This grape is gaining ground on the consumers’ tables all over the world. It stands out for being easy to drink, with a great color, soft tannins, and mainly low alcohol content, a distinctive feature in the face of the new trends.
Bonarda is a variety blessed with great winemaking potentiality in Argentina and it is considered the second most important red grape, behind Malbec. The country is the only producer of this grape; therefore it is a varietal wine with no competition in other countries. Other distinctive factor is that it develops successfully in all Argentine regions, showing its particularity in each place.
According to Nieto Senetiner’s winemaker, Roberto González, the winemaking characteristics of this wine, compared with Malbec’s, both share certain similarities: “It is a product exhibiting a lovely color, with fresh and fruity nose; sometimes, it usually offers clove aromas, velvety palate and soft tannins. A really important feature is that its alcohol content is below 13.5.”
On the other hand, Pedro Pelegrina, winemaker of Casa Montes winery, from San Juan, said that it is a varietal that is better developed in Argentina than in Italy, something similar to Malbec. This way, he explained: “it is characterized by giving good yields, when it has a productive vegetative balance”. Like González, he spotlighted the intensity and color, as well as red fruit aromas, making this product really appealing when it is young. Finally, he added that Bonarda’s tannins are always soft, granting the wine an easy drinkability.
Moreover, José Morales, winemaker at Callia winery, stressed that in general, these wines are very fruity (fresh red fruit profile), and “in some cases, there are notes of mint and eucalypt that reach really distinguished aromas, when they are combined with oak that grant, for example, chocolate hints. On the palate, they generally present soft and sweet tannins, making them easy to drink. With a good contact with oak, they also may show a great complexity.”
Finally, Sebastián Zuccardi, from Zuccardi winery, pointed out that “it is a variety with a great adaptation to our climate and soil; therefore it is the country’s second most cultivated red grape. It is widely stretched over the lowest areas of Mendoza (eastern region), but it is found all over the province.”
In this context, Zuccardi added that it is important to mention that during a long time in Argentina, Bonarda was regarded only as a variety for a large-scale production, due to its potential for giving high yields, but then he pointed out that “this has changed and today, we choose the right region and work the vineyard so as to obtain wines with great quality and identity. This variety has entire leaves, large and dense clusters, and round berries. It presents a long ripening cycle, so in higher regions it is necessary to work with moderate yields in order to make them ripen.”
On the other hand, bearing in mind the places where it is best developed, the winemaker at Zuccardi winery explained that “in the case of Mendoza, the most cultivated regions with this grape are those at lowest altitude, as the grape has a long ripening cycle, and in these places, it really stands out over other varieties. Nonetheless, when it is cultivated and treated correctly in high regions, it expressed very interesting characteristics”. For this reason, I think the region in which we cultivate it depends on the aim and level of wine we want to reach.”
Besides, in relation to this province, Nieto Senetiner’s winemaker stressed that the regions housing the largest amount of hectares planted is the East of Mendoza. There, and in the Upper Region of Mendoza River, Bonarda finds its terroir.
From Casa Montes, Pelegrina added that this vine is very flexible and adapts perfectly to different places. In the particular case of San Juan, the winemaker said that it has a great performance in almost all points of the province.
In San Juan, José Morales maintained that Bonarda adapts excellently to the conditions of the Tulum Valley, and behaves similarly as in the eastern region of Mendoza. “When we make reference to that excellent adaptation, we are saying that its vineyards are highly productive, offering a great quality,” defined the professional.
Emblematic variety of Argentina
Despite the fact that people in the country and in the world associate Argentina with Malbec, there is also a need to diversify the supply by means of other grapes or blends, but always maintaining the identity of the country. This way, the winemaker mentioned that this variety has a great potentiality and can achieve great results and responds from consumers.
González, explained that by developing this grape, it is possible to show Argentina as a multi-varietal country with geographic differences. “Nowadays, with Bonarda, we are in the same phase as with Malbec by the 1990s, promoting it in both the national and international sector. Therefore, Argentina needs that winemakers, agronomists and business people decide to develop high-end Bonarda wines.”
For his part, Sebastián Zuccardi commented that the way to position this wine is to produce Bonarda wines that convey their potential, “seeking an identity, studying regions and different ways of vinification, among others.”
In order to strengthen its positioning, the winemaker added that it is important that wineries manage to create wines with a particular identity. “It should also be thought as a great partner to blends, especially to Malbec,” he underlined.
As regards this, González expressed that Bonarda wine may be established as a monovarietal, as well as a typical Argentine blend. “From my point of view, and as a country of the New World, we have focused on the varietal development, but by means of the association with Malbec, we will have a competitive advantage to place it quickly within the high-end segment, using Argentina’s signature variety as leverage.”
Lastly, Pelegrina and Morales agreed that it would be useful for Bonarda, to position it along with Malbec. In the case of Callia’s winemaker, he added that it is a perfect partner to Syrah. Finally, he highlighted: “it is important to offer the world a top-quality Bonarda, which can compete within the medium price ranges.”