Colombard is not the world’s sexiest white wine grape, to put it mildly. It lacks the star power of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, but it’s got its place in the winegrowing world. If you’ve never heard of the Colombard grape, don’t worry. Our quick guide will tell you everything you need to know, fast.
Let’s start with the basics.
What is Colombard?
It’s a grape. More specifically, Colombard is a member of the vitis vinifera species of wine grapes. It’s an offspring of Chenin Blanc and the even lesser known Gouais Blanc. Originally from France, Colombard produces white wines that are relatively neutral in character.
The Colombard grape lacks strong varietal characteristics of its own, so it is used to best effect to create blends with other grapes. Colombard produces a crisp wine with good acidity, making it a versatile blending grape indeed.
Where does Colombard grow?
Its home is France, though Colombard has also had some success elsewhere.
Colombard in France
In its native France, Colombard is most important not for table wine, but rather for Cognac and Armagnac. Here, the Colombard is grown alongside grapes such as Ugni Blanc to produce the base wines that will be distilled into the luxury Brandies of those regions. It’s also permitted, though rarely seen, as a blending grape in white Bordeaux wine. A number of large supermarket brands, notably Tariquet and JP Chenet, also make inexpensive white wines from Colombard.
Colombard in the USA
Though less significant today, Colombard has enjoyed some serious success in California. It was the region’s premier white grape during the 1980s, known as French Colombard, though its popularity is no longer what it was. Today, most American Colombard is used in inexpensive white blends and jug wines.
Colombard around the world
You’ll find Colombard wine produced in a number of other countries, notably South Africa and Australia. Winemakers in these new world countries tend to produce Colombard wines in a fresh style with pronounced tropical and exotic fruit flavours. In South Africa, they call the grape “Colombar”.
Colombard food and wine pairings
If you’ve got your hands on a bottle of Colombard, you’ve got a surprising number of options when it comes to food and wine pairing. The naturally high acidity in Colombard, combined with the relatively neutral flavour profile, means that Colombard is quite food-friendly indeed. Let’s look at three distinct iterations of Colombard, and a great food match for each.
1. Colombard supermarket blends: Cheap and cheerful
Maybe it’s from the south of France, or from California. Let’s say you’ve got one of those bottom-shelf bottles of Colombard wine and you’re looking for a good food pairing. Do as the French do in this case, and stick with the supermarket theme: Grab a chilled bottle of Colombard (the colder the better if it’s not a particularly good quality wine) and put together a little picnic of cheese, charcuterie and bread. Sit in the sun with good friends and enjoy a cheap and cheerful picnic!
2. Tangy new world Colombard: Keep it simple!
Some South African or Australian Colombard can almost be compared with New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. High levels of acidity and racy, tangy exotic fruit flavours are great with unfussy dishes, with perhaps none better than traditional fish and chips. With plenty of salt and vinegar, this is a tangy delight and the acidic wine will be on hand to clean your palate with each sip!
3. Colombard in Cognac: Decadent duck!
OK, it’s not a wine as such, but perhaps the finest expression of French Colombard is in Cognac. Some will swear by Cognac as an after-dinner digestif, but a young example can be a beautiful match for honey-glazed duck. The aromatics and flavours of both food and drink complement each other wonderfully. It’s not something to have every day, and you’ll want to watch your intake, but what a treat!