Bonarda wine grape

Bonarda
A black grape with an identity problem, Argentinean Bonarda is not the same as the ‘true’ Bonarda Piemontese of north-west Italy, nor any of the other five varieties sometimes called ‘Bonarda’ in various parts of Italy.  It is identical to the old variety called Charbono in California, whose name again hints at an Italian origin.  Even in its true homeland of France, one of its synonyms is Plant de Turin, or just Turin, the capital of Piemonte.
 
But it is actually French. It originated just across the Alps from Piemonte in Savoie, where its oldest name is Douce Noire (“sweet black”), though it’s officially-registered French title is Corbeau (“crow”) from the blackness of its skins.  For most of the 20th century ampelographers believed it was actually Dolcetto (“little sweet one”), another Piemontese variety with similarly deep colour, until DNA testing proved them wrong.
 
Although its French names are older, we’re going to call it Bonarda because there’s more than a hundred times as much of it in Argentina as in the rest of the world put together.  For most of history it was the second most planted black grape there (after the pale Criolla, whose wines are pink), only recently being overtaken by Malbec.  But it has long played second fiddle to Malbec and much less is exported.
 
It produces very fruity wines with deep colour but modest tannin and acidity levels, making them ideal for drinking young.  It ripens late and is usually one of the last varieties to be picked.  Most wines are medium-bodied easy quaffers with plenty of plum and cherry fruit.  The best examples, from older vines and often oak-aged, are big, dense, and quite tannic, with more intense fig and raisin flavours.

Get in touch