The hot grape is… Bonarda?
At a wine conference a couple of years back, a presenter speaking about future trends in wine paraphrased the famous H.L. Mencken quote: “No winemaker ever got rich underestimating the American public’s knowledge of wine.”
He was referring to the popularity of just a few varieties, like chardonnay, merlot and cabernet sauvignon, to the exclusion of many other grapes. That snarky comment doesn’t really fly, as there are a lot of wines out there made from grapes beyond the big three.
Still, once in a while, a surprising wine will garner attention, even if it is very much off the beaten path. At three wine shops last week, I was surprised to see Bonarda from Argentina featured on displays. Usually, there might be one bottle buried in the alternative-red selection, if there’s any at all.
Bonarda isn’t well known, partly because it’s confusing. In Italy, there are three grapes, all different, called Bonarda.
In Argentina, Bonarda is the second most-planted grape but it is not really Bonarda at all. It might be Corbeau, from the Savoie region of France, which is the same grape as Charbono, which grows in California … hmm, you can see why it may not be the easiest bottle on the shelf to sell.
So, I’m talking about Bonarda from Argentina (whatever the real grape is), and it’s a contrast from the better-known, deeply colored wines from the Malbec grape.
Bonarda is lighter, with higher acid and bright red fruit anchored with a rustic earthiness. I snagged a bottle from Whole Foods (Argento, 2012, Mendoza) where it was featured on a display. A little edgy alone, it was a whole different wine when paired with food.
Paired with a homemade grilled pizza with fresh tomatoes, mushrooms, caramelized onions and goat cheese, Bonarda was delicious. Didn’t love it so much by itself, but with food? A winner.
The wine also was tasty with pasta with tomato sauce another night. There are many wines that cry out to be enjoyed with food, and this is definitely one.
Who cares what the grape is, if you can get a good bottle of something fun and new for less than $15?