My favorite thing about Italy, besides the people, is the number of different types of wine grapes you can find growing in every little nook and cranny of the country. There is always a new grape to discover.
A fairly recent discovery of mine is Croatina.† By “recent” discovery, I mean that I was able to taste a good many of them in a short period of time so became familiar with what the grape really can offer. I have had the wine on rare occasions over the past few years but never had the chance to truly explore it.
But with my recent submersion into the wines of the Colli Tortonesi DOC (I’m working on another project about this zone), I have been afforded the opportunity to try many. Standouts include those made by La Colombera, as well as Pomodolce, Valli Unite, Luigi Boveri, and Claudio Mariotto. Croatina from this zone always tends to have a rustic character with smokey and black fruit notes, well-developed tannins, and other ephemeral attributes. One of the most serious ones I have experienced — a no-question-about-it age-worthy wine — is Walter Massa‘s Pertichetta, a wine made from 100% Croatina grapes.
Massa dedicates a little over 2 hectares of his 20+ hectares of total vineyard holdings to Croatina. The vines do well on clay-calcareous soil at various expositions. He ages his Pertichetta for 10 months in neutral containers and then 12 months in wood, and releases the wine three years after vintage.
Walter Massa Pertichetta 2008. Colli Tortonesi DOC. Croatina 100%. An opaque and intensely garnet-colored wine with some sediment. Earthy and dark aromas: campfire; black licorice; and wet, mossy, forest with blueberry syrup. Dark fruit and herbs on the palate — full and concentrated with very tight tannins. The wine evolves in the decanter and glass over a few hours, telling me that it really needs a lot more aging time. But in this moment (March 15, 2013), the other flavors and aromas I find emerging are: lime essence, pine tree, red and black and red licorice, blackberry and sour cherry with wafts of tobacco and burning cedar branches. The chalky tannins seem like a wonderful backbone for aging. I’ve tried many of Massa‘s aged wines and they are remarkable so I’m saving my second bottle of Pertichetta for at least five more years!
… more to come on the wonderful wines of Colli Tortonesi!
If you didn’t catch my articles on Timorasso last year, here they are again!
Timorasso Parte 1: Un giro con Walter Massa
Timorasso Parte 2: Una verticale con Claudio Mariotto
† Croatina also goes by Bonarda, especially in the region of Oltrepo Pavese. Some claim it is the same grape. But any grower in the region of Colli Tortonesi will tell you it is certainly different. Coroatina is also the predominant grape in the red blends of Cisterna d’Asti, a DOC between Canale and Asti. Find out more about Croatina.
3 thoughts on “Croatina of the Colli Tortonesi”
I happen to be writing a guidebook on grape varieties, and for the cornalin, I would like very much to reproduce your pix (in a previous article, next to another grape cluster) and of course give you credit for the picture (and a free book)
Please get in touch with me (Charles Frankel) at
Sounds delicious! Great article!