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Move Over Malbec, Bonarda is Argentina’s Next Red

Written by Madeline Puckette

Bonarda is a stealthy red wine option from Argentina that we think is going to make a big splash in the coming years. It’s actually a surprise that we’ve missed it until now as it’s Argentina’s second most widely planted red grape! Find out more about this delightful red wine and why you might even prefer it to Malbec.

TIP: Bonarda from Argentina is not the same wine as Italian Bonarda. Argentina’s Bonarda is actually a grape called Douce Noir (“doose nwar”). See the notes below to understand the difference between the two.

Argentina Bonarda Taste Profile

Douce Noir Wine Taste and Grape Profile by Wine Folly

Bonarda wines are at first very fruity on the nose, with notes of black cherry compote, fresh blueberry, and plum. Then, they become more complex, giving off nuanced aromas of violets, 5-spice, allspice, and peonies. Finally, depending on whether or not the wine was oaked (though most aren’t), they may have slight smoky notes of cigar box, sweet figs, and chocolate. On the palate, Bonarda has an initial burst of fruitiness, a medium-body, juicy acidity, and a smooth, low-tannin finish. It tastes like an exotic Merlot and it’s just as easy to drink.

If you’re not a fan of oaky wines, this is your diamond in the rough.

How does Bonarda differ from Malbec? Bonarda displays ample color in the glass just like Malbec, but it delivers lower tannins and slightly higher, more juicy-tasting acidity. If you’re not a fan of oaky wines, this is your diamond in the rough, because most Bonarda wines are made with little to no oak. Additionally, for those who are a fan of moderation, you’ll rarely find this wine above 13.5% ABV.

Need some examples? See Bonarda wines on Wine-Searcher.

Bonarda Food Pairing Possibilities

Due to Bonarda’s lower tannin, it pairs well with rich grilled fish, such as this cedar plank salmon. Photo by John Bencina.

Because of its lower tannin and higher acidity, Bonarda is a very diverse food pairing wine. It will match well with chicken, beef, pork, and even a more steak-like fish (think: grilled salmon steaks with hoisin BBQ). Because of its subtle brown spice flavors, it will also do wonders with flavors from the South Pacific (think: pineapple, mango, teriyaki, etc.). Either way, if you’re playing with sweet and sour flavors, red pepper, and your favorite meat/non-meat, it will be hard to go wrong with Bonarda.

Bonarda: Not quite the right name…

The simple takeaway is that if you’re drinking Bonarda from anywhere but Argentina, it’s probably not the same grape as this one.

Douce Noir: Bonarda, as it’s called in Argentina, is not supposed to be called Bonarda at all. The grape was actually DNA-profiled and found to be identical to a rare grape from Savoie, France known as Douce Noir (“doose-nwar”), which is identical to a grape found in old vineyards in Napa under the name Charbono.

The actual, true Bonarda grapes are a group of at least 6 distinct Italian grape varieties, the most well-known of them is Bonarda Piemontese. To make things more confusing, there is also a slightly fizzy red wine labeled “Bonarda” from Oltrepò Pavese in Lombardy that’s actually made with Croatina grapes. And finally, some winemakers in Piedmont label wines as Bonarda, but they are actually made with a grape called Uva Rara… you know, just to make things more confusing.

So, the next time someone tries to correct you, just laugh and ask them this. Hopefully, they’ll fly off the bridge too.

Have you tried a Bonarda Wine? Do you think it’s worthy?


  • Anderson, Kym. "Which Winegrape Varieties Are Grown Where? A Global Empirical Picture." The University of Adelaide. University of Adelaide Press, n.d. Web. 7 July 2014.
  • D'Agata, Ian. Native Wine Grapes of Italy. Berkeley: University of California, 2014. Print.
  • Robinson, Jancis, Julia Harding, and Jose Vouillamoz. Wine Grapes: A Complete Guide to 1,368 Vine Varieties, including Their Origins and Flavours. New York: Ecco, 2012. Print.

Written byMadeline Puckette

James Beard Award-winning author and Wine Communicator of the Year. I co-founded Wine Folly to help people learn about wine. @WineFolly

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