January 6, 2011
Good Cheap Vino by Joe
Argentine wines are hot right now. Imports to the U.S. once again soared in 2010. The king of Argentine wine, of course, is Malbec. Just scan the Argentine section of your wine shop and you will find 90 percent of the wines to be Malbec with the rest a mix of wines like the flowery white Torrontes, or reds like Cabernet and Merlot, and maybe a few Rosé wines. You are unlikely to find anything labeled Bonarda. Yet Bonarda is the second most widely planted grape in Argentina. So why do we not find much of this wine in the U.S.? I think there are two reasons for that. Bonarda has mostly been used as a blending grape, especially in the jug type wines of Argentina. It has been just recently that several wineries have decided to produce a high quality 100% Bonarda. Secondly, the name Bonarda does not carry much panache, so perhaps importers are somewhat reluctant to bring this wine to the U.S markets. That may change once wine folks taste this delicious wine. They will be asking for more, especially because the wine is so good at less than $15 a bottle.
About a year ago, I had a chance to taste a few Bonarda wines at a tasting in San Francisco sponsored by Wines of Argentina. I enjoyed them very much and since then have been scanning the wine shelves for Bonarda with little success. I recently found two and did a side-by-side comparison. The wines were Zolo 2008 Bonarda and the LaMadrid 2008 Bonarda. Both tasted excellent and I rate them both at 88 points. I purchased the Zolo Bonarda at BevMo for $10.99. I purchased the LaMadrid at K&L Wines for $14.99. By the way, Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate rates the LaMardrid at 91 points. The Zolo Bonarda has aromas of red fruit and just a bit of spice. It is a soft wine with few tannins and a nice touch of acidity. The LaMadrid has more herbal characteristics and is more tannic and is a more robust wine. I love the beautiful purple color of both of these wines. The Bonarda varietal is quite different from anything you have tried. It is bold but does not overpower. It is not a fruit bomb but a very nice gentle wine with various fruit flavors. These are definitely wines that show their character with food. I think you can have these wines with a variety of food including roasted chicken, pastas with sausage or tomato sauce, pizza, and pork.
Some think that Bonarda is actually the same as the Italian grape Charbono. Charbono is a grape that was once widely planted in California and now there are said to be only 100 acres of Charbono in the state. I did a little research and found that there is a disagreement among many as to whether Bonarda and Charbono are indeed the same grape. Perhaps UC Davis will have to do some DNA testing and settle the debate. Nevertheless, give Bonarda a try. Next time you are in a BevMo pick up the Zolo or when in K&L Wines look for the Lamadrid. There are both delightful wines!