Bonarda from Mendoza, Argentina
100% bonarda (aka: charbono, corbeau de savoie, or douce noire)
Purchased: 8 January 2017 – $10.99
Opened: 27 Jan 2018
Wine Advocate: 88
Argentina’s wine history dates back to the 1500s when Catholic priests planted vineyards around their monasteries to guarantee wine for the parish and Holy Mass. The country was the first South American country attempting to commercially grow vines, beginning in Mendoza in the early to mid-1800s. Many of the initial plantings came from Chile in the early 1800’s but the varietals that would change world wine history came from the Bordeaux region of France in 1853, including the ubiquitous Malbec. Eventually, Mendoza was producing world-class Malbec wines, on par or superior to those produced in France, mainly due to its high elevations in the foothills of the Andes, well-drained soils, and lots and lots of hot sunshine. Today the country produces 75% of the world’s Malbec.
Argentina is the world’s 6th largest producer of wine by volume, just behind the US and ahead of Australia. It produces about 6% of the world’s total wine. The country has 510,000 acres planted in grapes, 55% in red wine grapes, 25% in roses and the rest in whites. Malbec plantings account for 20% of the total acres planted with Bonarda, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay accounting for another 20%. Argentina has 4 main wine-producing regions: Atlantic, Cuyo, North, and Patagonia.
Cuyo is the largest and most important wine-producing, macroeconomic region in central Argentina and includes the wine sub-regions of La Rioja, Mendoza, and San Juan; with Mendoza being the largest of the 3 by area, population, GDP, and wine production. The region produces about 80% of all wine in the country. The area is arid to semi-arid receiving less than 20 inches of rain per year and experiences large diurnal temperature variations of about 35°F.
The Mendoza region, lapping up onto the eastern foothills of the youthful Andes, is the largest wine producer in Argentina, accounting for 65-75% of the country’s total. A third of the country’s vineyards are dedicated to Malbec with Mendoza also producing the lion’s share of that variety with 85,000 acres planted. The Mendoza wine region is partitioned into another 5 sub-areas: Central Oasis, East Mendoza, North Mendoza, South Mendoza, and Uco Valley. North Mendoza, aka Lujan de Cuyo, designated as an appellation in 1993, contains an additional 6 micro-regions including: Agrelo, Barrancas, Las Compuertas, Perdriel, Ugarteche, and Vistalba.
Bodegas Esmeralda, founded by Don Juan Fernandez is named in honor of his only daughter: Esmeralda Fernandez. The winery is located in the city of Junin, approximately 300 miles west of Buenos Aires and almost 800 miles east of Mendoza, producing wines both for the local market and for export. The winery’s Tilia labeled wines, named after the Latin name for the Linden tree, are all produced for the export market.
Tilia’s Bonarda vineyard, El Mirador, is located 50 miles to the southeast of Mendoza, at elevations ranging from 1,950 – 2,150’ above sea level. The vineyard is in a true desert climate, receiving less than 1″ of rain per month and is carefully irrigated with the Andes’ snow melt waters flowing down through the Tunuyan River. Because of the desert conditions the sun shines 90% of time throughout the year, generating hot days and cool nights, perfect for the Bonarda grape.
The grape, also known as the Charbono in California, is a very commonly planted variety, second only to Malbec, in the Mendoza area. In the desert climate the grapes produce a medium bodied wine of dark fruit and berry flavors with high acidity and medium tannins.
This wine has a deep purple hue with a cherry red rim. A nose full of plums and black fruit hits you hard upon opening. A medium to full-bodied, but soft on the palate, wine, with an earthy, herbal flavor. It has a medium finish with vivacious tannins, well-nigh a Merlot in character.
A good everyday red at a good price. Serve with mild cheese, pasta or pizza. Drink now but it should be good through 2020. Decant and aerate for one hour before drinking.