Bourboulenc is an ancient white wine grape variety that is thought by many including the lauded ampelographer Pierre Galet, to be indigenous to Greece. This not surprising given that Greece served as a cradle for the modern wine culture. This culture's development was fueled by the litany of trade routes throughout the Mediterranean and thus, those that connected the world of antiquity to current day southern France where Bourboulenc thrives.
As with other Mediterranean accented grape varieties, Bourboulenc reaches a balanced physiological maturity due to its propensity for ripening late. Like the best grapes under these conditions, it miraculously manages to retain juicy natural acidity to assist in making poised wines, despite the warm climate.
Bourbelenc is legally permitted among the 13 disparate grape varieties that may constitute Châteaneuf du Pape, and is also a major player alongside Macabeo in white Minervois. Its role in these well known zones has, perhaps, influenced perceptions of its quality. Subsequently, it is also found across many Provençal and southern Rhône blends. However, it is seldom used to render straight varietal wines aside from those from the distinctly maritime Languedoc appellation of La Clape.
Bourbelenc's plantings fell throughout the 1970's before rebounding and virtually doubling during the 1980's and into the mid-1990's. This was likely due to the sudden fashionability of Languedoc wines in the United States, in particular. Like many trends, this movement was driven by canny sommeliers and importers such as Kermit Lynch. Today, Bourbelenc remains a highly respected grape, capable of adding a flinty tang and a herbal whiff to regional whites that can often be oily.