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(Synonyms: Bold, Bonarda, Bonarda di Gattinara of Rovescala, Croata, Croatian, Croattina, Crostino, Crovalmo, Crovattina, Crovettina, Crovattino, Grape Ruby, Nebbiolo, Neretto, Uga's uncle, Uva Vermiglia, Uva del Zio)
Croatina is a red-wine grape originating in Italy, where it is today grown in several regions, primarily Lombadry, but also including the Emilia Romagna, the Piedmont, and even the Veneto (where small amounts are allowed in Amarone). As "Oltrepò Pavese Bonarda" from the Lombardy, it can be a monovarietal, and must in any event be at least 85% Croatina; it can also appear as a monovarietal in Piemontese wines—as "Colli Tortonesi" (usually but not always 100%), "Cisterna d'Asti" (80% - 100%), or "Colline Novaresi Croatina" or "Coste della Sesia Croatina" (85% - 100%); in the various other Italian blends in which it occurs, the percentage is lower, often fairly small. (Its ultimate origin is probably, as the name suggests, Croatia, but Italy is where it is now established.)
(The use of the name "Bonarda" can be quite confusing; Croatina has no relation to the Bonarda grown in South America—which is also called Charbono or Douce Noir—nor to Bonarda Piemontese, which is yet another different grape. There will be a quiz in the morning.)
The wines from Croatina are generally described as dark in color, fruity, and (as Jancis Robinson puts it), "with a certain bite" to them. Sources seem to differ on its ageworthiness, some saying it can benefit from bottle aging, others that it is intended to be drunk young; chances are that it depends on the particular bottling (riserva wines are aged 24 months minimum, and are probably the more likely candidates for further cellaring). Comparisons with Dolcetto are sometimes made. Croatina is as yet a minor player on the world stage, but it can make some quite satisfactory wines and is well worth attention.
Note that some Croatina wines are vinified somewhat off-dry, and even frizzante (sparkling); examine any potential purchase with care to avoid surprises.
Factoid: Croatia is also the probable source of such distinctively "Italian" wines as Primitivo (Zinfandel), the path from Croatia to northern Italy being relatively short.
Some Descriptions of Croatina Wines
Some Croatinas to Try(About this list.)
While Croatina wines are not exactly scarce on the market, the offerings (at least according to the leading wine-search engines) comprise a good variety of makers each of whose wines is available at a very limited number of retailers (usually just one is shown). In fact, we could only locate two in our price range that seem available at more than a single retailer, and those we present below; but if you keep an eye open when wine shopping, or ask in well-run wine shops, you can probably locate a bottle or two to try. There are also few writeups of these wines; but, since the ones that are out there are rather enthusiastic, it looks like this is a good varietal awaiting discovery. Be a pioneer!
The quotations below are excerpts; we strenuously urge you to click on the green diamond ♦ symbol by each quoted review to see the full article.
For a Splurge
The problem again is not choices but availability. If you are looking for a "splurge" Croatina and run across a bottle of Walter Massa's Vigneti Massa Croatina 'Pertichetta', go for it. (Probably around $30.)
Pertichetta Croatina 2005 Colli Tortonesi, which was deep and dark with an amazing combination of floral perfume, cedar and smoky bacon aromas, then fresh on the palate, with dry, dense but fine and ripe tannins and a long juicy finish.
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