Ortega is a white grape variety that has been very recently introduced in Germany. It was invented as a cross of the Muller-Thurgau and Siegerrebe grapes in the 1940s and got formal protection for commercial purposes in the later decades.
It is now a popular white variety of Germany ad has spread to several other areas. Ortega, due to its characteristics, has been used in both varietal and blended wines and shares some similarities with notable grape varieties like the Muscat.
Ortega’s speciality lies in its cold-hardiness that was kept in mind while ‘designing’ this variety.
Since Germany has been economically a beer producing country, rather than vine, some grapes like the Riesling do occupy the centre stage.
And a lot of German grapes are actually a cross of several grape varieties with the Riesling because of the latter’s adaptability to the icy German weather.
Ortega is yet another cross in this vast array of German crosses.
Origins of Ortega
Ortega was developed by Hans Breider in 1948 at the Bayerischen Landesanstalt fur Wien, Obst und Gartenbauin Wurzburg, Germany.
It was invented by crossing the Muller-Thurgau and Siegerrebe with the intention of improving the quality of Riesling in poor vintages in the Rheinhessen region of Germany that is of the typical European continental weather.
The cross resulted in a cold resistant variety that could withstand severe weathers. Its ability to withstand intense frosts and blizzards has resulted in it being cultivated in such cold areas where typically vines are not grown.
Examples include England, British Columbia, Canada and northern parts of Germany.
Characteristics of Ortega
Ortega, like its parent varieties, is an early ripening variety that is amazingly resistant to cold waves. It also reaches high must levels, 20 times higher than Muller-Thurgau.
Lacks acidity, but compromises it with high sugar levels that are needed in cold areas. Its sweetness is thus a major factor that makes it a good choice among winemakers for it to be used as a blending agent with those wines that lack body and sweetness.
German grapes except Riesling and some of its relatives are not much known for their aromas. Ortega, however is an aromatic variety with smells resembling Muscat and peaches, high in extract and concentration.
Its sweetness can be a good ingredient; however, the grape suffers from some major downsides too.
It is very susceptible to fungal infections, mildew and coulure, typically common in the regions Ortega is cultivated because of the cold-wet environment here.
It’s only a major plus point is its resistance towards intense cold, and that was the main point when the grape was first invented.
Regions of produce
Ortega is not to be found in the Mediterranean vine basket because of the moderate climate that exists here, but can be found in limited quantities in cold countries.
England, Germany and Canada are some of its cultivators, with some regions in the US too. It has successfully existed and keeps locals’ tongues occupied in regions like British Columbia and Canada’s eastern province of Nova Scotia and to some extent in the UK also.
Appellations in the US that produce the most Ortega include Vancouver Island, Okanagan Valley, Nova Scotia, Fraser valley, British Columbia and Prince Edward Island.
The Okanagan Valley is itself a part of British Columbia. Most wineries here are located In the Cowichan Valley on the island’s eastern side and this is the centre point of Ortega.
Several other grape varieties are grown as well. Nova Scotia is a historical region that has a general overlooked facet to it.
It is one of the most diverse regions when it comes to grape cultivation as several hundreds of grapes are planted here, some being indigenous and fully local while others being of global repute.
Several other regions also grow Ortega, including Argentina. Although cultivated in very limited quantities since its inception, it is being assessed by wine experts towards its possible extension in the wine market.
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