Did you know that there are at least four red wine grapes with the name Bonarda? Three are in Italy, and one is in Argentina. And guess what. The grapes aren’t exactly the same. Let’s have some fun exploring Bonarda.
Is It Really Bonarda? From Wine Folly
In doing some Googling, I was getting a little overwhelmed, because it looked like there were many different names for wines made from this grape. Madeline Puckette of Wine Follly helped make things a little more clear. Here’s what she said.
“Douce Noir (pronounced Doose Nwar): Bonarda, as it’s called in Argentina, is not supposed to be called Bonarda at all. The grape was actually DNA-profiled and found to be identical to a rare grape from Savoie, France known as Douce Noir (“doose-nwar”), which is identical to a grape found in old vineyards in Napa under the name Charbono.
“The actual, true Bonarda grapes are a group of at least 6 distinct Italian grape varieties, the most well-known of them is Bonarda Piemontese. To make things more confusing, there is also a slightly fizzy red wine labeled “Bonarda” from Oltrepò Pavese in Lombardy that’s actually made with Croatina grapes. And finally, some winemakers in Piedmont label wines as Bonarda, but they are actually made with a grape called Uva Rara… you know, just to make things more confusing.”
Is It Really Bonarda? From Wine Enthusiast
Wine Enthusiast said “Bonarda is one of those grapes that prompts much confusion in consumers and experts alike. In northern Italy’s region of Piedmont, Bonarda goes by the name Bonarda Piemontese and is believed to be the original form of the grape. In its Piedmont form, it is often blended with Nebbiolo and Croatina to create the DOCG wines Gattinara and Ghemme. In Argentina, Bonarda is also produced and is second to Malbec in the country’s vineyard acreage. However, Argentinian Bonarda’s roots remain uncertain. There are theories that Argentinian Bonarda is actually California’s Charbono, which in turn could be related to Italy’s Dolcetto.”
Douce Noir (Doose Nwar)
According to Wikipedia, this is a red Italian wine grape variety that was historically grown in the Savoie wine region, but today is more widely planted in Argentina. The earliest mention of the grape dates from when Etruscans first planted Bonarda some 3.000 years ago in the Padana Region.
This is the name used in California, where the wine used to be very popular. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Inglenook used to grow more than 4,000 cases. “European immigrants had planted a good bit of Charbono in Calistoga around the turn of the century, some mistaking it for the Italian grape Barbera.” But over time, people’s tastes switched to Cabernet, so very little Charbono is still grown. Nevertheless, there’s a very enthusiastic Charbono Society that’s trying to keep the grape going.
According to Wikipedia, this grape comes from the northwestern region of Piedmont. Prior to the “phylloxera epidemic of the 19th century, Bonarda was speculated to have accounted for 30% of the plantings in Piedmont but today is only found in scattered plantings.”
According to Wine Folly, the grape in Argentina features notes of plum sauce, cherry, cardamom, fig paste and graphite. The wine starts out very fruity but then becomes more complex. The wine is bone dry and has medium to full body, medium to high tannins, and medium acidity. The wine goes well with local dishes like empanadas, curried potatoes and dishes with mole sauce. Madeline Puckette of Wine Folly says that the wine “tastes like an exotic Merlot…If you’re not a fan of oaky wines, this is your diamon in the rough, because most… are made with little to no oak.”
Are You Motivated to Try This Wine?
It looks like it is nearly impossible to find an Italian version of this wine. If you find an Argentinian or California version of this wine, you can’t be certain what its origins are. But does that really matter? It’s another great opportunity to try some fun wines 🙂
I’d love to hear about your experience with Bonarda. Cheers!
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