image from in vino san francisco

Colombard has long been what is termed a "workhorse" grape - grapes that are used as blenders to bulk up other wines, to mellow out grapes which may otherwise have too much character and verve or to lend acidity to wines that lack it.

It is a high yield grape that produces light wines with abundant acidity and little other notable attributes apart from a pleasant floral aroma. It is for this very reason that the Colombard grape has traditionally been distilled for the production of brandy, where neutral or bland grapes are the preference, so as not to impose too much of themselves on the finished product. Its other main role used to be in the production of cask wine, especially in California, during the 1980s.

Before the onslaught of Chardonnay, Colombard was very much more widely planted than it is today.

Perhaps the main attribute of this "second fiddle" grape is it's rare (in the grape universe) ability to retain high acid levels, even when grown in warmer climates. It is this prized acidity that lends backbone to other wines produced in warmer regions that while having all other desirable characteristics, have had their acidity neutralised by too much sun. The most distinguished wine, without acidity, is like a beautiful, polished, woman.... without shoes; a sartorial disaster, and in the case of the wine, a dissapointment in the glass.

While it has never really been much used as a varietal wine grape, rebellious Australian vintners have capitalised on its ability to retain its acidity in the generally warmer Australian climate and experimented with Colombard, pairing it so far, with the edgy Sauvignon Blanc, voluptuous and distinctly floral Viognier and the well loved Chardonnay. The results have been encouraging, so keep an eye out and have your wine glass at the ready.