Colombard

Colombard is a white wine grape variety capable of high yields, neutral flavours and high acidity. These characteristics are ideal for producing distilled styles of wine from Cognac, to other brandies in California, South Africa and Australia. Colombard's neutrality allows the distillation process to liberate unique flavours and textures without impinging on the distilled wine's complexity. Increasingly, however, Colombard is being displaced by the even more neutral and acidic Ugni Blanc and Folle Blanche. These grapes give less alcoholic base wines than Colombard, with obvious benefits.

While Colombard's star as a distillate is waning, its role in the production of brisk and eminently drinkable dry white wines, is on the rise. For example, Colombard is the star in the hugely successful Vin de Pays des Côtes des Gascogne, a canny creation by a consortium of Armagnac producers. This bunch saw the commercial appeal of brisk innocuous white wines for the table, easily vinified at low temperatures in stainless steel. Colombard is also used as a blending agent in generic white Bordeaux and other entry-level white wines throughout France's south-west.

In Australia, as in South Africa and California, Colombard is used to perk up warm climate blends, or as an ingredient in bulk wines from engine-room regions. Its disadvantages as a grape variety prone to rot and powdery mildew are less of a problem in warm dry regions such as these. Interestingly, Colombard was California's most widely planted wine grape variety until it was overtaken by Chardonnay in the early 1990's.

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