Let’s set the record straight – Croatina is NOTBonarda, although in Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna that is how it is erroneously identified. Bonarda is a separate varietal that is extensively cultivated in the Piedmont, showing up in the Nebbiolo based blends of several DOCs in the northern tier of the region.

The same varietal that emigrated to South America in the 19th century and is now more widely planted in Argentina than Malbec. The same true Bonarda that is known as Uva Rara in places where the term Bonarda is mistakenly applied to Croatina. Unless, of course, Bonarda is being referred to as Raione or Oriola. But it is definately NOTCroatina.

If only Croatina hadn’t strayed from its suspected place of origin in Lombardy into the southern provoinces of the Piedmont all of this confusing nomenclature might have been avoided. But it took to the welcoming environment of the verdant hills around Tortona, where it is sometimes produced as a varietal.

A fine example of that is Walter Massa’s 2004 “Pertichetti” from the Colli Tortonesi DOC. It manages to blend rustic earthiness with a ripe, jammy texture that gives off generous amounts of fruit without being excessive. Concentrated, well extracred red and dark berries come in flavorful waves balanced by solid acidity and integrated, mildly dry tannins. A rich palate of smoothness with no edges or bitterness.

If you see it or another Croatina on a shelf, remember – it is what it is…and what it’s not.