Wine Time with Aaron the Wine Guy

Hello Prince Albert! Are you the type of wine drinker that endeavors to taste every possible grape you come across? With thousands of grape varietals spread across the planet, trying wine from every single grape is almost impossible but every journey starts with a single step (or sip), so this week I took notes on a varietal I’ve wanted to discuss for quite some time: Bonarda!

Most people will not recognize Bonarda as a single varietal wine as it is often used in blends to soften aggressive tannins in wines like Nebbiolo. The grape itself has many synonyms and genetic variations (at least 5 of these variations are commonly found in commercial wine). The earliest mention of Bonarda is from 1803 and the grape is believed to have originated in Northwest Italy (specifically the Piedmont region). The Bonarda grape was often called “Douce Noire” or “Sweet Black” in France since it was usually mistaken for another famous style of Italian wine “Dolcetto” (a sweet, red dessert wine).

Another type of Bonarda, which is similar genetically to Douce Noire, was grown and made into wine in the Jura region of France where it is commonly known as “Corbeau” aka “Crow” due to the small, dark berries.

Other regions of the world still make wine using the Bonarda grape and despite the genetic differences, the resulting wines are often similar depending on the quality of the grapes and the production methods used. California makes excellent wine from the grape where it is known as “Charbono” and the first official wine made from the grape is in the Napa Valley from Inglenook winery with its 1940 vintage. This grape became a specialty of the region for a time since it is late-ripening and the hot California sun was superbly suited for the growth and ripening of these small, black grapes.

The amount of vineyard space dedicated to Bonarda grapes, aka Douce Noire has dropped over the decades and as of 2007, as little as 5 acres was still being grown in all of France. As of 2008, California had approximately 88 acres of Bonarda vineyards and the number has not increased significantly since then. The real powerhouse and prolific producer of the Bonarda grape worldwide is in Argentina where there are currently around 46,000 acres of vineyards. This makes Bonarda the 2nd most commonly planted varietal after Malbec. The size and scale of Bonarda production in Argentina completely dwarfs the rest of the world and most of the wine made from this grape is used for affordable, everyday wines (usually put into blends).

Some single varietal wines are made from the grape such as El Enemigo which is a single-vineyard wine. This wine is bursting with intense fruit flavors and the dark cherry note found throughout is mouth-watering on the nose and palate. This is a big, satisfyingly fruity wine which should easily satisfy most Malbec fans. Some of the bigger producers to look out for from Argentina are Zuccardi, Anubis, Chakana or Augusto Pulenta. At close to $40, this wine doesn’t come cheap, but in my opinion, it is very much worth a taste.

Lastly, I’d like to mention the Adelphi blended Scotch which I’ve been sipping on these past couple of weeks. This whisky is a fantastic option for those that don’t want to blow their budget on an expensive dram. The flavors of butterscotch, pear, spice and light smoke makes it a crowd-pleaser and my only real gripe is that the whisky seems to be artificially colored. In the end, this doesn’t affect the quality and this blended Scotch is a delicious bottle to share with friends due to its easy drinkability. As I mention below in the tasting notes, this is a cigar-friendly drop so light ‘em if you got ‘em! Here are my wine and whisky picks of the week! 

El Enemigo Single Vineyard Bonarda 2017: (Mendoza, Argentina). Dry red, deep purple color. The bouquet is full and intense with fruity notes of ripe plums, cooked cherries and jammy dark fruit. To the taste, the wine is full-bodied with medium-plus intensity. There is a ton of fruity character here with preserved dark cherries and plums, sweet licorice, vanilla and ripe dark fruits. The tannins seem mellow at first but they build on the palate with each sip and leave a gripping sensation on the tip of the tongue and sides of the cheeks. After the fruit-packed mid-palate, some warmth comes in on the long finish. A hint of pepper spice blends easily with vanilla, licorice and rich cherry flavors. Acidity is medium which means the wine never tastes too sharp but there is enough zip to balance the weight of the fruit and body. The concentration of flavors is enjoyable and each sip deliver a satisfying rush of flavor balanced with the toasty tannins on the finish. I was impressed with this Argentinian red and I would try it again. Very good! $38, 13.5% ABV  

Adelphi Blended Scotch Whisky: (Scotland). Scotch whisky with a medium caramel/amber color. A quick sniff reveals caramel, pears, butterscotch earth, a whisp of peat smoke, chopped nuts and hints of sea air. On the palate, the whisky has a bit of weight with a slightly sweet and smooth character of cola cubes, caramel, a touch of sea salt, chopped walnuts and a bit of spicy heat near the end (pepper/chili). This is an excellent session whisky which gets easier to drink after each sip and the 40% alcohol level keeps it decently light. Some tannins come in on the finish which supports lingering flavors of pear drops, salted caramel, oak spice and nut skins. This is a great whisky to share with friends or pair with a tasty cigar like the AJ Fernandez New World or the Brickhouse Mighty Mighty Maduro (a 6X60 maduro). Very good! $60, 40% ABV

Cheers and thanks for reading!