Bonarda grapes are pretty much unique to South America’s Argentina, where, after Malbec, it is the country’s most produced varietal. It was first introduced in Argentina in the 1800s. It is not the same grape as the Bonarda from Italy. The Argentinian varietal is actually named Douce Noir, which originated in Savoie, France.
It was initially used to add colour and a fruity flavour to Argentinian-produced blends. However, it has since been found that it can stand on its own as a single varietal. The key to using Bonarda on its own is to use grapes only from the more mature vines. There are plantings that are over 100 years old.
Bonarda grapes mature well in oak barrels and the resulting wines are characterized by complexity and spice with great structure and medium-full body. The wine will have hints of plum, cherry and fig. The colour is deep and dark. There is a medium level of tannins which allow it to be cellared for five to ten years, though it is ready to drink when it is released from the winery.
Bonarda will pair well with grilled pork, roast chicken or even grilled salmon.
If you haven’t tried it before, Argentina’s Bonarda is worth seeking out at your local liquor store. Who knows, it may become your next favourite medium-bodied red wine.