Bonarda might have dropped onto your radar as an Argentine variety to enjoy: lush fruit, medium bodied and usually very easy to drink. But within Argentina, there isn’t a uniformity to the style just yet, and this variety is diminishing in plantings rapidly. While it hasn’t had a huge international success, Argentine Bonarda is close to the hearts of many local winemakers and this is the reason why the Premium Tasting’s masterclass on Bonarda with winemaker Alejandro Vigil was so hotly attended earlier in the month.
A conference which attracts winemakers and industry bods for a tête-à-tête about wine, there was plenty of debate about the future of Bonarda in Argentina. Until recently Argentina had over 20,000 hectares of Bonarda planted, but the vineyards are being ripped out because they aren’t as marketable as Malbec. That doesn’t mean the quality is lesser though.
“We have the vineyards for Bonarda, and we have all the material to do it with,” commented Vigil. “What we need now is the push! We need to make a bit more noise, and show off the Bonardas and the quality we have.”
Along with Vigil’s own production of Bonarda under the El Enemigo label, some other producers making a big ‘push’ of the variety were invited to show their wines too. Sebastian Zuccardi, whose family winery has a three-generation history of producing the variety, spoke of the natural conditions that are favourable to Bonarda. “We have a great possibility for Bonarda – not looking at the market, but at the vineyards,” said Zuccardi. “We have a natural potential for Bonarda, which is why we ended up with 20,000 hectares – it wasn’t a coincidence! Bonarda is not going to be the next Malbec, but in the market there is always space for things with identity, and in Argentina we have three varieties with a lot of identity: Malbec, Torrontes and Bonarda.”
The identity of Bonarda is still lesser known outside of Argentina, and perhaps occasionally confused as there is an Italian variety of the same name, but of a very different character. What winemakers are beginning to focus on now within Argentina is learning to make a Bonarda, as a Bonarda.
“You have to interpret Bonarda differently to a Malbec – the winemaking process is very different…,” commented Leonardo Erazo, winemaker for Altos Las Hormigas. “Bonarda is something you can drink very easily everyday for lunch. It has an incredible fruit.” Altos Las Hormigas have long been making a very drinkable, fruit-forward Bonarda under their Colonia Las Liebres label which has become a reference for Argentine Bonarda. Last year they launched a sparkling Bonarda rose, showing another dimension to the variety – a lighter, more delicate version.
“I call Bonarda, the Pinot Noir of hotter climates,” added Vigil, about the lighter-handed treatment that Bonarda calls for. In the case of Vigil, many of the Bonardas that he vinifies he uses carbonic maceration to keep a lighter, more fruit-forward style.
Although the style of Bonarda is still in flux, one thing is certain – that Argentina’s winemakers are beginning to take care over their Bonarda. And it’s time the world takes note.
For more information on the Bonarda variety, and recommended wines visit our Bonarda page!
The Premium Tasting is held in Mendoza every August and is a two day wine tasting with professional talks on the Thursday followed by a full evening tasting of 30 of the top scored wines in the country on the Friday. Find out more here.