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Although its roots trace back to Savoie, France during the 19th century, today Bonarda – also called Douce noir, which translates to “sweet black” in French – is most widely planted in Argentina. In its birth region of Savoie, there are only about five acres in production today.

In California, where the grape is also grown, it’s referred to as Charbono. It was initially introduced by its Italian-American winemakers at the height of the 19th century as Barbera, adding to the confusion in labeling, not to mention this grape’s history. Researchers at the University of California-Davis concluded in the 1930s and 1940s that it was actually Charbono.

When poured in the glass, Bonarda produces an inky deep-purple hue. The grape thrives in warm-weather climates. Upon aging for anywhere between 10 and 20 years, new notes of leather and tar often develop, mingling with plum notes that are often recognizable just after release. While a low-alcohol red, it’s still a great pairing with white meats.

Quick Facts

  • Bonarda is second only to Malbec as Argentina’s most planted grape
  • Because few California winemakers produce Charbono, it’s acquired a cult following
  • During harvest, Bonarda is often the last to be picked, following Cabernet Sauvignon

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