Bonarda (Charbono) is a black grape variety with a complicated history. Originally from Savoie, eastern France, it is now mostly planted in Napa Valley, California, where it is known as Charbono, and in Argentina, where it goes by the name Bonarda.

In the vineyard, Bonarda is usually one of the last varieties to be harvested, as it needs plenty of time on the vine to ripen fully. Even after giving so much time to ripen, the wines have a very high acidic level. The variety’s wines are generally medium-bodied with medium to deep colour and berry fruit aromas and flavours.

In Argentina, Bonarda is the second most planting variety after Malbec. It’s used mainly to make fruity, easy-drinking wines with low tannins. However, some producers are beginning to look more seriously at Bonarda, and are using site selection and winemaking techniques to make more interesting and premium wines.

In Napa Valley, Charbono vines are very old, some of them are more than 70 years old. The Charbono has a very thick skin and a very high level of phenolic content. The wines are deep purple in colour. They usually have blueberry and blackberry fruit aromas. Charbono wines age well, some examples can be aged for 10-20 years, with development of tar and leather notes.

To discover this grape variety we’d suggest tasting 2015 Robert Foley Charbono from Napa Valley. This Charbono shows a rare combination for a California red of thorough ripeness and bright tangy acidity. The 2015 Charbono is lighter in body and lower in alcohol than many red wines, but intoxicating in a unique complexity. Aromas display elements of mixed berry fruit jam, cinnamon and vanilla. A gentle palate offers flavours of black cherry candy, resolving with soft tannin, lively acidity, and a long finish.

Vivino: 4.3

Amsterdam, April 15th 2020