Croatina is a black grape from Italy, know also under the synonym Bonarda (however not to be confused with the grape called Bonarda Piemontese, which is a completely different variety).
The Croatina grape is characterised by being high in colour and tannins, and with aromas of red fruit such as ripe black cherries and raspberries.
Croatina tends to produce fruity wines with deep colour and medium level tannins. It is produced both as a varietal wine and blended with other grapes, for example Barbera Nera.
One of the most well-known, and probably also the one having the nicest expressions of Croatina, is the Bonarda dell’Oltrepò Pavese DOC in Lombardy. The DOC regulation requires a minimum of eighty-five percent of Croatina, and a maximum of fifteen percent of Barbera Nera, Uva Rara, and/or Vespolina. In general, Croatina wines can benefit from bottle ageing.
Other regions with DOC’s allowing for the use of Croatina are in the Piemonte, Emilia-Romagna, and Veneto regions. It is also allowed to be used in several IGP’s in various parts of Italy.
Croatina wines are middle-weight, not too heavy, not too light, often with a pleasant level of tannins. As such they pair excellently with pork or lamb dishes, or a pasta Bolognese (pasta with a sauce of minced meat and strained tomatoes).
It will also pair very well with red bird meat, for example pheasant, capercaillie, or black grouse.
Where is it grown?
Even if the grape can be found in several of Italy’s wine regions, northern Italy remains Croatina’s heartland. The vast majority of its 5.684 ha/14,045 ac, are in Pavia in Lombardy, in Piacenza in Emilia-Romagna, and around Alessandria and Asti in Piedmont.
Looking at the map you realize that the grape “follows” the river Po from Piedmont, through the southern part of Lombardy, and further on into Emilia-Romagna. Several of the cities or villages involved (such as Oltrepò Pavese, Rovescala and Piacenza are situated close to Po and on the border between the regions involved.
Croatina’s acreage has increased with more than eighty percent between 2000 and 2010 and it is now the twenty-ninth most planted grape in Italy.
Outside of Italy, there’s only a very small planting (16 ha/40 ac) reported from Argentina.
There are a couple of suggestions as to where Croatina could have originated. One is that it would come from Croatia, as the name suggests. The other hypothesis is that it has its roots in its heartland in the area south of Pavia in Lombardy in Italy.
Little is known of the varitey’s age. It has been documented for some one-hundred and thirty years, but it is very likely to be older than this.