A blog devoted to exploring wines made from unusual grape varieties and/or grown in unfamiliar regions all over the world. All wines are purchased by me from shops in the Boston metro area or directly from wineries that I have visited. If a reviewed bottle is a free sample, that fact is acknowledged prior to the bottle's review. I do not receive any compensation from any of the wineries, wine shops or companies that I mention on the blog.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Croatina - Colli Tortonesi, Piemonte, Italy

One of my favorite posts from the early days of this site is this one about the Bonarda grape from Argentina.  I remember being fascinated by the confusion surrounding the grape and having a blast trying to sort through and write about it.  This was before I had discovered the wealth of literature about DNA analysis and grape varieties, but the roots of that interest and a lot of the subsequent research I've done for the posts on this blog can be traced back to that piece.

I bring that post up because today's grape, Croatina, is also known as Bonarda in some regions of Italy.  We've taken a look at Croatina before here on this site, as it is an important component of a wine called Sangue di Giuda from Lombardia, Italy.  It is found primarily in northwestern Italy, in Piemonte and Lombardia, and is one of three different grapes in Italy that goes by the name of Bonarda.  In Piemonte, what is called Bonarda is typically either Uva Rara or Bonarda Piemontese.  When you're in the Oltrepò Pavese region of Lombardia in Italy, Bonarda refers to Croatina.  Today's wine is actually from Piemonte, and so the wine is labeled as Croatina rather than Bonarda, since Bonarda refers either to Uva Rara or Bonarda Piemontese here.  Argentine Bonarda is, of course, none other than the Charbono of California, which is known as Corbeau in France (see citation 1 below for further reading).  Interestingly enough, none of the grapes that are known as Bonarda are related to one another.

The name of the grape might make you think that it has something to do with the nation of Croatia, and you might be right, though just what that link might be is unclear.  Some believe that the grape came into Italy via Croatia and picked up its name in the same way that Greco or Grechetto picked up their names from Greece.  For awhile, Croatina was thought to be the same grape as Croatia's Hrvatica, since Hrvatica means "Croatian girl" in the Croatian language while Croatina means something like "Croatian girl" in Italian, but DNA studies have shown that these two grapes are not related to one another.  As far as I know, Croatina has not been shown to be identical to any grape currently grown in Croatia and I haven't found any studies that link its pedigree to any grape in Croatia either.

It is somewhat unusual to find a varietal Croatina labeled as such, but I was able to find a bottle in a local shop for about $25.  The wine was the 2006 Vignetti Massi "Pertichetta" Croatina from the Colli Tortonesi region of Piemonte.  In the glass the wine was a deep purple ruby color.  The nose was fairly intense with wild berry fruit aromas like blackberry, black cherry and blackcurrant along with some leather, smoke, black tea leaves and underbrush.  On the palate the wine was on the fuller side of medium with fairly high acidity and big, grippy tannins.  There were flavors of wild blackberry, black cherry, smoke, charcoal, old leather and blackcurrant.  This wine was big, brambly and wild with dark, dense, powerful flavors.  Croatina is typically a blending grape but if this bottle is any indication, it is a grape that deserves more attention as a varietal wine.  The flavors were rich and deep, but the wine was still very well balanced and had enough structure to endure even more bottle age than the six years this bottle already had on it.  This is a phenomenal wine for the money and is something I would not hesitate to buy again if I ran across it.


1) Martinez, L., Cavagnara, P., Boursiquot, J.M., Aguero, C.  (2008) Molecular characterization of Bonarda-type grapevine (Vitis vinifera L.) cultivars from Argentina, Italy and France.  American Journal of Enology and Viticulture. 59(3). 287-291

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