Monday, March 3, 2008

Last Night's Tipple

Bonarda is Argentina's second most widely-planted grape, after malbec. There is considerable uncertainty about what the Argentine bonarda actually is. It is vitis vinifera, of course, which means that it originated in Europe or the Near East, and the name is Italian. The problem is that there are three different Italian grape varieties known as the bonarda, and there is evidence that the Argentine bonarda is none of these but instead might be the charbono. The matter could be settled by DNA testing, just like the research that proved that California petite sirah was mostly the grape known as durif in France. But Argentina doesn't exactly have the highest prestige level of all wine-growing countries, and bonarda doesn't exactly have the highest prestige level of all the grape varieties grown in Argentina. Ampelographers simply haven't gotten to it yet.

Most of the Argentine wine that one sees on the US market are either malbec or one of the mass-appeal varietals like cabernet sauvignon or merlot. Bonarda bottlings are a little uncommon, but they can be found. I had heard about bonarda; and since novelty always appeals to me, I decided to seek it out. Spec's had two or three different versions, none of which I knew anything about. I selected the 2006 La Posta Estela Armando Vineyard Bonarda largely because I liked the label (when there is nothing else to judge a wine by, why not just go by the label?). The importer's website says that the grapes for this wine are from 45 year old vines cultivated by a family of Italian ancestry. There is a good deal of fruit on the nose, mixed with some earthiness and smoke. Towards the end of the glass, I thought that I smelled a bit of raspberries and cream and a bit of toast (as in Wonder bread). There was a lot of red fruit on the palate, along with a good deal of drying tannins. The finish wasn't particularly long, but that's okay. This was a concentrated and enjoyable wine. I think that it was a little overpriced at $16 a bottle, but trying new things is almost always a good idea.

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