Colombard – Folle – Ugni are best known for their contribution to the most revered brandies in the world. These three white-wine varieties – Colombard and Folle Blanche of French origin and Ugni Blanc (or Trebbiano, as it is known in its native Italy) – are most commonly found together in Cognac and in Armagnac’s most famous export. While the vast majority of the grapes do end up in brandy, a proportion also makes its way into Vin de Pays Charentais still wines and a vin de liqueur, Pineau des Charentes blanc, a local specialty.
Colombard, Folle Blanche and Ugni Blanc grapes all share characteristics that make them the ideal grapes for brandy production. They all have relatively neutral flavour profiles, with Folle Blanche being the most aromatic of the three, yet unfortunately also the most disease prone. High acidity and low alcohol are the other common attributes. Colombard is perhaps the least preferred grape as it produces higher alcohol and carries lower acidity than the other two. These characteristics pose a challenge to winemakers, as still wines produced from this blend can be unbalanced and unflavorsome.
Colombard, Folle Blanche and Ugni Blanc are Cognac’s three most important varieties. Semillon, Jurancon Blanc and Montils (known elsewhere as Chalosse and Aucarot) are among the handful of other permitted grapes. Up to 10% of these ancillary grapes may be added (and often are) for their aromatic attributes.
Vin de Pays Charentais wines are mostly white, made using Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Semillon, plus Colombard, Folle Blanche and Ugni Blanc. Interestingly, the proportion of Ugni Blanc (a poor wine-producing grape) in Vin de Pays Charentais has been limited to 50% in an attempt to improve the quality of local wines. Wines of this blend tend to be light and refreshing. Whilst permitted, the blend is rare, because most producers opt to make wines from the more traditional winemaking grapes.
Pineau des Charentes is a vin de liqueur made by adding Cognac from the previous year (or older) to fresh grape juice (must) of the current vintage. It is then left to age until at least the following vintage, if not longer. A Vieux Pineau must spend at least five years in oak. Producers of Pineau each use their unique blend of Colombard, Folle Blanche and Ugni Blanc grapes, both in the form of must and Cognac. It is worth noting that not all Pineau des Charentes contains all three grape varieties. INAO allows the inclusion of Montils, Meslier, Saint Francois (known locally as Blanc Rame), Jurancon Blanc, Semillon, Sauvignon, Merlot Blanc as well as the red-grape varieties Merlot Noir, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon in the making of Pineau des Charentes.
The Colombard, Folle Blanche and Ugni Blanc blend is found almost exclusively in France.
Related blends include: Colombard - Ugni Blanc.
Food matches include:
Europe: Foie gras (duck liver pâté); melon et jambon de pays (rockmelon and Parma ham)