Ortega is white grape variety that was originally created in Germany. This grape is becoming more popular in the UK and Canada where it is being used to make still and sparkling wines that range from dry to sweet.
Named after the Spanish poet and philosopher José Ortega y Gasset, the Ortega grape was bred in 1948 by the German oenologist Hans Breider. DNA analysis has confirmed that this variety is a crossing between Müller-Thurgau and Siegerrebe vitis vinifera varieties.
Let’s Talk Terroir
Originally created as an alternative to Riesling during more challenging vintages, Ortega has proven to be best suited to cooler climates. Fortunately, it is more resistant to downy and powdery mildew, which are known for notoriously plaguing cool-climate grape varieties. Ortega grapes are early ripening and are naturally lower in acidity and higher in sugar. In order to ensure that the grapes maintain both desirable sugar and acidity levels, the best expressions of Ortega can be found in cooler climates; otherwise, the grapes would ripen too quickly, thus creating high alcohol wines lacking in acidity.
All About the Wine
Ortega grapes can be used to make still and sparkling wines that range from dry to sweet. This vitis vinifera grape maintains naturally higher grape-sugar levels, which makes it an ideal variety for creating late harvest, dessert wines; however, it doesn’t achieve very high acidity levels. In order to create still and sparkling wines with ample acidity, the grapes need to be harvested a bit earlier than other varieties. Additionally, Ortega is often blended with other varieties and is used to add a bit of sweetness to the mix.
Wines made from Ortega grapes possess subtle blossom aromatics along with fresh peach, apple, and grapefruit notes along with hints of fresh cut grass. Biddenden Vineyards in Kent was the first vineyard in the UK to plant Ortega. Today, they have won many accolades for their wines which range from still, sparkling to sweet dessert wines. I highly recommend tasting them for yourself.
Variety: Vitis Vinifera
Ripening: Early budding and early ripening
Preferred Climate: Cool climate
Key Regions: Rheinhessen and Pfalz (Germany), Biddenden Vineyards (UK), Sweden, Denmark and British Columbia (Canada)
Sweetness: Dry to sweet
Acidity: Medium to Medium-
Body: Light to medium depending upon sugar levels
Aromas and Flavours:
Floral: Orange blossom
Fruit: Peach, nectarine, grapefruit greengage, apple
Pairings: Aperitif, goat’s cheese and light chicken and seafood summer dishes
Drinking Window: Depending upon the style, it can be aged for a few years, especially if it is a sweet, dessert wine.