be a little funky, from shrimp in garlic sauce to dishes that pack a touch of heat.

bottle of Tyrrell’s Wines Sémillon Vat 1 Hunter Valley

Tyrrell’s Wines Sémillon Vat 1 Hunter Valley 2015 ($59)

Australian producers make some of the world’s great Sémillons, something that too few people know about in the hype over the country’s red wines. “This is a wine that reeks of elegance with a wisp of decadence,” says Fredman. “It comes from you in waves of deliciousness.” That comes from the citrus and minerality, buffered by a peachy creaminess. Tyrrell’s, a top winery in the Hunter Valley, has made a wine that may be young now, but is still delicious, and “will probably be yummier in a decade,” he says.