The white grape variety comes from Spain. Synonyms are Aidén, Blanc du Zerhoun, Blancón, Burra Blanca (Canary Islands), Colgadera, El Biod, El Biodh, El Karim, Forcallada, Forcallat, Forcallat Blanca, Manchega, Valdepeñera Blanca and Valdepeñas. The exact origin is the area of Cuenca, in Castilla-La Mancha, where it is known as Manchega. It must not be confused with the Forcallat Blanca or Lairén varieties because of apparent synonyms or morphological similarities. The close relationship between Airén, Clairette and Roditis established by analyses carried out in Italy in 1999 is doubted by the Swiss biologist Dr. José Vouillamoz. According to DNA analyses carried out in 2013, Airén is a direct descendant of Hebén, but the second parent is unknown. Probably by natural crossbreeding with Alfrocheiro, the variety Parreira Matias was created.
The late maturing, very productive vine is extremely resistant to drought and generally good against many diseases, as well as adapted to poor soils. It is therefore particularly suitable for the extremely hot areas of the La Mancha region in summer. The variety produces light yellow, alcoholic, neutral, acidic white wines. It is cultivated almost exclusively in Spain. In 20 years, the stock there has almost halved from 476,396 hectares in 1990 to 252,364 hectares in 2010. This means that the variety, which has been ranked number 1 for decades, is now only number 3 in the worldwide grape variety ranking. It should be noted that the vines, which have been raised in a low bush form, are cultivated with wide vine spacing or low planting density (1,200 to 1,600 vines per hectare). The Airén is mostly used as a blend for simple consumer wines; with Macabeo and Malvar(Lairén) for fresh white wines, and in central Spain with Cencibel(Tempranillo) for light red wines. Above all, however, it supplies the basic wines for the distillation of Spanish eaux-de-vie. The variety is the Spanish counterpart to the French Ugni Blanc(Trebbiano Toscano) for Cognac.
Source: Wine Grapes / J. Robinson, J. Harding, J. Vouillamoz / Penguin Books Ltd. 2012
Pictures: Ursula Brühl, Doris Schneider, Julius Kühn Institute (JKI)