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What is Bonarda?

Out and About, Wine & Adenture
Typography

By Wayne Bernhardson for Southern Cone Travel (Blog)

In the course of writing multiple editions of guidebooks to Argentina and Chile, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting many wineries in those countries, and sampling their products. I wouldn’t claim to be a sommelier, but I think my experience in wine tourism is helpful to my readers, sometimes steering them toward new experiences.

At home we drink mostly Argentine and Chilean wines, partly because we’ve grown accustomed to varietals such as Malbec, Torrontés and Carménère, which are unique or nearly unique to the region (though I shouldn’t overlook Uruguay’s Tannat, either). Recently, though, I’ve found myself attracted to the red Bonarda, which is becoming more widespread in Argentina, particularly around Mendoza.

 What is Bonarda, though? From the name, I’d always assumed it was an Italian varietal and, given Argentina’s wine-making heritage, I’d never looked into it more deeply. Yesterday, though, my wife and daughter went on a winery cycling tour in the Napa Valley – personally, I’m allergic to organized tours – and brought home a new vintage I had never heard of, a Judd’s Hill 2012 Charbono.

According to the winery’s website, “Some believe Charbono to be identical to the Dolcetto grape of Piedmonte [sic]; in fact, it is found there in both Dolcetto and Barbera vineyards. However, no wine labeled Charbono is produced in Italy.” That didn’t tell me a lot, so I went elsewhere for an overview and learned, tentatively, that Charbono is the French Douce Noir grape from the Savoie region - alternatively known as Bonarda! That Wikipedia entry, which seems well-sourced, repeats the statement that there is no relationship to its namesake Italian grape.

On the other hand, Wines of Argentina claims that "Bonarda is... (Read More)