French Colombard

aka Colombard (Fr.), Colombar (RSA)


Colombard, better known as French Colombard in North America, is a traditional variety of the Charente region in Central Western France.  While no DNA testing has been reported on this grape variety, it is widely accepted that French Colombard is an offspring of the Gouais Blanc and Chenin Blanc grapes.

French Colombard gained a lot of it prominence due to its use in making Cognac.  That popularity has waned over time as the grapes Ugni Blanc and Baco Blanc are used more frequently.

Today twelve approved Colombard clones exist.  Specifically named Colombard B, the clones are numbered 551, 552, 553, 605, 606, 607, 608, 609, 625, 626, 695 and 938. Over 180 clones exist and are gathered at two different conservatories in Gers, France planted in 1995 and 2002.

Places It Is Grown

In France, Colombard was traditionally grown in the regions of Charente and Gascony.  The grape was distilled into Cognac and Armagnac in the Charente and Gascony regions, respectively.

The grapes is mainly farmed in Gascony and throughout southwestern area of France, including the Gers region.  Production levels fell consistently until 1998, due to drops in overall sales of wines and spirits.  Today production of French Colombard is on the rise and the variety is increasingly being made into still wines.

Elsewhere, French Colombard was widely grown in South Africa, where it is known as Colombar.  However, those production numbers are falling.  Some acreage in Australia has been dedicated to growing the grape.  In Thailand they are using the grape as a blend with Syrah to produce a Rose wine.  You can also find the grape growing in Israel and Mexico.

Northern Californian producers have higher demand for other whites but are nonetheless bottling the grape as a varietal.  The grape is also being grown in Texas.

Properties Of Grape

Colombard is a white wine grape.  Its berries are short and oblong.  Prone to rot and powdery mildew, this grape variety has the characteristic as an early fruiting wine grape.

Colombard vines are vigorous and are known for their high yield.  Depending upon the type of wine or Cognac made from the grape it can be pruned either long or short.  For still wines, vineyards will typically prune short in order to limit the yield and obtain richer grapes.

French Colombard grows well in limestone and even clay-limestone soils.  The climate needs of the grape are a temperate but warm climate.  Still, French Colombard can be grown outside of these weather parameters and produce a decent wine.  However, the grape will not handle drought well and thus needs to be watered regularly if the grape is planted in a drier region.

French Colombard has naturally high levels of acidity.  It has higher sugar levels than that of Ugni Blanc and Folle Blanche (the other two main ingredients in Cognac).   The high acidity make the grape a good choice for using in blends as it can add backbone to white “jug wine” blends.

Traditionally, French Colombard was the most widely planted grape in California where it was often used as a foundation for jug wines.  However, if there is a good match between the terroir and the wine making technique, the resulting varietal is a crisp white wine with citrus fruits and a pleasant minerality.

This pleasant and highly aromatic wines should be enjoyed early while the wine still retains its aperitif-like quality and fruitiness.  French Colombard is held in high regard for its lime, peach and nectarine notes. Sometimes, one can find a hint of grapefruit accompanying the sweet, fruity range of flavors.

Partnering With Food

Rule #1: Matching the alcohol level and body of the wine to the heaviness of the food should make for a proper pairing every time.

Cognac made from French Colombard can be enjoyed as an aperitif with or without food.  Below are a list of foods and dishes that should pair well with Cognac made with French Colombard:

  • Chocolate with 70% cocoa solids
  • Duck confit
  • Foie gras
  • Pate
  • Pasta with a cream sauce and/or various meats
  • Roast Beef Tenderloin with Port Sauce
  • Raw bar
  • Lightly smoked fish, oysters, lobster, urchin
  • Most types of shellfish
  • Sushi and sashimi
  • Fried foods
  • Cow’s milk cheeses
  • Triple cremes of France

Below are a list of foods and dishes that should pair well with varietals made with French Colombard:

  • Goat’s cheese, herb and lemon patties
  • Creamy Chicken & Pumpkin
  • Spicey Carrot and Lentil Soup
  • Grilled Asparagus
  • BBQ Fish
  • Chowder
  • Cauliflower cheese

Restaurants With These Types of Dishes

To view restaurants that serve appetizers, entrees and other dishes that partner well with this grape type, click here….

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American Wine Grape Distributors Inc. AKA A. Silvestro Wine Grape, has been in business for over 5 decades. We are wine enthusiasts just like you and want to share in that enjoyment. This is why we are developing a new and exciting platform for growers, restaurants, sommeliers and home winemakers. Our goal is to bring the wine community together and is the driving force behind our new blog.

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