Today's Sponsor
Syrah - Can't be beat with the BBQ! Enter FIRSTFREE at checkout for free FedEx on your first order!

In This Issue
 Argentine immigrant wine The U.S. isn't the only melting-pot culture: This French-Italian wine from Argentina reflects the diversity of the South.
 Crios de Susana Balbo 2004 Mendoza Syrah-Bonarda ($17) Smoky, plummy Syrah and dark, acidic and tannic Bonarda combine in a wine that's great with grilled meats or barbecue. Syrah - Can't be beat with the BBQ! Enter FIRSTFREE at checkout for free FedEx on your first order!
Administrivia Change E-mail address, frequency, format or unsubscribe.

 Learn about our RSS Feed

Argentine immigrant wine

In the U.S., we're so accustomed to thinking of our own melting-pot blend of immigrant cultures that we tend to forget the same is true of many of our American neighbors. From Hudson Bay in the north to Tierra del Fuego in the south, the Western Hemisphere is a melting pot of heritages from Europe and beyond.

This is certainly true of Argentina, which took in just about as many Italian immigrants during the 19th century as arrived in the U.S. through Ellis Island. To this day, Argentina's Latino character boasts a strong Italian accent, and the same goes for the country's food and wine.

Today, staying on the South American theme that we began with Wednesday's featured Chilean red blend, let's have a look at an intriguing Argentine wine, a 50-50 mix of the French-immigrant Syrah and the less-known Bonarda, a grape that's very Italian indeed.

Bonarda is widely grown in Northern Italy, but somewhat confusingly - all right, a lot confusingly - the same name is used for at least three different grapes. Bonarda Piemontese, as the name implies, is grown in the Northwest, where it had long fallen out of fashion but has been coming back in modern times, often in a blend with Barbera. Bonarda is also a synonym for Uva Rara ("rare grape") in Lombardy; and in Lombardy's Oltrepò Pavese region it's a synonym for Croatina, an alternate name that implies a Croatian origin. Some experts speculate that this Bonarda may be the same grape as Charbono, a historic but now fairly uncommon Northern California variety with Italian roots.

Argentina's Bonarda is thought to be the Croatina variety, and - as in Italy - it turns up more often in blends than as an all-varietal wine. In blends, it brings a dark color and ripe fruitiness to the party, and those are good things.

A Syrah-Bonarda blend is a bit unusual, not least because Syrah doesn't have much of a historical presence in Argentina or Italy. This wine from the Susana Balbo winery makes a good argument for the recipe, though. The smoky, plummy Syrah fruit comes through in a wine that demonstrates Syrah's affinity for grilled meats and barbecue; credit the Bonarda, perhaps, for the deep color, berrylike fruit and good acidity and tannins that enhance its structure. Balbo's "Crios" ("Youngsters") line of wines includes its less-pricey selections, meant for immediate enjoyment.

Crios Crios de Susana Balbo 2004 Mendoza Syrah-Bonarda ($17)

This is a very dark reddish-purple wine, almost black, shading to a bright garnet edge. Black plums and blueberries combine in a fruit-forward aroma with a whiff of smoke. Dark-fruit and berry flavors are consistent with the nose, extracted but fresh; it's built on a sturdy core of mouth-watering acidity and soft, palatable tannins. U.S. importer: Vine Connections, Sausalito, Calif. (July 10, 2006)

FOOD MATCH: Its fruit-forward, slightly smoky and structured character make it a natural with grilled meat or barbecue; it was fine, too, with a flavorful combination of bite-size chunks of pork spareribs braised with onions, garlic and fresh tomatoes.

VALUE: In a world where cheap wine is getting harder to find, the mid-teens is not an inappropriate neighborhood for a wine of this quality. Note, however, that my local price was on the high side; most online vendors offer it in a range from $12 to $16.

WHEN TO DRINK: Although Bonarda isn't considered a wine for aging, and it's not likely to evolve in the cellar, the Syrah component and the wine's good structure and tannins should ensure several years of useful life.

Bonarda = "Boe-NAHR-dah"

The winery Website is available in English and Spanish, and includes extensive information about the winery and all its wines:
Here's an article about Susana Balbo and her winery on the importer's Website:

Look up vendors and compare prices for Crios Syrah-Bonarda on

To read and comment on today's column in our non-commercial WineLovers Discussion Group, you can click directly to it at

Today's article is cross-posted in our Netscape WineLovers Community, where we also welcome comments and questions.

To contact me by E-mail, write I'll respond personally to the extent that time and volume permit.

Here's a simply formatted copy of today's Wine Advisor, designed to be printed out for your scrapbook or file or downloaded to your PDA or other wireless device. Syrah - Can't be beat with the BBQ!

Your first order SHIPS FedEx for FREE!
Enter coupon code FIRSTFREE at checkout

Save 31%!
Rosenblum 2003 Yolo County Rominger Vineyard Syrah
Quick: what first comes to mind when I say "Syrah?" Rosenblum? No ... probably not! Yolo County? Where? Well, forget about your expectations (or lack thereof)! Let this fabulous wine speak for itself. One of our favorite producers works magic with this departure from the grapes we know and trust them to impress us with year after year. This Syrah (with a tiny bit of Viognier mixed in for good measure, and heavenly aromas) grows in the rolling, rocky hillsides just east of Napa. When it speaks to me, it cries of ripe and zesty wild berry and blackberry fruit - but with a dark and wild side, just to remind you it's a Rosenblum.
Retail $26
WinebuysPrice $17.99

Shop New Arrivals

Browse Our Syrah

Shop All Wines

All wines always up to 50% off
100% Love-It-Or-Your-Money-Back-Guarantee
Everyday $9.95 FedEx flat rate - any size order

 30 Second Wine Advisor, daily or weekly (free)
 Wine Advisor FoodLetter, Thursdays (free)
 Wine Advisor Premium Edition, alternate Tuesdays ($24/year)

For all past editions, click here


For information, E-mail


To subscribe or unsubscribe from The 30 Second Wine Advisor, change your E-mail address, or for any other administrative matters, please use the individualized hotlink found at the end of your E-mail edition. If this is not practical, contact me by E-mail at, including the exact E-mail address that you used when you subscribed, so I can find your record.

We do not use our E-mail list for any other purpose and will never give or sell your name or E-mail address to anyone. I welcome feedback, suggestions, and ideas for future columns. To contact me, please send E-mail to

All the wine-tasting reports posted here are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores and accept no samples, gifts or other gratuities from the wine industry.

Friday, July 14, 2006
Copyright 2006 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

Subscribe to the 30 Second Wine Advisor

Wine Advisor archives