Tuesday, June 30, 2015

White Wine Grapes, Part 7: Colombard

In the beginning...there was Colombard, or French Colombard as it's known in America.  Before varietals and proprietary blends elevated the stock of the American wine industry, there were just jug wines in this country and in this industry those were indeed the bad old days.  Throughout most of the twentieth century Colombard ruled the Central Valley roost in California providing the bulk and acidic backbone for practically every white jug wine blend.  Before being ousted by Chardonnay around 1990, Colombard had been the most widely planted grape in California.

Ampelographers have determined that Colombard (cole-um-bar) has its roots in southwest France where it excels today.  Because it has been considered vin ordinaire, Colombard has not received the scrutiny the more glamorous wine grapes have received.  It is known to have mutated from an accidental crossing of Gouais Blanc and Chenin Blanc and the grape performs best in warm climates in clay and/or limestone soils.  In the right conditions Colombard vines can be expected to grow vigorously with coorespondingly high yields.

One of the most widely planted grapes of France, the focus for Colombard has historically been on bulk production.  It provides filler for all kinds of white blends from across the southern France vin de pays wine breadbasket.  The grape's only real claim to fame was being part of the blend of distilled wines in Cognac and Armagnac.  Now in the Cotes de Gascogne it provides the bulk of an increasing number of charming IGP (Indication Geographique Protegee) white blends.  The example currently in our store is the fine 2014 Domaine de Joy which blends 50% Colombard with 20% Ugni Blanc, 20% Gros Manseng, and 10% Sauvignon Blanc.

When made right Colombard displays aromas of lime, peach, and nectarine.  Flavor-wise Colombard is capable of peach, melon, tangerine, tropical fruit, apple, citrus, and mineral and spice.  A fine "crispness" is perhaps what the taster notices most in premium Colombard along with the acidity that is its calling card.

This kind of white wine complements goat cheese, veggies (including asparagus and cauliflower), seafoods, soups, and salads.  It also complements the summer season and should be drunk young.

This Friday at the After 5 wine tasting we'll be tasting some combination of 2013 Melini Chianti, 2012 Harlow Ridge Lodi Cabernet Sauvignon, 2010 Villa San-Juliette Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009 Arte Vera Greek Red Blend, 2011 Chapel Hill McLaren Vale Bush Vine Grenache, and the 2013 Chardonnay and Bianco from Ca'Momi of Napa Valley.  Please join us.    

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