Stained teeth and many a purple-tinged smile at Wednesday's well-attended Argentina Annual Trade Tasting at Lord's attested to the overwhelming predominance of red wines on show - mostly Malbec of course.
Stained teeth and many a purple-tinged smile at Wednesday's well-attended Argentina Annual Trade Tasting at Lord's attested to the overwhelming predominance of red wines on show - mostly Malbec of course. And while this floral-scented charmer may deservedly continue to play first fiddle in these Andean vineyards, Bonarda is snapping at its heels.
"It's not so powerful, it's fruit-driven but it ages quite well," was Anthony Foster MW's understated verdict of this alluring variety. Like Cinderella, it has its low-rent image to lose but once it gets to go to the ball, Bonarda is ravishing.
There was ample evidence of Bonarda's potential: with its high and fresh acidity, its super-charged fruit-of-the forest aromas, toned body and softer structure it shone: Algodon's 2008 Bonarda was still brimming with primary berry fruit and took its stint in 50% American oak amazingly well. Argento's European sales manager Juan Lo Bello who presented a deliciously grippy but full-fruited 2012 Bonarda said "the virtues of Bonarda are that it has been in Argentina for a long, long time; there is a lot of it planted [with 7335 hectares it is the second most-planted red variety after Malbec with 12,564 hectares], but we have old vines and you get good varietal character."
With more emphasis and funds going into Bonarda research at the INTA (Instituto Nacional de TecnologÃa Agropecuaria), he is convinced that Bonarda will no longer be destined solely for indifferent table wines or used as potent blending partner: "the style that Bonarda achieves is extremely accessible with soft tannin and plenty of fruit, another big plus is that nobody does Bonarda as well as we do, it's another USP."
What he of course did not mention was Bonarda's excellent value, with most of the wines on show having a rrp for independents below the £10 mark. Above this level, flights of fancy are quite possible: Chakana's Bonarda 2012 from Agrelo is a prime example: at rrp £12.95 it is an assault of crushed blackberries held within a firm tannic structure and toned by altitudinal acidity. That Bonarda ages beautifully was evident in Joffre e Hijas (RJ Vinedos) 2007 Bonarda showing stony minerality and purity of fruit.
Lee Evans, managing director of Condor Wines, who showed Huarpe Wines' elegant and partly oaked Lancatay Bonarda 2011 has big plans for the variety: "I make it my distinct ambition to raise the profile of Bonarda, it has a lot of potential: juicy fruit, smooth tannin and easy drinkability." Looks like Cinderella's drudging days are truly over.
While Bonarda is proof that Argentina is not just a one-trick-pony, this was also evident in these outstanding wines:
SemillÃ³n 2009, Algodon Wine Estates, San Rafael: golden and perfumed with quince and honey, this bone-dry and textured wine is long and holds your attention. A drink for grown-ups.
Pinot Noir, 2008, Algodon Wine Estates,San Rafael: luminous red fruit, poised but with a gentle grip - at DPD £12 this is cracking value.
DoÃ±a Paula Estate Pinot Noir 2011,Uco Valley: with aromatic red currant, tingling spice and resonant promise, this is exceptional value at rrp £11.
Tapiz Syrah 2010, Uco Valley: dark and mysterious, this brooding Syrah lets layers of white pepper, crushed blueberries and violets lurk just beneath the surface, drawing you in - probably my favourite of the day. Utterly RhÃ´ne-like and incredible value at DPD £7.29
Atamisque Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Tupungato: almost floral with intense fruit and immensely polished, elegant structure, lacy acidity, quite sumptuous and in for the long haul.
Familia Schroeder surprised with two unusual but all the more intriguing wines. Rosa de los Vientos NV, Patagonia is a 100% Pinot Noir sparkler with just 3 g/l of dosage: serious without being austere this showed class and poise, calls out for a sophisticated party. Deseado NV, Patagonia is Argentina's take on the Moscato-wave. A frothily sparkling Torrontes with trapped CO2 and arrested fermentation to a delicious, aromatic, almost frivolous 77 g/l residual sugar. Perfectly balanced, light (9.5% abv) and totally smile-inducing. Pleasure in a glass.