Posted by: tomciocco | November 16, 2011

“BONARDA”: ARGENTINA’S OTHER RED GRAPE

If you say “Argentine wine” it’s hard not to immediately think “Malbec”, and fair enough; there is no country that is more closely associated with one grape variety the way that Argentina is with Malbec. Though Argentina’s signature grape it surely is, there are a lot more kinds of grapes, both red and white, in Argentine vineyards than just the originally southwestern French Malbec.

In my estimation, after Malbec, when it comes to red grapes the next most traditionally Argentine variety is Bonarda, or as I most precisely write it in the title of this post, “Bonarda”. So why the quotation marks? Ugh. Here’s the “Reader’s Digest” version…

In Italy (the ancestral homeland of so many Argentines) there are three grape varieties that use the name “Bonarda”, one of which is most properly known by another name altogether. Here’s where it gets really confusing: though precisely what Argentine Bonarda “is” genetically is still not completely clear, but what it is definitely not, contrary to some claims, is any of the three Italian varieties called “Bonarda”! In the course of bringing countless uncontrolled vine cuttings to Argentina from all over Europe over many decades, either a misappropriation and/or” mislabelling” occured, and today’s Argentine Bonarda eventually became confused with the Italian ones. As I hinted at above, the precise identity of Argentine “Bonarda” is still unclear (one common muddying factor is that several supposed known examples of “Bonarda” taken to be tested from vineyards around Argentina have proven to be different amongst themselves!), but until all of the identities and genetics get sorted out, the likeliest actual and true identity of Bonarda is a now very rare French grape called Charbonneau,  A.K.A., and none other than California’s Charbono, with the other candidate being the even rarer French variety called Doucette… 

So what ever the hell this particular screw-capped bottle of  “Bonarda” is deep down in its DNA, who knows, but in the glass, Bonarda is always dark, spicy, and a bit brooding, often made in lighter-than-the-average-Malbec style, but this one tonight was particularly big and burly.

I had earlier defrosted a home-made thick chicken and rice soup, for which I gave the wine an a priori mulligan, and rightly so. But the herby Italian-style pork and beef meatloaf stuffed with escarole and hard-boiled eggs and mashed potatoes on the side, stomped out a steamy tango indeed with the juice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

La Posta Bonarda Mendoza Estela Armando Vineyard 2009

Very deep, blackish crimson color. Clean and modern nose of prune, blueberry, and blackberry fruit, damp earth, chocolate fudge, wood ash, dried flowers, cinnamon and cloves. The palate is full-bodied with stiff-backed tannins, and a rich, but firm and chewy texture supporting flavors of strawberry, black coffee, tomato paste, plum butter, molasses, all balanced by a bracingly tart acidity. Notes of dates and wet stones on the finish.

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