Bonarda Alert

By now, most wine consumers are aware of the success in the transplantation
of Malbec from its roots in the French Cahors region, to thriving in the relative
new world surroundings of Argentina. Less well-known is the intriguing story of
the Bonarda grape: the region’s second-most planted variety. Currently, debate
and uncertainty continues to swirl about its origin with some expert speculation
suggesting that its parent vine stock is Bonarda Piemontese or Novarese from
Italy. Others propose that it’s the French grape Corbeau in disguise, which is now
nearly commercially extinct in its native, sub-alpine region of Savoie. What does
seem somewhat more certain, in a cross-cultural farming legacy with so many
twists and turns, is that it was imported to South America by Italian immigrants
who are credited with the further development of the vineyards first established
by Spanish missionary priests, then improved on by French botanists – and now
being very innovatively overseen by visionary, homegrown talent!

Launched in 2000, the ‘VinEcol’ winery project set out to join the leading-edge of
the organic wine-making scene that has quickly developed both in Chile and here
in Argentina’s famed Mendoza region. Arguably, these wine-making regions enjoy
unique geographic and climatic attributes such as high altitude and low humidity
which guard against many of the scourges and susceptibilities suffered by grape
vines elsewhere such mold, fungus and insects. This reality has made transition
to organic practices much less complicated, though no-less admirable a pursuit.

Desirably situated at the edge of the Ñacuñan Biosphere Reserve in the district
of La Paz, the bodega’s 80 hectares of trellised vineyard excel in an unspoiled
and almost pollution-free environment. Some challenges exist though, in what is
essentially a near-desert environment created and perpetuated by being in the
‘rain-shadow’ of the Andes range. The upside to this is the relative abundance of
melt water from the mountains, which feeds the Mendoza River and then in turn,
gets distributed throughout the dusty plain – offering growers the option of drip
and/or surface (flood) irrigation.

As the ‘organic’ farming movement is still in its early years, there are numerous
outstanding questions regarding the impact of these regimes and philosophy on
quality and flavor. In the case of this week’s DéClassé recommended bottling of
VinEcol Bonarda, the questions are moot; this is simply great wine being offered
at a remarkably modest price-point. Dare to try it ever-so-slightly chilled as your
new, go-to summer red. Better buy a bunch before it’s gone until next year!

Vinecol Bonarda

VINTAGES – LCBO Product #375493 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 15.95
14.0% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD

Made in: Mendoza, Argentina
By: Winery Vinecol Sa
Release Date: Jun 21, 2014

Tasting Note
This rich, ink-coloured and pleasingly rustic wine has loads of dark berry fruit,
chocolate and a touch of spice. Try serving with grilled meats, roasted veggies,
or as an apéritif with slightly more assertive cheese such as Pecorino.