Argentina boasts some lovely red varietals. Malbec steals most of the spotlight, and rightfully so. Consistently dense with complex fruit and spice and a firm backbone born of Andean streams and rocky well-drained mountain soil, malbec deserves to be the country’s flagship Red. Argentine cabernet sauvignons, with equally beautiful structure, continue to gain accolades the world over. This is no small feat for a varietal so scrutinized and well-crafted in places like California, France and Australia. Now we can add bonarda to the picture. New to the American palate, this striking, endlessly interesting varietal could well be Argentina’s next chart-topper. Bold, exotic, very food-friendly – bonarda from Argentina is here, and we wine lovers are the better for it.The Bonarda Story
The intrigue begins with how bonarda grapes came to Argentina in the first place. There are three wine grapes in Italy that go by the name “bonarda” – the Croatina grape, Uva Rara and Bonarda Piemontese. But strangely, Argentina’s bonarda seems more closely related to a grape called Charbono found frequently in California. What we do know is the the grape found its way to Argentine vineyards sometime in the 19th century, and has since become the country’s second most-planted wine grape.It is a rustic, no-nonsense grape that gives good yield, keeping the cost of a bottle nice and low – a key reason you’ll find bottles of bonarda on dinner tables throughout the country. As winemakers have begun to pay more attention to this scrappy grape, yields in some vineyards have been pulled back a bit, giving the varietal room to show its complex earthy nature.
What You’ll TasteIn the bottle (and in your glass) is where the story gets really interesting. While some Argentine bonardas can be almost light and pink, like a rosé, we’re focusing on the darker, inkier more complex offerings. One sip and swish and you’ll know you have your hands on something different. You’ll find aromas of smoke, dark fruits, sometimes leather or even cigar box. In the mouth, it’s both exotic and approachable: subtle oaky sweetness, big fruity black cherries and berries, often a hint of violet and that hallmark Argentine minerality, all nicely balanced with a round tannic-recessive finish.
While bonarda pairs wonderfully with charred meats, grilled veggies and hearty dishes with a kick, we’d love to hear your favorite food pairings with this fascinating wine. Share in the comments below!
Looking for more? We’ve got tasting and pairing notes on bonarda and eight other Argentine wines. And we’re fully stocked on all these beauties at a Whole Foods Market wine department near you. Grab a glass!