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The Argentine Bonarda

The Argentine Bonarda

The Bonarda grape has always been related to low quality wines. Here we´ll let you know more on the history and the efforts to position this grape as a base one for fine wines and Argentine wines overall.

High yields, rich aromas, tasty palate and soft tannins make of the bonarda the ideal grape for blending into easy drinking wines. All this added to a deep and attractive color, turn the grape into an indispensable component when it comes to supplement other red wines and to provide elegance to wines that do not have it.

Bonarda was the essential and main ingredient of the famous Argentine blend known as Borgoña up until near the year 2000, when European Appellations stopped being used, and the varietal wine consumption became normalized, with names according to the variety from which it was made.

It was believed that this grape descended from the Bonarda one in the Italian region of Piedmont, then, it was genetically related to the Cordeaux Noir, from French Savona, on the other side of the Alps. Because of this and because  talking about Bonarda in Italy, does not necessarily mean talking about quality, that it was decided to call it “Bonarda Argentina” for a better market positioning in the global wine market.

In 2002, the oenology department at Nieto Senetiner winery, proved that a Premium Bonarda could be made. Nieto Senetiner Limited edition Bonarda, established a hit that today has many followers.

Nowadays it is the second most planted grape in Argentina, right after Malbec. 84% of the grape plantations of this variety are in Mendoza, of which 50% are planted in the east of this province.

Leaving aside the high yieds and focusing in quality, the Bonarda earned a privileged place in the market. Today it may be found in the plantations of the first wine zone (Luján de Cuyo and Maipú) as well as in Valle de Uco. It can also be found in San Juan, Salta, La Rioja and Catamarca.

According to the National Institute of Viticulture, the exports of this varietal has gone down by 30% in terms of volume, but it has risen by 18% in terms of value in relation to 2006.

Wines

A Bonarda is characterized by its intense ruby red color with hints of purple. In the nose it behaves with strong aromas of red fruits and ripe black fruits (blackberry, cassis and cherry) and the particularity amazing quality unique to this wine: spicy aromas of laurel, pink pepper or fern. In the mouth it shows it kindness and good intensity. To the palate, when it is not overpowered by oak, it is loose, kind, where the soft tannins and the overall body of the wine become the main characters. There are, however, Bonardas from cold areas, which show tighter tannins, greener than fruity with a well-marked freshness.

To taste

From the east of Mendoza, a good value one is the Familia Morcos, both on its standalone version or blended with Shiraz. Barely higher, with a stronger body we may find Los Haroldos Estate as a good option. Slightly higher, the Pala Corazón by Lucas Niven or the blends of terrrois by Durigutti.

From Luján de Cuyo: El Vástago de Gea. It turned out to me as a very interesting option, as much as the Chakana Nuna Estate, in this case, organic.

To get some from the Uco Valley, you may find “Vuela” by Piedra Negra or Tapiz Bonarda, whether in its classic version or in the reserve version. A special: Vía Revolucionaria Bonarda by Passionate Wines.

The icons of this variety are the Saint Felicien and the precursor Nieto Senetiner Partida Limitada, that propose deep reds, full body and ageing complexity. To these wines we may also add the Emma Zuccardi and El Enemigo.

Pairing

We invite you to taste and tell us your experience. By now, we recommend to serve your Bonarda between 16-20°C (according to its complexity), on its own or with food.

Amazing companion to pizza, as well as to dishes with sautéed vegetables, mushrooms or hard cheeses, and semi hard cheeses with herbs.

Homemade stuffed pastas with Bolognese sauce or pomarola sauce.

By Sandra Pederiva

May 2020

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