The Right Rose for Argentina


Summer is coming to the northern hemisphere, and consumers’ appetite for refreshing light-colored wines is rising along with the temperatures. Argentina has offered its share of whites to the market, including its flagship torrontes, but rose wines have never arrived in numbers. That can change, and Argentina has just the grape to do it.

Rose can be made from just about any red grape by allowing only a touch of grape skin to enter the winemaking process. With the color can come extra shades of flavor, belying rose’s traditional reputation as flimsy plonk. Winemaking countries around the world proffer their own roses, though the classics are French – wines from Anjou in the Loire Valley, Tavel in the Rhone Valley, and all across Provence in the south.

In Argentina, malbec has inevitably been the variety used in most rose, and with some success. The wines are typically lush with notes of lighter tree fruit like peaches and nectarines rather than malbec’s usual plums. But the competition from France, Italy, and even California is stiffer among rose wines than among reds, at least in terms of prices, and a “rosado” malbec may have trouble squeezing into a buyer’s mindset.

Indeed, it’s hard to imagine a summer going by without the sweet, lingering strawberries of a Cotes de Provence – perhaps the all-time classic rose – alongside a plate of grilled seafood. That could soon change, though.

The change is called bonarda. Malbec’s rustic compadre has long been touted by wineries as the next big thing from Argentina, despite logical concerns about cannibalizing malbec’s own market share. But bonarda has something malbec doesn’t: those same strawberry flavors that cinsaut, grenache, and mourvedre give to favorite wines from Cotes de Provence. A rose made from bonarda, which is produced in enormous quantities every vintage, could compete with the French on both taste and price.

The only problem is that there isn’t very much of it – at least not yet. Only a few producers put out dry bonarda rose, and it’s not easy to find a bottle in the United States. Hopefully more wineries will see the opportunity, and that change will come in a nicely chilled bottle. Salud!

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