Interesting Argentine wines: Bonarda and Cabernet Franc

argentinebonarda

This was a chance to taste some interesting examples of Bonarda and Cabernet Franc from Argentina, with winemakers Sebastian Zuccardi, Matias Riccitelli and Edgardo de Popolo.

Most Bonarda comes from the east of Mendoza, which is warm and at lower altitude, and it has traditionally been used for volume wines. ‘But if you get low yields from good sites you can get very special wines,’ says Sebastian.

‘For many years we thought it was the Bonarda from Italy, but we now know it has no relationship,’ he explains. ‘It’s actually the same as Charbono (or Corbeau), from Savoie in France.’

He adds, ‘it is Argentina’s second most widely grape planted because it is well adapted to the conditions, but for a long time it wasn’t taken seriously.’

‘In the crisis in the 1980s a lot of Malbec was pulled out,’ says Edgardo. ‘At that time there were 16 000 hectares of Bonarda, and 9 000 hectares of Malbec. Now bonarda is still 16 000 ha and malbec is 39 000 ha. Wineries used to make a de-coloured malbac, and in the domestic market there was a big market for white wines.’

‘It is late ripening but can get over-ripe very quickly,’ says Sebastian. ‘Often it moves to the sweetness, so I try to harvest early. Bonarda is also extremely sensitive to oak.’

Chakana Estate Bonarda 2015 Agrelo, Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza
Organic, 13% alcohol. 960 metres. Fresh and focused with sweet cherry and blackberry fruit. Supple and bright with lovely pure fruit and a bit of spicy grip on the finish. This is all about the supple, fresh, pure berry fruits and it’s delicious. 90/100

Michelini Bros Etorno Retorno Bonarda 2013 Tupungato, Vale de Uco
14.5% alcohol. 1100m. Pergolo-trained vines aged over 30. Lovely pure, floral black cherry and blackberry fruit, with almost a slight saltiness and lovely liqueur-like fruit quality. There’s really lovely purity here. Fresh, ripe, seductive but not overdone at all. 93/100

Riccitelli The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From The Tree Bonarda 2015 Vistalba, Lujan de Cuyo, Argentina
60 year old vines, 14.5% alcohol, oak aged. Sweetly fruited and seductive with a nice sweet fruit profile. Blackberries and cherries, with a bit of chocolatey richness. Rounded, sweet and easy with nice berry fruits. Polished and appealing. 90/100

Emma Zuccardi Bonarda 2015 Valle de Uco, Mendoza
13.5% alcohol. Whole bunch, then vinified in concrete amphoras. Chalky soils at 1100 m. Supple, bright, pure and stony with lovely texture and acidity. This has nice fresh acidity that underpins the fruit. The whole bunch adds a bit of backbone to this wine which shows beautiful black cherry fruit with a stony, salty minerality. Just lovely. 94/100

argentinecabernetfranc

‘Cabernet Franc is very interesting here because we can get ripe Cabernet Franc with good character, says Matias. ‘It is good on its own and it’s also good blended.’

Atamisque Serbal Cabernet Franc 2016 Tupungato, Valle de Uco
13.5% alcohol. Fermented in stainless steel. 1300 m altitude. Sappy, green herbal edge to the fruity nose. The palate is juicy, sappy and a bit green with light, expressive red cherry fruit and some herbal overtones. Very drinkable style. 90/100

Zorzal Wines Eggo Franco 2015 Gualtallary, Tupungato, Valle de Uco
13.8% alcohol, fermented in concrete eggs. 1350 m altitude. Rounded, appealing and sweet with nice juiciness and some fine spicy notes. Quite textured with a green herby hint to the sweet berry fruits. Has some grip on the finish. 90/100

Argento Reserva Cabernet Franc 2014 Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza
14% alcohol. 25% oak aged. Sweetly fruited with some pepper and clove notes, as well as a bit of cedar. Supple with nice sweet berry fruits and a savoury twist to the palate, with a hint of chocolately richness. 88/100

Andeluna Pasionado Cabernet Franc 2013 Gualtallary, Valle de Uco
1300 m, 15.8% alcohol. Smells of Fernet Branca. Minty and intense with structured, spicy black fruits and some roasted oak character. Salty and warm with high alcohol. Finishes cedary and grippy with some dryness. Just a bit overdone. 89/100

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