Imagine you are enjoying a red wine from the Mendoza region of Argentina. It is dense with dark fruit aromas, full bodied with grippy tannins, and a spicy finish. It must be a Malbec you think to yourself. But, it isn’t a Malbec. It is a wine from the grape, Bonarda. Judging by the name, this grape must have originated in Italy, you think to yourself. But, again, yourself would be wrong. There is a Bonarda from the Piedmont region of Italy, but that is not the same grape that Argentina grows and calls Bonarda.
The Bonarda that is grown in Argentina is also known as Charbono in California and Dolce Noir in the Savoie region of France, where it originates. Late ripening and thick skinned, this grape is dense with flavor and phenolics, and flourishes in the hot temperatures of Argentina. Up until recently, it was the most widely grown red grape in Argentina, but was mostly used in bulk wines and in blends. As Jim Summers of Summers Estate once quipped, Bonardo is the ‘Rodney Dangerfield of wine.’ Up until recently, it didn’t get much respect. But, that is changing. In the past few years, Bonardo has started to come into its own, being bottled as a varietal and exported to foreign markets.
Cruze Alta from Mendoza makes a 100% Bonarda wine that is deep red in color with flavors of creamy dark fruit, rose water and pepper on the finish. It is a dense, well-integrated wine with layers of flavor, crisp acidity, and chewy tannins. Retailing for about $13 makes it a great value. I would venture to say that many Malbec lovers may also become Bonarda lovers.