If obscure grape varieties are your passion then you will want to take note of this little planted white grape called Gouais Blanc. While it may not make the label in your neighborhood wine store or tasting room, Gouais Blanc is an important ancestor of many to today’s most popular varietals including Chardonnay and Riesling.
In the Middle Ages it was often planted alongside of Pinot Noir in France. It’s name comes from the derogatory term ‘gou’ meaning “of lesser quality” befitting a peasant. The grapes thin skins are high in acidity and low in sugar which means they tend to produce simple wines that at their best have fresh, light notes of lemon and green apple.
Today the location that is most known for its Gouais Blanc is the Valais region of Switzerland. It is also planted in Stajerska a sub-region of Slovenia. While the grape may not often play a staring role, it does have qualities that make it ideal for blending. It is most often added to sparkling wines to add a bit of freshness. Some of the other names the grape is known by are Belinsa, Ranfol and Weisser Heunisch.