Many know that Malbec is a famous varietal in Argentina but fewer know that the Bonarda varietal is actually the most widely planted grape in Argentina. And it has only been recently exported out of Argentina.
The origins and nature of Bonarda are a bit controversial. Some feel it originated in Italy but there are actually three different Bondarda types in Italy, and it is unsure whether Argentina Bonarda is the same or not. Some also think Bonarda may be the California Charbono.
Bonarda is a new varietal for me and I have been trying a few different wines that I have been able to locate.
I first tried the 2004 Alamos Bonarda ($9). It was an interesting wine, with dark fruits on the palate and a more rustic and tannic finish. It did remind me of some Chiantis. It was smooth until the finish though the finish was not such an abrupt departure. I liked it and thought it was a good value.
I next tried the 2004 Las Moras, Bonarda ($9). This was a light wine, with a smooth taste, some cherry and vanilla flavors and a smoother finish than the other Bonarda. It was an excellent wine, enjoyed by everyone who had some with me. A nice tasting wine that possesses its own distinctive flavor.
I moved on to the 2005 Altos Las Hormias Colonia Las Liebres Bonarda ($10). This wine was somewhere between the Alamos and the Las Moras. It had more tannins and rustic flavor than the Las Moras but not as much as the Alamos. It had some nice fruit flavors without overwhelming you in the typical fruit bomb. It is an easy drinking wine and does remind me a bit of a Chianti, yet with its own distinctiveness.
Overall, my experimentation of the Bonarda varietal from Argentina has gone quite well. The wines are inexpensive, easy drinking, and with their own unique flavor. Though Malbec may currently be the most popular varietal of Argentina, I feel that Bonarda might come into its own and eventually give Malbec a run for its money. I strongly recommend that people try a Bonarda wine soon!
i've only tried one Bonarda, 2008 Viejo Isaias Clasico, (quite recently actually; $15) but enjoyed it well enough to keep seeking out this grape. thanks for the suggestions above.
I liked the distinctive earth/floral flavors (vanilla maybe) that punctuate the fruit profile; is this a common trademark of the varietal?
This is a wonderful grape. I first tried it when it was a house wine at a local Italian restaurant. I think it was a Mendoza offering. La Posta's is a bit expensive, but there are plenty of pretty cheap offerings of this grape. It really shines on its own, as a sipping wine. I also recently tried a bonarda/malbec blend. It was 80/20. That was outstanding also. I mentioned this in the Trader Joe's thread, but I heard there is a really cheap bottle that is under $5 that is phenomenal and worth buying by the caseload. I have yet to locate that one. In any event, it's hard to find a better value than this grape.
Funny how some wines remain relatively unknown. My friend C.W. loves Bonarda. I tease him about this because he insists it's a Chilean Cabernet. Which got me to thinking...why isn't it more popular?
I was introduced to Bonarda a couple of years ago, while strolling through Adams Morgan; it was a lovely day and I was in the mood for something different. When I asked the shopkeeper to recommend a new wine, he handed me an inexpensive red, suggesting the 100% Bonarda was somewhere between a Merlot and a red Zinfandel. I should go back and thank him. Not only was it as smooth as a Merlot - with tons of dark fruit and bits of chocolate - it had a touch of vanilla and spice to bring out more complexity and a fills-your-mouth-with-flavor finish. Still, I can't seem to find any sort of comprehensive description of the wine or grape, save for Wikipedia. Even then it's a rather non-descript page that simply refers to the different grape names.
So I was pleasantly surprised when I came across a similar wine at a small wine bar in Maryland. Perhaps Bonarda is finally getting the recognition it deserves. This time it was from Alma Negra (Argentina) and blended with 20% Malbec and 10% Cabernet Franc. It had the same long finish and maybe a bit more acidity - but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Perhaps I'll go back and pick up a bottle. I'm sure it could hold its own against steak or rack-of-lamb.