The Great Israeli Semillon Doctrine

I am a  believer in Israeli Semillon. Israeli Sauvignon Blanc is terrific, arguably our current best white, but Semillon will catch up and surpass it and it's fascinating how much the grape is able to reflect terroir and the winemaker's personality. Although I suspect there will always be less Semillon produced than Sauvignon. The first varietal wine that made a splash was Ella Valley in the mid 2000's. Doron Rav-On made it, so it's appropriate that his flagship wine in Sphera has been practically a varietal Semillon in the last 4 vintages.

Sphera, White Signature, 2019

The mental tag I use to identify and understand Semillon is cantaloupe and salt. It has same the same fleshy texture as the cantaloupe, while the fruit's languid sweetness is complemented by a saline minerality. The 2019 (100% Semillon, I think, or close to it), a good example of the usefulness of that tag, is understandably quite young, yet it already shows the complexity, clarity and deceptive lightness of Doron's best work. The man has arguably the lightest touch of Israel's top flight winemakers. His wines are so consistent it's hard to pick the best wine in each vintage; however, the White Signature is always the most special. (Nov. 7, 2020)

Sphera, White Signature, 2016

Vintage variations, bottle age - the interaction between cantaloupe and minerals here has greater depth and gives the fruit a spicy kick, although it lacks the 2019's almost feathery lightness. The depth and complexity and thrilling and quite idiosyncratic. Now, if the 2019 gets to the same point and retains its butterfly gossamer, it will be a true icon. (Nov. 8, 2020)

Amit Toledo, Semillon, 2018

A lovely reductive nose shows cantaloupe and minerals. There's also a hint of ash. The form is languid and slightly fat, less complex than the Sphera, but with a broader heft. It makes do without Doron's light touch, but it's not necessarily a bad thing and its forwardness is part of its charm. (Nov. 15, 2020)

Feldstein, Semillon, 2018

This, too, has lovely reduction on the nose - Semillon must really take to reduction - more flint than salt, though the cantaloupes are definitely in place. The palate has the fleshy texture of fruit that is sweet without being overripe. Somehow, it's more muscular than the other three, as refined as the White Signature without the lightness. It's the final proof my Great Israeli Semillon Doctrine required. (Nov. 16, 2020)