Argentina’s second grape variety is…. bonarda. But it is not.

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Malbec is the most famous and important but bonarda is gaining ground, but is really douce noire

The most famous grape of Argentina is malbec, originating from the South-West of France. If we exclude some of the uninteresting low-quality grapes it is the most grown grape in Argentina. The second grape, bonarda, is gaining ground and can make some delicious wines. But it should perhaps not be called bonarda.

According to a recent study by the Argentine Wine Observatory, mentioned in Winesur, it is today the second biggest red wine grape variety in Argentina.

Bonarda 2006 Fond de Cave Trapiche
Bonarda 2006 Fond de Cave Trapiche, copyright BKWine Photography

VIG – Very Important Grape

The designation “second most planted red grape after malbec” is perhaps correct should be read with care. Depending on the source of the number (and on if you count production or surface area) it is cited as the number two or three among red grapes.

Sometimes the very simple criolla grande, that was the biggest producer in Mendoza in 2012, seems to be omitted from the statistics. Whatever the exact ranking it is a grape that is growing in importance according to the study and can be considered the second most “important” red grape.

Today there are 18,743 hectares of bonarda in Argentina.

Malbec vines in the vineyard in Mendoza
Malbec vines in the vineyard in Mendoza, copyright BKWine Photography

Quaffable wines

The bonarda wines are generally full-bodied, fruity with modest tannins. Good quality, every-day drinking wines; sometimes with a bit more ambition. Perhaps that is why they are gaining ground; it is a trusted producer of reliable wines in good quantities.

From 2004 to 2012 consumption of bonarda wines grew by 900%. They are popular on the export markets, primarily US, UK, Canada, Norway Sweden, and Germany, according to Winesur.

Mendoza vineyards and the Andes
Mendoza vineyards and the Andes, copyright BKWine Photography

When bonarda is not bonarda

A curious thing with bonarda is that it is not really bonarda. This is not uncommon in Latin America; vines were brought from Europe a long time ago and which name was attached to it when it arrived on the new continent sometimes seems more of an accident than a botanist’s naming. Think for instance of the carmenère in Chile that was long wrongly named “merlot”.

The Argentine “bonarda” should really be called douce noire, a grape originating in the Savoie in France but very little planted in that country today. Another name for it is corbeau.

It has recently been discovered with DNA analysis that the Argentine bonarda is in fact unrelated to the bonarda piemontese found in northern Italy! As well as to all the other types of bonarda found in Italy.

Whatever the name, isn’t it time that you tried a bonarda?

Bonarda, malbec and many other grape varieties make excellent wines in Argentina. On the wine tour with BKWine to Argentina and Chile you will taste many outstanding wines. One of the exciting New World wine travel destinations! Why not join us on our tour?

Travel with the experts on wine and on wine travel!

All photos are from the last BKWine tour to Argentina and Chile.

A vineyard in Mendoza and the Andes mountains
A vineyard in Mendoza and the Andes mountains, copyright BKWine Photography

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