Highlights: Charbono both ways from Shypoke Winery in Calistoga, Napa
There are just 75 acres of Charbono left on the planet, say Shypoke Winery. This isn’t strictly true, if you consider that Charbono is the same variety as Bonarda, of which there is quite a bit grown in Argentina. But in California, under the Charbono name, this variety is now rare, partly because it buds early and is at risk of spring frosts. ‘After a century of growing this heirloom variety we are in love with its intriguing and alluring charms,’ say Shypoke. ‘Black tea, pomegranate, and red plum aromatics are fulfilled in the mouth, tension and focus complete the experience. Heirloom romanticism and south of France allure.’ They are right. This vineyard, in Calistoga, dates back to 1904. They make two varietal Charbonos: one a rosé and the other a full-blown red.
Apparently, Charbono was planted in Calistoga by mistake. European immigrants had mistaken it for Barbera, suggests Ester Mobley in her excellent article on this grape variety in Napa, they mistook it for Barbera. For a long while, celebrated winery Inglenook made a Charbono, and it became a popular wine, and even had a fab club. Inglenook stopped making it a while back, but there remain some devotees.
Shypoke Rosé of Charbono 2019 Calistoga, Napa Valley, California
12% alcohol. Fruit for this wine is picked at 50% veraison, picking the least ripe clusters to make this rosé, typically in mid-August. Simple winemaking: whole-bunch pressed and then settled, then fermented. Pale pink in colour, this is delicate and fine with fresh pear and cherry fruit, and also some fine watermelon and cherry notes. Some hints of pepper, too. 90/100 (£17 Ally Wines)
Shypoke Le Corbeau Charbono 2018 Calistoga, Napa Valley, California
13.5% alcohol. This is given a cold soak, then fermented with gentle punch downs, and then goes to used French oak for malolactic fermentation and maturation. Inky dark in colour, it has a lovely focused nose of black cherry and plum, with some tea-like detail and a hint of smoke. The palate is fresh, vivid and shows concentrated berry fruits with some supple black cherry and a fine hint of green. It has ample tannin, but it fits in beautifully with the fruit, and the whole experience is one of freshness, depth, concentration and structure. A stunning expression of Charbono, this is fine and detailed with freshness and focus. Lovely density here. 94/100 (£32.50 Ally Wines)
UK agent/retail: Ally Wines
Find these wines with wine-searcher.com