Colombard is one of those wines which are often drunk but rarely recognised, and that is a great pity because the grape and wine are both exceptional, and can produce very fruity, sweet liquids that make it delicious as a dinner accompaniment, or simply as an evening glass of wine. In South Africa it is widely planted, although some may call it Colombar, a name which is unique to South Africa, and which has helped to distinguish wines from this country from similar wine products from France or Australia. No matter what it is called, Colombard is a very popular wine to grow.
Its origins lie in the South West of France, and it was mostly used as a base wine on which other white wines could be mixed. This has lead to its decline in the country as more wine growers produce Chenin Blanc for that purpose. However, it can still be a good base for wine makers, as it adds a crisp and acidic edge to otherwise sweet white wine blends. It was heavily used to make Cognac and Armagnac, however it has again been replaced by other white wines which are more cost-effective to grow.
Although it can be expensive to raise, the Colombard does well in South Africa, preferring the dry, hot climates of areas such as the Klein Karoo and the Western Cape. This may make it one of the preferred wines for those areas, particularly in the Little Karoo and Olifant’s River wine wards. In suitable climates, it produces medium-size berries which have a tough, although thin skin. The wine produced can take the appearance of yellow-gold, although when the wine is young there may also be a green tinge to the wine. In aroma, it has a very flowery scent, often backed up by intense fruit flavours such as Guava, peach, tropical fruit and apricot. In taste, it is rather reminiscent of Chenin Blanc, although it does have more character even before it is turned into an estate wine. It usually has plenty of fruit flavours, and in South Africa can be very citrusy. Like Chenin, it is a crisp and dry white wine, with plenty of different flavours including a slightly nutty almond taste. South African Colombard will have a slightly more acidic taste than from other countries, due to the cultivation of the grape there.
There are a number of producers of Colombard in the single varietal wine, including the Rooiberg Winery’s 2010 Colombar. This is made from 100% Colombard grapes, and has a light honey taste with a strong hint of guava and tropical fruits. The sweetness of the wine, plus the golden-green colour of its current maturity, mean that the wine is suitable with a light lunch, or as an aperitif. The Desert’s Edge 2011 Colombard, from Montagu, is also a good option, as it is known as an easy-drinking version of the wine, and has a very light, almost invisible taste which makes it ideal for meals or for drinking with friends.