Cool Climate Happs Semillon From Margaret River

This year #WorldWineTravel group is going to be doing an exploration of Australia and New Zealand. This month our host Camilla is leading us to wines from Western Australia. Her invitation is here.

I choose a bottle of Happs Semillon from Margaret River to take me to Western Australia and I am thrilled by the choice. I found the wine at Astor, a venerable New York institution with staff with great palates so I felt sure I would be in good hands. Additionally, I went for an organic wine because I figured that too would be of interest.

The Happs winery site is here. It was founded by Erl and Roslyn Happ in 1978 and consists of two vineyards in Margaret River. Eri Happs is apparently a character with many interests who is also quite a winemaker with a sense of humor.

Credit @SkurnikWebsite

Their grapes grow without irrigation, they hand harvest everything, and use organic soil management techniques. Their two vineyards are the  Dunsborough vineyard (planted 1977) where they live and a second vineyard called Three Hills (planted 1994), is in Karridale. The estate has over 300 acres with a portion planted to grapes.

Eri Happs also created his own trellising system to increase both fruit and leaf exposure. The system allows for more air flow between and around the vines which both allows fruit to ripen and prevents against disease thereby minimizing the need for any treatments.

Their trellising system makes mechanization impossible and every grape is hand harvested. In fact, they use tractors as infrequently as possible so as not to compact the soils.

Reading their website, I liked the winery even more. These two high school teachers who fell in love and started their adventure together over 50 years ago have built quite a winery. They also have always had a keen passion for pottery and today have a gallery and artists in residence creating on site. Perhaps it is this combination of wine and art that speaks to me. My Mother is a sculptor and painter who has been trying to do encaustic art study for a long time. Maybe we need a trip to Western Australia. To learn more about the climate and soils in Western Australia, I looked at this amazing website as resource and it made me want to run to an airport and get on a plane.

Now to get to the wine I choose, Sémillon from their Indigenous Series 2018. I have always enjoyed Sémillon as a grape, much more so than its traditional blending partner Sauvignon blanc. Sémillon originally hails from France but has had considerable success in Australia in Hunter Valley and in Margaret River. Jancis Robinson dishes on Sémillon here. I know I am always happiest when a Dry white Bordeaux has more Sémillon than Sauvignon Blanc. Of course Sémillon is the grape to thank for the wonderful Sweet wines of Bordeaux such as Sauternes, Barsac, Loupiac, Cadillac, etc. Madeline from Wine Folly has this to say about Sémillon as a grape variety.

The Happs version I tried is a full bodied one with fruit and herbal notes. It had aromas of pear, apple and papaya with grass and straw undertones in the mix. On the palate, these same flavors came through with a lovely creamy almost waxy texture. Sémillon tends to have low acidity but this one was around 5.8g/l which backed up the ripe fruit. The wine was done in all stainless steel.

I drank it with a dinner of Shrimp Dim Sum and some swordfish but I think it would have been better served with something like Salmon sashimi or grilled Salmon.

The winery said that they see this as a red wine drinker’s white wine but I see it as a good example of what this grape can do in Western Australia.

Join us on our Twitter chat on Saturday, January 22nd at 11am ET by following the hashtag #WorldWineTravel. In addition, check out the posts by my fellow bloggers below. See you Down Under.


  1. The fact that he created a trellising system is fascinating. Does the disease pressure come from the Maritime climate? Do they untrellis some of their Sem to allow for botrytis, like in Bordeaux to make a sweet wine?

  2. You remind me that I need more Semillon in my life! Love the story and picture of these two teachers turned winemakers.

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