I believe I once read there are more than 5,000 grape varietals being used to make wine all around the world. I believe it.

Two years ago I was in San Francisco at a very cool, small wine bar and read about Bonarda – from Argentina – on the menu. So I tried it. The wine I remember was big flavors, deep cherry, smokey, and very interesting.

So a week ago I was pleasantly surprised to find a 100 percent Maipe Bonarda at Vino 100 on the north side of Columbus, Ohio. I paid $15 for it. I had previously purchased Maipe Malbec and found it pretty darn good.

I opened the Bonardo tonight and now am confused. This wine, while easy to drink, didn’t have any of the strong characteristics I remember from my previous experience. It was very drinkable, but not memorable. This was a 2008, so it was very young.

I got on the internet and did some ‘bonarda research.’ I found a wine blogger comparing it to Merlot, an insult to this noble grape – but he might have been on to something. While this particular Bonarda was certainly drinkable, it had no outstanding characteristic. They usually are first described with the word I used above: smokey.

The Maipe bottling was from Argentina. It’s believed to be similar to the Charbono grape seen sparingly in California, or more likely Bonarda Piemontese from Italy.

Nevertheless, it has spurred me to look for a bigger and better Bonardo wine – like the one I loved in the city by the Bay.

For the adventurous, I’d say pick up a bottle any time you can find one. It’s very inky in color. It has a certain mineral or earthy quality that “big” wine drinkers will enjoy.

Maipe was a mystery. I had a hard time making up my mind on this wine. But I intend on finding another Bonarda for comparison.
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