Advance of Bonarda indisputable

Source: Buenos Aires Herald
By: Dereck Foster

09.05.2010

It is difficult not to gloat when one has every reason for doing so, but when it boils down to a matter of whether the Bonarda grape is a suitable grape worthy of being considered a future Argentine international star or not, my measure of gloat surpasses the confines of my wine glass. I have been saying so for some time now and today I say it again: the Bonarda grape, such as we are beginning to understand it today, has every positive factor playing in its favour along these lines, and a bottle of 2008 Bonarda which I have just tasted increases that impression immensely.

The bottle to which I refer is —perhaps I should say was — a Viña Las Perdices Reserva Bonarda 2008. According to the information provided it comes from Luján de Cuyo, from a 40 year old vineyard which was harvested relatively late by Mendoza standards — the second half of April. It is (was) a delightfully dark blue-purple colour providing a soft, almost unnoticed aroma in spite of its high, (but also soft) alcoholic content of 14.5%. This wine comes to join an ever increasing number of Bonarda wines that have put aside the image of decent, good, reliable wines, to begin to assume far more complex and individual characters that must now be evaluated. Are these characters a consequence of location or techique? Is a San Juan Bonarda different from a Luján de Cuyo Bonarda because of its situation or because of the skill and traditions of its winemakers? This promises to ignite a new and facinating argument that can only lead (I believe) to ever better Bonarda wines.

For some time now there has been a good deal of ignorance, (and lack of interest in), what exactly the Bonarda grape represents in Argentina. It is assumed that the original grape was introduced by Italian immigrants towards the end of the 19th century, along with a handful of other varietals such as Barbbera, Nebbiolo, Sangiovese and others.

For a long time it bore three names: Barbera, Barbera Bonarda and Bonarda. Only recently has its true identity been established when celebrated ampelographer Alberto Alcade, working with INTA demonstrated that the Bonarda had no connection whatever with Barbera. However, to Alcalde’s work we can now add another, that of French ampelographer P. Truel who sustains that Argentina’s Bonarda is not the grape generally assigned to Italy, but an ancient throwback to an old French varietal known as Corbeau noir. Truel has added an important factor into the discussion without, however, providing enough proof to give a final answer. A majority of experts still maintain that our grape has much more Italian antecedents than ancient French roots. The most recently advanced solution to this matter sustains that the Corbeau noir was originally from French Savoy which also connects with the Italian Piedmont, where the Italians called it charbono

This could possibly be the true origin of what I firmly believe is a grape that is soon to shine brightly on the wine horizon ofthe world.

Meanwhile, another star can be mentioned in passing. I refer to my friend Harry’s success with his wines made by his Angelie operation. The Zona 68 Malbec 2009 has received, a gold medal at the International Wine Guide 2010 which this year was held in Madrid, Spain. This wine received 92 points and was competing against wines from 1500 wineries from around the world.

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