Difficult to imagine given that worldwide plantings now amount to only a few hectares, Gouais Blanc was once prolific across large parts of Europe, particularly in Germany and in central / northeastern France where it was often cultivated in close proximity to both Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. Whilst the Pinot varieties were assured the best soils, Gouais - regarded much less favourably by the nobility - was planted on adjacent lesser plots and used to make a fairly acidic, characterless wine for the peasantry. Nevertheless, this goes some way to explaining the large number of Gouais / Pinot crosses that exist within the modern grape directory.
Today, the variety is grown as much for its preservation as for its wine-making capabilities. It can be found most notably in the Swiss region of Valais where it is referred to by the alias Gwäss. Local producer Kellerei Chanton (Visp Valley) - known for its cultivation of obscure varieties - produces a refreshing, agreeably pungent and well structured varietal from carefully tended Gouais Blanc grapes grown on some of Europe’s highest vineyard plots. Tiny amounts are also cultivated in the Stajerska region of Slovenia, in Germany and in Rutherglen, Australia. As well as producing crisp mono-varietals, the grape can also be used in both still and sparkling blends, contributing notes of citrus.
Somewhat ironically, this variety known throughout history as ‘the grape of the peasants’, has through its prolific breeding, given the world a number of noble varieties from which subsequently are vinified a range of truly excellent wines.