It’s a great question, I would guess most people do not know what it is. Before I go further I will say Charbono has been on my mind since we recently went to Castoro Cellars and tasted their Charbono and that reminded me that the only other place I have seen a Charbono in Paso Robles is Pear Valley Vineyards. Then, today on Twitter the folks from Lodi Wine (@Lodi_Wine) sent this link out so I thought I would bring it up on our blog.
Since I truly do not have any extended knowledge of it I went to Google to find some resources.
What is Charbono?
Wikipedia says this about Charbono.
“Douce noir (also known as Bonarda, Corbeau and Charbono) is a red French wine grape variety that has been historically grown in the Savoie wine region of eastern France but today is more widely planted in the South American country of Argentina. The earliest mention of the grape dates to the early 19th century and by the end of that century it was the most widely grown red wine grape in eastern France. In the early 21st century it was discovered that the Bonarda grape which is the 2nd most widely planted red grape, after Malbec, in Argentina was not the Italian wine grape Bonarda Piemontese as originally thought but rather Douce noir. The grape is also grown in California where it is known as Charbono.
In California, Douce noir/Charbono is produced in very limited amounts with the grape having been described as a “cult wine” for its scarcity and devotion of its connoisseurs. However, growers such as Jim Summers of the Napa Valley winery Summers Estate describes the variety as “… the Rodney Dangerfield of wine” and notes that it is a hard variety to find a market for.”
Wine-Searcher.com has this to say.
“Charbono is a black-skinned grape variety, once known in France as Corbeau de Savoie. It is rarely grown in France these days, but it is grown to a limited extent in California’s Napa Valley and extensively in Argentina, where it is known as Bonarda. Charbono was once thought to be identical to Italy’s Dolcetto, but this theory has since been disproved.
As a varietal wine, Charbono is quite similar to Barbera, with its high acid and berry-fruit aromas. The wines tend to be very dark in coloring, have high tannins and slight smoky characteristics. Charbono is also used in a handful of red wine blends.
Synonyms include: Bonarda, Corbeau, Corbeau de Savoie.”
AppellationAmerica.com says this about Charbono.
“Charbono is grown on just a handful of acres on California’s North Coast, mainly in the Napa Valley. This grape usually produces very dark, acidic, red wines, with high tannin levels and wild berry aromas. According to some, this variety may be actually the Dolcetto Nero grape of Italy, or the minor French variety Charbonneau. Charbono rarely receives much attention, but notable wineries continue to grow the grape once produced by the storied Inglenook. Currently, producers such as Turley, Pacific Star, Villa Helena, August Briggs, Robert Foley, OnThEdge and Randall Grahm’s Bonny Doon have extended the life of this grape.”
I have not done an article like this before but really wanted to give a few resources for those of you interested in learning more about this interesting grape. It’s been a while since I’ve had the Pear Valley Charbono, although I should check the wine rack because I thought we bought one. The more recent Castoro Cellars Charbono was quite different than the one we had from pear Valley if I’m recalling correctly. Castoro describes theirs like this.
“With less than 100 acres planted in California, this is a true Cult Wine.
Made from organic grapes from our vineyard located in the Templeton Gap area of Paso Robles, this Charbono is dark red and rustic, reminding one of the great Italian wines. This is typically the last variety harvested. The long hang time allows the flavors to fully mature and create an exceptional wine. Enjoy the explosive fruit and balance of oak age with grilled or hearty entrees. The vineyard name stems from the large amount of Whale fossils found in the calcareous soil. A treat and unique wine for any cellar.”
And Pear Valley Vineyards describes their Charbono like this.
“Remarkable richness is showing on the nose already. This wine in its youth offers generous aromas of blueberry compote, raspberry, butterscotch, and baking spice. Firm but graceful tannins accompany a mélange of well integrated flavors; cherry, sandalwood and blackberry with nuances of rose petal, pie spice and a crushed rock minerality. Our first vintage of this underutilized grape variety, and it shows tremendous promise.”
I strongly encourage you to find some bottles of Charbono and test them out. I’m a huge believer in trying things that you have not had before or that you are not very familiar with. It’s a fantastic way to expand your wine knowledge and it really is the essence of the “wine adventure” in my opinion. Let me know if you have any thoughts on Charbono or if you know of any other places in Paso Robles that has one. Cheers!!
Sounds like I’ll have to give it a taste! Funny, I don’t remember tasting it at Pear Valley, and I’m a club member there!
Matt (a.k.a. Hoot) says
Pat, we tasted it around July 4th at Pear Valley, but in 2012. Not sure if they have one each year or not. Pretty fun trying new things!
Ben Parry says
Have had some great Charbono from several Napa (Vermeil on the edge, T-Vine) and Sonoma (Kachina). All three were great but due to limited availability it leaves you always looking for more. Thanks for your blog and more info about it. I had also heard that it was a “farmers grape” and every grower would plant a small amount for themselves. Kind of like their own house wine.
Goes great with anything tomato!
Matt (a.k.a. Hoot) says
Ben, good to know about the tomato, we’ll have to give that a try. That’s interesting, of all the wine grape varietals, Charbono was a “farmers grape”. I love the wine world, the learning never stops. Cheers!
David @ CookingChat says
Interesting, thanks! I believe I’ve had this labelled as “Bonarda”, from South America, perhaps? Lots to learn!
Matt (a.k.a. Hoot) says
That’s what I love about the wine world, David, always more to learn. And drink. 🙂