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Colombard

Colombard is one of the world's great blending grapes, most famously used alongside Ugni Blanc and Folle Blanche in the production of Cognac and Armagnac. It is known for its neutrality, which makes it well suited to this purpose, although in the past few decades it has been used to make light, refreshing white wines in both South West France and in new world regions like California and South Africa.

Despite its relative anonymity, the variety is among the most-planted white grape varieties in France, occupying a lot of land along the west coast in particular. This has diminished considerably over the years, however: many vines were pulled up in the 1970s to make way for other, more-fashionable varieties. At this time, Colombard was mostly used for brandy production, and many producers considered Ugni Blanc to be a more attractive prospect for this end.

More recently, French producers have taken lead from California, where enterprising vignerons began using Colombard to make fresh white wines. As the grape has the ability to retain acidity in hot, dry environments, it has proved itself useful throughout the Central Valley (as well as in Texas). The success of these admittedly simple wines saw an upsurge in fortune for the variety in southern France, and many examples of crisp white wines, often incorporating Sauvignon Blanc, began appearing under the IGP Côtes de Gascogne title.

Colombard is also planted in South Africa, where it is known as Colombar. A lot of this is used in the production of brandy, but as in California, it is also used to make bulk wine. Australia has adopted the variety, and there are even some interesting expressions of Colombard from Thailand and Israel, although these are not widely available.