The Bonarda grape varietal in Argentina has experienced a contested and confused history. At one time classified in Argentina as Bonarda Piemontese from Italy, recent studies contend that it is instead, an ancestor of Corbeau from Savoie, France. Recent genetic tests were conducted in order to compare the Argentine rootstock to those of Piemontese and Corbeau, and the study found identical molecular markers to Corbeau. This same grape is vinified in California and called Charbono.
Regardless of its origin and emigration, Bonarda has adapted extremely well to Argentina and today is considered its own grape identity. In 2011 the name Bonarda Argentina was accepted by the National Institute of Viticulture, recognizing the distinct vitus vinifera varietal grown only in Argentina. It is the second most planted grape in Argentina after Malbec and is quickly growing in recognition.
Historically, Bonarda has posed some challenges to viticulturists and winemakers. Bonarda has delicate skin, and therefore requires protection from sunburns as well as good ventilation to avoid rot. High trellising with a horizontal canopy, called “Parral” style, is often used for this reason, and has produced very positive results. This trellis system also tames plant vigor, providing the required space around the cluster.
The grape has a long vegetative cycle and very late maturity, so it thrives in Mendoza’s warm climate and consistent, dry seasons. The vine also prospers in climates where nighttime temperatures drop dramatically, facilitating acid development and retention.
With this adapted cultivation and careful vineyard management the plant vigor is naturally balanced, resulting in better fruit ripeness and has lead to a charming wine with a lean, elegant body, succulent fruit, and a fresh mouthfeel… distinctly Argentine.