My latest newspaper column as it appeared in 11 Indiana newspapers. I post all of the columns on this blog and separately on Grape Sense.

Argentina means Malbec, right? For many people that is the logical and most accurate perception. But long before Malbec became the rage, Bonarda was the grape of choice in that South American country.

I’ve written many times about Malbec as a great introduction to new varietals and also written about Malbec as one of Argentina’s best-known exports. But it might surprise many to know there is nearly the same amount of Bonarda planted in Argentina as Malbec.

Bonarda has been a staple in Argentina’s wine industry for years, used mostly in blending and for table wines. It is believed the grape came originally from Northern Italy’s Piedmont region. One school of thought was that Bonarda was California’s Charbono but that theory has been dismissed.

There is another faction that believes the grape comes from Savoie, France. But whether it genetically got its start in Italy or France, it’s definitely known as Argentine today.

The wines are easy to drink, fruity and very inexpensive. They have a bright and fresh texture with just enough acidity and even a little pepper. In most cases you’ll get really rich flavor along the lines of raspberries and other dark fruit from this deep purple juice.

The wine is easy to drink and good with grilled meat and red sauces.
A little research shows the grape is frequently described as the “workhorse” grape. It demands heat and sunshine, provides big yields, and is usually less expensive than Malbec.

It’s all over the internet that many of Argentina’s winemakers are taking a second look. Malbec has really taken the world by storm over the last decade. Could Bonarda be next?

I first discovered Bonarda at a wine bar in San Francisco in 2006 and have searched for great ones since. It seems in recent months more Bonarda is turning up in Central Indiana wine shops.

It’s pretty easy to find a Malbec/Bonarda blend. There will even be a little Syrah thrown into some bottlings. It’s tougher to find the 100 percent Bonardas but worth the effort.

I like the wine’s richness, acidity, and it has a certain earthy or smoky characteristic that many wine drinkers will find enjoyable.

Besides my pick-of-the-week below, here are a few names of reliable Bonarda producers: Familia Zuccardi, Altos, Alamos, Argento, Caligiore, Sur de los Andes.

Howard’s Pick:
Durigutti 2007 Bonarda
– This is one of the best Bonardas I’ve found since that first one in San Francisco. It has a big, earthy nose of dark fruit. I picked up a little plum and it has an astringency I like in red wine. Although I paid $14 for this at an Indiana shop, the wine is widely advertised for as low as $10-$11.

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