Summers Charbono


Summers Charbono Villa Andriana Vineyard


It’s hard to describe the satisfaction at having found, and now to be drinking, this wine.  I have been trying to locate a Charbono wine since Christmas, when I learned of the venereal.  I feel like a wine archeologist that’s just made an unbelievable historical find.  As one reader of Griffy On Wine who is in the wine business asked, “Where the hell do you come up with these Varietals?”  This one’s for you, Steve. 

If you don’t know about Charbono, I hope me telling you about it will prompt you to go out of your way to sample it for yourself.  It’s not that Charbono is rare or particularly expensive—it isn’t—but it is hard to find here in the United States.  In Argentina, however, it is the second-most commonly grown variety, and is called Bonarda.  No, the appeal of the Charbono is that it’s incredibly unique, so much so that it may be the new cult wine on the shelf.  So remember, you read about it here first. 

This wine is incredibly dark, even inky in color, like a deep purple limousine.  It emits aromas of black fruit (think plums) accompanied by pepper and hints of barnyard or leather.  Yeah, I’m addicted to the barnyard aroma from wines.  The taste was full on the palate, heavy acidity and tannins mixed with a blackberry taste and a better-than-average finish.  Producers of Charbono wine tell me it will cellar for at least 20 years. 

It is difficult to compare this wine to anything else because it is so distinctive.  It’s probably just because I like it so much, but I first thought of Zinfandel.  Italian immigrants brought the grape to the West thinking it was Barbera; I can both see and taste why.  Others say it’s related to Dolcetto, and I can taste that too.  You’ll have to try it for yourself and see what it tastes like to you. 

The maker of my wine, Jim Summers, describes the Charbono as the Rodney Dangerfield of wines, “It don’t get no respect!”  Summers, who is king to Charbono producers, says in Nappa everyone grows Cabernet.  His goal is to be known for something rather than just another Cab-maker, and is very proud of his Charbono, even if it’s only 10% of his sales. 

I love the wine, and even if I had to work hard at finding it, it was well worth the search.  The Charbono is the type of wine that makes you want to drink wine in the first place.  Now that 20 vineyards are now producing Charbono maybe more of it will get back here to the East coast.  I can’t wait! 

IMG_0542If you feel inclined you might try the Argentine version called Bonarda.  My bottle “Lancatay” from Huarpe Wines had great character, same midnight color, and same dark fruit flavor; though you could tell it wasn’t as crisp as the Summer’s.

Either Northern Hemisphere of Southern Hemisphere versions are both worth the effort of finding and enjoying.


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