Wine Talk

Snooth User: EMark

Whither French Colombard?

Posted by EMark, Feb 2, 2013.

I've been catching up on the Snooth Wine Tips that appear in my in-box, and this one intrigued me:

Chardonnay is #1 grape in California, followed by Cabernet Sauvignon and French Colombard.

Well, I don't think that Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon being the two most planted grapes in California is terribly surprising.

But #3 is French Colombard?????????????????

I find that very surprising.  So, as usual, I've come here to tap the wisdom of the Forum.

I can remember buying varietal bottlings of French Colombard, but I'll bet that the last one was 25 years ago.  I remember it being a very nice somewhat fruity, but also refreshing wine.  However, you'd have to look under a heck of a lot of rocks to find a varietal bottling these days.

So, where is all this French Colombard going?  Well, the obvious answer is that it is going into blends.  I would not be surprised if it was going into low-dollar, generic bulk wines.

Does anybody have any other insights?



Reply by JonDerry, Feb 2, 2013.

My guess would be just that, generic jug wines. Must be easy to grow and cultivate.

Reply by GregT, Feb 3, 2013.

Exactly. It's almost all grown in the San Joaquin Valley and all those big jugs and bottles of white wine on the bottom shelves of the supermarkets are usually made from it. It's in things called "Chablis" and plenty of blends. Used mostly for industrial type wines and farmed like wheat.  Even in France I think it's mostly used in industrial or mass-produced stuff. Used to be made into Cognac but I don't think that's so common any more. They use Trebbiano but gave it the horrid name of Ugni Blanc.

Colombard has all the qualities that make it a good grape for farmers and a bad grape for fine wine. It produces really well, is not susceptible to disease like some grapes are, is hardy, and retains acidity in hot places. But plantings in CA have really dropped in the last 20 or 30 years and are like a quarter of what they once were. Same thing happened with stuff like Carignan and Barbera. 

But interestingly, some people are thinking that they may want to make serious wine out of Colombard. And why not? Chardonnay is really a relatively insipid grape and they make pretty good wine out of it, so why not Colombard? There's a little bit in Sonoma and nearby - Woodenhead is the only one I can think of but I know there are at least three others that I've heard of.

I really don't know it as a serious wine grape and I'd be very curious to taste some decent iterations. If you find some, let us know.


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