In Argentina I not only discovered some of the tango legends like Carlos Gardel and Astor Piazzolla but I discovered Bonarda. It was a hot Argentine summer’s day when we visited Bodegas La Guardia (La Guardia Winery) in San Juan Province. San Juan is about a two-hour drive north of the city of Mendoza, Argentina, which is well known for its wine tourism. San Juan Province, the second largest wine-producing province is more modest about its accomplishments than Mendoza. We had read that San Juan wineries were friendly and less touristy; so despite the high summer temperatures we decided to visit Bodegas La Guardia. We are so glad we did because at Bodegas La Guardia we got to taste Bonarda for our first time.
Bodegas La Guardia
Bodegas La Guardia is a winery with an interesting history. Their vineyards are located at the foothills of the Andes in the Tullum, Zonda and Pedernal Valleys. The winery produces a variety of wines. Their reds include Malbec, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Bonarda while their whites include Chardonnay, Torrontés and Viognier.
Bodegas La Guardia offers a tour for visitors. During our tour we discovered that La Guardia also produces some vino patero mostly for local consumption. However, our hostess told us that some is shipped to Argentines living abroad as well. Our hostess offered us four different red wines and two whites to taste. This was our first time to taste Bonarda. According to our hostess, Bonarda is unique to Argentina. We found it to be a very smooth, fruity wine. Throughout our Argentine wine travels we tried Bonarda wine at a number of wineries.
About a year later while dining at Ristorante Le Pietre Cavate in Milan Italy we ordered a bottle of 2009 Bonarda DOC Conti di Gambarana wine. We had liked Bonarda wines in Argentina and so why not try it in Italy. We soon discovered that the Bonarda we ordered was fizzante (sparkling) red wine, not the Argentine Bonarda. What I have since discovered is that Bonarda is the second most popular grape in Argentina. It was once the most popular grape in Argentina but lost its position due to focus on the production of Malbec and Torrontés. I have also discovered that Bonarda is a name applied to a variety of red wines. In Argentina the wine comes from Charbono of California grape. However, Bonarda we tried in Italy was Bonarda Oltrepo’ Pavese, which is a light, fruity sparkling wine.
There has been discussion on the origin and future of Bonarda. I-Wine Review Blog discusses the origin, style and future of Bonarda. Spin the Bottle discussed the use of Bonarda to describe wines in Italy and Argentina. Good Cheap Vino notes that Argentine Bonarda is not well known outside Argentina. This is certainly the case in the U.S. Vinisur recently posed the question: Is Bonarda the new 100% Argentine star? I think this is a great question. The Argentine Bonarda that we tasted certainly maybe.
Reflecting back on our visit to Bodegas La Guardia it was a wonderful introduction to Argentina’s Bonarda. If you have not tried Argentine Bonarda check it out. If you are planning a trip to explore Argentine wine then consider including San Juan. We loved the friendliness of the city of San Juan. We had no problem finding great food in San Juan. We also visited a day spa down the street from our hotel apartment, Rocio. You will lots of online information, which is quite useful for planning a wine tour, locating accommodation and other services in San Juan. In addition to Bodegas La Guardia the valleys of Ullum, Tulum and Zonda surrounding the capital city of San Juan have wineries that are worth visiting. There are also other promising areas throughout the province, such as Valle de Pedernal. Other than Bonarda San Juan Province is also known for its Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon; its sherry style wines, brandies and Vermouth.
During our Argentine travels we were most fortunate to have tasted Bonarda and other wines not only in San Juan but in Mendoza, Salta and Neuquén wine producing provinces. This allowed us to do extensive wine tasting throughout Argentina. In general, the wines are quite good, and would measure up to any wines in the world. I invite you to join me in my travels in Argentina and elsewhere in search of the best in Spaswinefood. You may also visit my travel column at the Examiner.
© Sharon Parsons
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