Wine: Argentina is top of the agenda for Malbecs

Colin Burbidge, of Lancashire Wine School, writes about the Argentinian grape.

Monday, 26th November 2018, 2:50 pm
Red wine
Red wine

Argentina is best known these days for its wonderful juicy Malbecs, full bodied, powerful and concentrated wines and often smoky. These are great for enjoying with summer barbecues or winter stews alike. Argentina grows a wide variety of wines successfully making quality wines from Chardonnay, Torrontés, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and, of course, Malbec. Of the lesser known grapes, one crops up at the Wine School each time we take a look at Argentina and always grabs a little interest. Although not widely known in the UK it is one of the most widely known grapes in Argentina.If you’re looking for an easy drinking red this Bonarda grape is fruity and juicy, not too complicated and not needing food to drink at its best.First let’s clear up some confusion around the name. Here I’m talking about the Argentine Bonarda. There is a Bonarda from Lombardy in Italy which is not the same grape and similarly Bonarda Piemontese (usually blended with Nebbiolo) is a different grape.Its first recorded origins in the early 18th century lie with plantings around the Turin area in the name of Douce Noir. Italians emigrating to the Americas took the grape with them and it found its way to California, where it now carries the name Charbono, and Argentina where the Bonarda name was adopted.It is a black grape with a very thick skin and requires a degree of heat and a long ripening season to achieve the right level of ripeness, making Argentina an ideal environment to rear this grape.The wines produced with lovely ripe gapes are often purple or deep ruby red, predominant aromas and flavours of cherry with occasional plum, cassis, fig and spice. Acidity and alcohol levels are usually moderate and with soft tannins the wines have a lovely juicy soft feel, making them easy drinkers.Bonarda wines are still quite difficult to find but if you look around they are available to try.Las Piletas Bonarda 2017, from the Santa Rosa region in Argentina, is a nice example from The at Wine Society £9.95. The wine is medium bodied despite its deep colour with ripe cherry fruit….very moorish.Santa Julia Reserve Bonarda, this time from the Valle de Uco in Mendoza sold by Waitrose Cellar at £9.99 (on offer at £7.99 – be quick!). Once again medium bodied with cherry and plum and soft tannins and medium alcohol at 13.5 per cent. Trapiche Bonarda, once available in supermarkets, seems to have retreated to online retailers. We’ve used this brand previously on our tastings and courses so I’ll be looking it up again. With the full name Trapiche Estacion 1883 Bonarda, the cherries are layered with strawberries, plum, smoke and licorice. A little more complex this one with an online price around £10.Watch out for the Bonarda grape cropping up in blends, especially with Malbec. My research has brought up the Viñalba Malbec Bonarda from Majestic at just £7.99. It’s on my try list.

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