Many believe the Bonarda grape was brought over to Argentina from Italy by 19th century immigrants, and along with Malbec, it is the most widely planted grape in Argentina. Genuine Bonarda Piemontese is, as the name suggests, a red Piedmont grape which is now somewhat rare in its native Italy.
Experts are divided as to whether Argentine Bonarda is indeed actually Bonarda Piemontese, or Bonarda Novarese (another Piedmont grape also known as Uva Rara) - the confusion is not helped by the fact that there are several other varieties that are sometimes known as Bonarda. Argentina's National Institute of Vitiviniculture is, however, clear that the variety is not Croatina, which is a Lombardy grape, also known as Bonarda Oltrepo Pavese.
Whichever it is, Bonarda was until recently the most widely planted wine grape variety in Argentina. It has only recently been surpassed by Malbec in area. Despite this abundance, it has not traditionally been used to produce varietal wines - being used instead for bulk production of blended table wines - though there are some notable and outstanding exceptions to this trend.
Bonarda wines can be lighter-bodied and fruity, full of cherry and plum flavours, with soft tannins and moderate acidity. However with concentrated fruit from older vines, and especially when oak aged, Bonarda's can also be big, fruity, dense and tannic wines with deep colour and fig and raisin characteristics. In most Argentine vineyards, Bonarda is one of the last grapes to be harvested.
Traditionally, Bonarda, from Piedmont, was called upon as a workhorse variety. There it performs at its best when blended with the equally fruity, but more structured Barbera grape.
Bonarda is a perfect match with barbeque meats, pasta dishes, pizza and pate and an antipasti platter with crusty bread.