Colombard is a white French variety that has mostly even used as a great blending variety, although in the past few years, it has been started seeing usage as a varietal grape.
The Colombard is a neutral variety that might explain its lending character, however, in recent years; winemakers have started to modify its fermentation and maceration processes to provide for more unique touches.
Colombard is also grown in South Africa, where it’s known as Colombar. Some interesting expressions also exist in Thailand and Israel, although these haven’t really found a great amount of market and familiarity among the wine community.
Historically grown in southwest France along the coastal plains, the Colombard has seen ups and downs in cultivated acreage since the 1850s when it was first seen growing in Californian vineyards.
A drastic decline in cultivated acreage in the 1970s also affected the popularity of the vine ,but gradually saw an upward trend in the coming decades.
History of Colombard
Colombard has first been described as having been grown in southwest France along the coast of the Celtic Sea.
This makes the grape an offspring of the Armagnac Meslier-Saint-Francois and the nearly extinct Balzac variety.
In France, it was mostly cultivated in the Chrentes and Gascony regions for distilling into its traditional Cognac and Armagnac wines. However, as the days and years passed, Colombard started witnessing new vineyards in Bordeaux and its adjoining areas where its cultivated to produce Vins de Pays Cotes de Gascone and and the sparklingFloc de Gascone drink.
Since Colombard is a fairly popular white variety, grown in the US, Mexico, France, South Africa and even Thailand, it has earned several synonyms over these years.
Several of the synonymous terms are of French origins only since more than 50% of Colombard vine cultivations is from France only.
These names include Bon Blanc, Donne Verte, Colombier, Coulombier, Charbriervert along others.
Some like QueneTendre indicate a Mexican touch while West White Prolific is a purely American synonym.
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Colombard can be categorised as having medium to long cylindrical clusters of grapes, conical in shape with long peduncles.
Grapes have usually been observed as a medium sized, round-oval shaped, with yellow-greenish tinge to it.
These grapes are acidic when fully ripe and contain only negligible sugars. Colombard shoots are long with large to medium sized leaves, mostly three lobed. Leaves are hairy on the lower surface and are very wide with a V-shape petiolar sinus.
Pink-red shades with green veins fill the petioles.
Growth and soil adaptability
Most information on Colombard tells us that the grape grows the best on sandy, dry soils and even clay loams.
This explains why Colombard has mostly been cultivated around the shores and relatively drier areas.
The variety grows excessively vigorous on very fertile soils and shows poor to medium growth in very sandy soils.
It is very saline tolerant than most other varieties and is ideally cultivated with 7 to 8 feet distance between each shoot.
Due to its large canopies, less than 10 feet in vigorous sites are considered to be too crowded for conventional equipment to be used.
Susceptibility to hazards
Colombard is highly susceptible to several viticulture hazards. Root knot nematodes in sandy soils, phylloxera and frosts are some of the most common Colombard’s hazards.
Many winemakers have been able to fix this issue by selecting phlloxera resistant roots.
Phylloxera in general, has been observed under sandy soils more than other soil types.
Harvest and production
Colombard is a high yielding variety. In the San Joaquin valley of California, Colombard is cultivated midseason with harvest beginning in mid to late August and ending till late September.
So it’s a mid budding, late ripening variety. When fully ripe, Colombard can give an average yield of 8 – 13 tons per acre and are used to produce for blending and varietal purposes.
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