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Carl Hudson
October 12, 2016 | Wine Varietals | Carl Hudson

Mistelle of Semillon

The Mistelle Dessert Wine from Brennan Vineyards in Comanche, Texas, is currently available at 4.0 Cellars.  This delicious wine is beautifully packaged in tall, colorless 500 mL bottles.  Newburg Vineyard, one of three Comanche County estate vineyards for Brennan, is the source of the Semillon fruit that produced this lovely concoction.  The wine is relatively high in alcohol, 16%, and carries a balancing 7% level of residual sugar.  Armed with this information, you may have already developed a notion of what this wine tastes like and whether you would enjoy it.  Before making a final decision, please read on to get the rest of the story behind why Todd Webster, Brennan’s talented wine maker, produced this wine. 

Mistelle is a French term that describes a type of alcohol-rich beverage that can be a wine, or an ingredient used in making other beverages.  The Italian term is mistella and the Spanish or Portuguese term is mistela.  A Mistelle is produced by adding alcohol to unfermented grape juice or partially fermented wine.  The added alcohol is usually in the form of distilled grape spirits (think of the high-in-alcohol Italian beverage Grappa).  Wine grapes are typically harvested in the range of 21-26% sugar.  In a normal fermentation process, yeast will convert that sugar into about 11-14% ethyl alcohol in a finished, dry wine.  However, adding alcohol before or during fermentation can stop yeast consumption of sugar, and preserve that sugar in the grape juice at the level when addition occurred.  The procedure of adding alcohol to grape juice or wine is called fortification, and is common around the world in the production of fortified wines like Port, Sherry, Marsala, and Vermouth. 

Now, a Mistelle can be made from any grape variety, and can be finished as a dessert wine or used to enhance the alcohol and sugar levels in other beverages, such as those noted above and in many types of aperitifs.  In this case, the grape used was Semillon, the primary grape, usually blended with Sauvignon Blanc, used to produce the famous Sauternes dessert wines in southern Bordeaux, France.  Semillon is also famous for producing both dry and sweet wines in the southeastern Australian region of Hunter Valley.  Semillon is often a minority blending component with Sauvignon Blanc in many wine regions around the world, especially Bordeaux and California, and in some cases with Chardonnay. 

Brennan Vineyards grows Semillon for the primary purpose of blending with Viognier to produce their signature, award-winning wine.  Viognier grown in Comanche County, and many other regions of Texas, can reach full ripeness at very high levels of sugar.  This, in turn, will produce finished dry wines at sometimes uncomfortably high levels of alcohol (makes the wine “hot” on the palate).  Semillon grown in Texas typically reaches full ripeness at much lower sugar levels.  Therefore, Todd Webster typically blends 15-20% Semillon into Brennan’s Viognier to produce final, bottled wines in the more common and comfortable range of 14.0-14.5% alcohol. 

With Semillon available, Todd Webster has added a wonderful new product to Brennan Vineyards’ line, the Mistelle of Semillon.  The grapes were harvested at 23 degrees Brix and fermented cold in stainless steel tank.  This masterpiece dessert wine shows aromas of honey and apricot with floral notes of jasmine and gardenia.  Flavors include canned peaches and lemon zest.  The wine is well-balanced with a lush and silky finish.  Apple pie with vanilla ice cream, peach or pear cobbler, white chocolate cheesecake, and white chocolate-macadamia nut cookies would pair beautifully with Mistelle of Semillon.  


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