Ok, everybody buckle up for this one. The topic today is Argentinian Bonarda, and it's a tough grape to really pin down. For starters, there are several different Bonardas: there's Bonarda Piemontese, grown in Italy's Piedmont region and which has the synonyms Bonarda dell'Astigiano, Bonarda di Chieri, Bonarda di Gattinara or Bonarda del Monferrato; there's Bonarda dell'Oltrepò Pavese, grown in the Lombardy region of Italy and also known as Croatina; and finally there's Bonarda Novarese, grown around Piedmont and Lombady and also known as as Uva Rara. According to Argentinawineguide.com, the Bonarda grown in Argentina is either Bonarda Piemontese or Bonarda Novarese. Jancis Robinson (In the Oxford Companion to Wine), Oz Clarke (in his Grapes and Wines) and Wikipedia disagree and believe that Argentinian Bonarda is actually Charbono. But which Charbono? There is a Charbono grown in California, that it turns out is actually a French grape also known as Corbeau in Savoie. Some sources (Oz Clarke is on the fence, but Jonathan Alsop in his Wine Lover's Devotional) also believe this Charbono is the same as Dolcetto, grown in the Piedmont, but genetic testing says that this isn't the case. There is also an Italian Charbono grown in Barbera and Dolcetto vineyards in Piedmont which is not related to Corbeau or Dolcetto at all, which Jancis Robinson believes is the true Bonarda.
So which is it? The answer is, we still don't know. The strongest case seems to be for the Italian Charbono (UPDATE: As noted in the comments below, the French Charbono, or Corbeau, actually seems to be the closest match and Argentina is allowing winemakers to label their Bonarda as Corbeau if they wish. Thanks to commenter Gavilan Vineyards for the information). There is a large number of descendants of Italian immigrants in the country, with an estimated 60% of the population having some degree of Italian descent. Many of the Italian immigrants came from the Piedmont and Lombardy regions, where the Italian Charbono hails from. In any case, more research will need to be done to figure out what Bonarda actually is.
When most people think about Argentine wine, Malbec is what immediately springs to mind. Malbec is by far the most planted red grape in Argentina with over 20,000 hectares devoted to it in 2003. Before Malbec became the big star, Bonarda was the most planted red grape in Argentina and it is currently the 2nd most planted red grape there with about 16,000 hectares planted (Cabernet Sauvignon is a very close third and likely to overtake Bonarda soon with 15,440 acres planted). It is not as omnipresent in the US marketplace as Malbec, but it is easily obtainable from larger wine shops.
The bottle I picked up was the 2006 Trapiche Broquel Bonarda from Mendoza, Argentina. I paid about $18 for it. The wine was inky purple/black in the glass with incredibly deep saturation. It was completely opaque with even a small tasting pour in the glass. The nose is rich and complex with aromas of bittersweet chocolate, blueberry jam, intense black cherry aromas, boysenberries, blackcurrants/creme de cassis, and espresso. The perfume on this was rich, heavy and dense and I could have probably smelled it for about half an hour without getting tired of it. On the palate, the wine is full bodied and intensely rich with flavors of chocolate, charcoal, cola, blackcurrant and blackberries. This is a wine that Robert Parker would probably use the phrase "gobs of fruit" for. The fruit flavors are rich and sappy, so extracted that it's almost sweet, but there are those nice earthy elements there also that keep this from tasting like syrup. There is a nice acid base and fine, powdery tannins. This is a blockbuster of a wine for the price and would be ideal with grilled meats, steaks, roasts or just sitting in front of a fire and relaxing. If you're a fan of rich, extracted new-world red wines, this is just the things you are looking for. Whatever grape is actually in this bottle is pretty tasty.
(See also my post on Sangue di Giuda for more information on Bonarda in Italy)