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DRAFT Turnbulls Wines for Cheese Guide: Gascony Colombard

Colombard is a light provincial wine, suited to sunshine drinking and low acidity savoury cheeses.

Tasting Table

BodyLight to medium bodied – crisp acidity, low alcohol
Grape flavoursGreen apple, citrus such as lemon and grapefruit
Hints of tropical fruit like pineapple
Winemaker flavoursFew or none
Aged flavoursGenerally none

Colombard: A Home in Gascony

The story of Gascony Colombard begins with the Colombard grape variety itself. Believed to have originated in the Charentes region of France, Colombard is an ancient grape variety with a history dating back several centuries.

Gascony, a historic province north of Pyrenees in southwestern France, encompasses a diverse range of terroirs and microclimates. Long been associated with winemaking, Colombard emerged as one of its prominent wine styles.

Appellations and Crus:

Within Gascony, several appellations and crus have gained recognition for producing high-quality Colombard wines:

  1. Côtes de Gascogne: This is the most renowned appellation for Gascony Colombard. Located in the heart of Gascony, Côtes de Gascogne is known for its crisp and aromatic white wines. The Colombard grape thrives in this region’s clay and limestone soils, which contribute to the wine’s distinct character.
  2. Buzet: Situated on the right bank of the Garonne River, Buzet is known for its red wines, but it also produces delightful Colombard-based whites. These wines often exhibit a balanced acidity and fruity profile, showcasing the versatility of the grape.
  3. Côtes du Brulhois: Although this appellation is more famous for its red wines, Côtes du Brulhois also produces Colombard wines that capture the essence of Gascony’s winemaking heritage. The region’s gravelly soils lend a unique character to the wine.
  4. Saint-Mont: Located near the Pyrenees mountains, Saint-Mont is another important appellation for Gascony Colombard. Here, the grape benefits from the region’s diverse terroirs, which include clay, limestone, and alluvial soils. These factors contribute to the wine’s complexity and depth.
  5. Côtes de Saint-Mont: An extension of the Saint-Mont appellation, Côtes de Saint-Mont is known for its aromatic and expressive Colombard wines. The terroir here combines hilly landscapes with various soil types, creating an exciting range of flavors.
  6. Côtes de Gascogne Bas-Armagnac: In the southern part of Gascony, near the famous Armagnac region, you’ll find Côtes de Gascogne Bas-Armagnac. This area is known for its Colombard wines, which often showcase a combination of fruitiness and finesse.

Gascony Colombard wines from these appellations and crus are celebrated for their crisp acidity and terroir-driven nuances.

Presence in America:
Colombard made its mark primarily in California, where it was cultivated and crafted into wines that bore resemblance to their Gascony counterparts.

In the Central Valley the grape’s adaptability to different climates and its ability to retain its acidity even in warm conditions made it an attractive choice for winemakers and has often been used in blending.

Despite Colombard’s presence in California and other American wine regions, such as Texas and Washington State, Colombard remains somewhat under the radar compared to more prominent white grape varieties like Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

Gascony Colombard Tasting Notes:

  • Body: A light to medium body. A crisp mouthfeel ideal for warm-weather sipping. Lively acidity, dry, with low alcohol makes it gentle in the mouth.
  • Grape Flavours: green apple, citrus such as lemon and grapefruit, and sometimes hints of tropical fruit like pineapple
  • Wine maker flavourings: winemaker tend not to affect flavour with additional processing like oaking
  • Aging: typically enjoyed when young and fresh

Gascony vs the world:

Gascony Colombard stands out for its crisp acidity, vibrant citrus notes, and clean, refreshing character. Other interpretations tend to be heavier, less crisp, softer and with more tropical notes. Here’s how Gascony Colombard differs from other well-known interpretations:

1. French Gascony Colombard vs. California Colombard:

  • Acidity: Gascony Colombard typically maintains higher acidity levels due to the cooler climate in Gascony, resulting in a zesty and refreshing character. California Colombard may have slightly lower acidity, offering a softer and more approachable profile.
  • Fruit Flavors: Gascony Colombard often exhibits vibrant citrus notes like lemon and grapefruit, along with green apple and occasional tropical hints. California Colombard tends to showcase riper, more tropical fruit flavors, such as pineapple and melon, with less emphasis on the crisp citrus notes.
  • Alcohol Levels: Californian interpretations of Colombard can have slightly higher alcohol content, contributing to a fuller body compared to the lighter, more delicate style of Gascony Colombard.

2. Gascony Colombard vs. South African Colombard:

  • Climate Influence: South African Colombard is grown in a diverse range of climates, including both cooler and warmer regions. Consequently, South African Colombard can exhibit a broader spectrum of flavors, ranging from the Gascony-like crispness in cooler areas to more tropical and ripe fruit notes in warmer regions.
  • Texture and Body: Gascony Colombard typically offers a lighter body and a crisp, refreshing texture. South African Colombard can vary in body and texture, with some versions presenting a slightly richer mouthfeel, especially when grown in warmer areas.
  • Floral and Herbal Notes: Some South African Colombard wines may display subtle floral and herbal nuances that are less common in Gascony Colombard. These notes can be influenced by specific South African terroirs.

3. Gascony Colombard vs. Australian Colombard:

  • Fruit Ripeness: Australian Colombard is often associated with fully ripe fruit flavors. While it can still display citrusy and green apple notes, there’s a tendency towards more pronounced tropical fruit characteristics, such as passion fruit and guava.
  • Winemaking Techniques: Australian Colombard can undergo various winemaking techniques like oak aging and lees stirring, leading to wines with a richer texture and occasionally buttery or creamy undertones. Gascony Colombard typically leans towards a cleaner, more fruit-focused style.
  • Acidity and Freshness: Gascony Colombard maintains higher acidity, contributing to its greater freshness and liveliness compared to many Australian interpretations, which may have a softer acidity.

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