Charbono is a grape grown in the Napa Valley, a US location that produces red wine blends. Originally, this well-travelled grape variety grew in Savoie in Eastern France, where it was referred to as Douce Noire. Did we mention well-travelled? The Charbono is also found in some parts of Argentina where it goes by a different name, Bonarda. It is believed that this grape variety made its first appearance close to 3,000 years ago courtesy of European settlers.
Decline in Popularity
When it comes to popularity, Charbono is not exactly fancied by winemakers for its premium quality in winemaking. Wines made from the Charbono have a high acidic content with relatively lower alcoholic content. This has forced wine consumers to demand less from its wine blends, dropping the production levels of the grape. The decline sees to it that the Charbono only has approximately 100 acres grown in its native region. Farmers complain that the grape variety no longer has any profitability. This has forced experiments on the grape variety. The aim is to raise its taste profile and bring back its popularity.
The 70s can be considered as the heydays for the Charbono grape variety. It is during this time that the limited variety saw a number of producers take it up, influenced majorly by Inglenook. Tragedy hit when Inglenook sold off their property and the new owners replaced the Charbono with more popular varieties.
There is a good side to this particular grape variety. The Charbono ripens late, which means it escapes from spring frost. Despite its decline in the East of France, in Argentina, the Charbono which is referred to as the Bonarda is quite popular, only second to the Malbec. However, even in Argentina, it is a preserve of winemakers looking to make medium-bodied wines.
Remember its late ripening? The Charbono is one of the last grapes to be harvested. Wines made from this particular grape variety then tend to age quite well. The ageing of this wine can take up to 20 years, long developing special flavours that are unique to the Charbono. In colour, the wines have a purple ink colour and carry an interesting fruity aroma close to plums and black fruit. Check out also “Best Grapes for Making Wine” to see the different kinds of grapes that go into winemaking.
Tasting & Experiencing The Charbono
So, what if you want to
explore this grape variety? There’s a number of places you can visit.
The first is the Tofanelli wine vineyards. This is a family ranch that has grown the grape variety since 1929. It is a small ranch and ideally, you would have to call in ahead in order to schedule a wine tasting tour with the owner, who handles everything on the ranch.
Second, is the Summer Estates Wines. Not quite as old as the Tofanelli vineyards, this estate has been growing the grape variety from 1997, boasting of 14 acres of the grape variety. At this estate, the owners will entertain you with different wine blends and recommend game meat pairings for your Charbono.
The third is the Markham Vineyards. Their vines were planted in the 70s and the vineyard has an art gallery. For the typical wine drinker, this is pure bliss. Nothing comes better recommended than wine and art. Plus, the gallery has free admission. This would be a great place to enjoy the Charbono.
If you like your wine tasting accompanied by cheese, then one of the places you need to visit is the T-Vine winery. Here, the owners have remarkable hands-on experience with the spicy nature of the Charbono and give an ultimate experience paired with artisan cheese. Want to learn how to pair your own wines and cheeses at home? Then be sure to check out “What Wine Should I Drink With Cheese” for more info.
As a Grape Variety
The Charbono is art, carrying a sweet spot for the Napa Valley that nurtures the best conditions for its growth. The area is graced with prime soils that this tough grape variety thrives on. The weather is optimal for the wine, with minimal temperature differences between the day and night. For this grape, this is important as the temperature ensures it maintains its high acidity content. The Charbono grown in this region is well concentrated and makes the best wine blends.
When out dining, finding a Charbono wine is close to impossible. It is not included in most wine lists and its rarity translates to around 6500 cases produced every year. This is quite sad as the variety has an incomparable taste profile.
Thank you for reading with us today! Let us know in the comments below if you’ve ever tried a Charbono wine. Keep up with our UNCORKED series and check out “Uncorked: Auslese Riesling” or “Uncorked: Trebbiano” for more amazing wine options.
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