It might be a tricky one to pronounce at first, but once you get your lips around an Argentine Bonarda it effortlessly becomes one Argentina’s most versatile and easy-drinking red varieties. Not to be confused with Bonarda from Italy, this variety actually comes from a French origin – known as Douce Noir in the Savoie region where it was originally grown, and Charbono in the States where you’ll find some too.
Although its origins lie outside of Argentina, Bonarda is by all means an Argentine grape. Once the most widely planted red variety in the country, it is not the second most planted as Malbec has pipped it to the post. Historically in Argentina, Bonarda was used for bulk wine but in the last ten years it has seen as renaissance as a fine wine and it bottled as a single variety with pride.
A very versatile grape, the expression of Argentine Bonarda changes significantly depending on harvest time, climate and location. The large majority of Argentine Bonarda comes from warmer, flatter regions like San Martin, Lavalle, Rivadavia and San Rafael, but you’ll also find some higher altitude plantings in the Uco Valley and San Juan.
Aromas and characteristics can range from lighter bodied, juicy and fruit forward wines with lots of cherry and plum aromas, to concentrated wines with dense fruit and often jammy characteristics. Higher altitude plantings often show certain herbal characteristics and rose aromas, whereas oak aging can produce heavier chocolate and leather aromas. The tannins and acidity are also impacted quite significantly by the location of planting and – very importantly – the harvest time.
Argentine Bonarda is made in many different styles (see below) which range from fruity wines with a bit of carbonic maceration, to more concentrated wines with oak aging. Here’s a pick of some of the wines to watch out for:
Coming from an old vineyard in Vistalba, this fruit-driven and simple Bonarda has a mintiness to the nose and an appealing fresh finish.
Altos Las Hormigas was one of the original makers of good Bonarda (under their sister label, Colonia Las Liebres), and this – their Reserva level – is a step up. Bright and ripe red fruits with a hint of rose and black pepper, this is a juicy wine with some nerve and acidity.
A silky Bonarda with aromas reminiscent of a fresh forest – herbal and fruity – with a voluptuous mouth, coming from a blend of vineyards mainly in the Uco Valley. Keep your eye out for the single-vineyard Altamira Bonarda coming soon!
Bonarda on another level. With an almost ashy nose at the beginning it blows off into a full red fruit wine with crisp cranberry and some forest fruits with a lovely long finish. Stylish.
Cara Sur Bonarda, Cara Sur
Taken from the heights of Barreal, this Bonarda is fresh and fruit – great crunch and lively acidity. Chill this and enjoy it on a Summer’s afternoon.
A carbonic maceration Bonarda that hits a more Beaujolais-style and comes from Matias Michilini, an advocate of low-alcohol, high-acid wines. Drink it chilled, and enjoy the refreshing finish.
An intense and spiky Bonarda. Super aromatic and a challenging, but fun, mouth feel that is helped out with a dash of Cabernet Franc.
Bonarda with Bubbles…
One of winemaker Sebastian Zuccardi’s first experiments, a sparkling Bonarda – but red. Intense, fruity and fun!
A pale pink bubbly, this shows another side to Bonarda: delicate, fizzy and with lovely crisp Cranberry notes.