Tasting Vina Antigua Sangiovese-Bonarda 2006

For me, January is a month of financial abstinence; whether I spent too much on Xmas gifts, or I have newly resolved to be fiscally prudent, I tend to cut way back in January. This does not mean that I stop drinking good wine! Well, it didn’t until I moved to Austin and developed a dreadful allergy to cedar pollen.

But in the one day in a fortnight that I am in possession of two working nostrils, I am still able to open a bottle of wine without breaking open my piggy bank. In the spirit of January and the economic asceticism you, too, may be practicing, this month I’ll be reviewing about 6 wines that I bought at Specs for less than $7 each. They’ll have to come in spurts, depending on pollen levels. It’s supposed to rain this week, and I have high hopes!

Vina Antigua S-BDark, purple red in color. Big fruit on the nose, and lots of it: blackberry, blueberry and red licorice aromas dominate. On the palate, vanilla bean, plum-verging-on-prune, blackberry compote, and black cherry mocha. The finish is fairly persistent and not overly acidic. OK balance of light tannin, fruit and acidity, though it errs on the side of fruit. Very suck-downable, and a decent pairing with the vegetarian lasagna I made for guests that night. It would have fared better with a meatier dish, I suspect.

Vina Maipu is a medium-sized winery in Argentina, owned by Carlos Aranda. They’re in a sub-region of renowned wine district Mendoza Valley, called the Maipu. This is not prime land in the Mendoza, being too low in altitude to be truly great, but mass quantities of Very Good Juice is made there every year, vinified, bottled, then shipped to a U.S. distributor, then sold to a retail outlet, then sold to me for only $5.24! Take that, stupid falling dollar!

Oh, and about the grapes Sangiovese and Bonarda: Sangiovese, of course, is still the crown prince of Tuscany, and the backbone of yer Chianti Classico. Bonarda, on the other hand, merely sounds Italian, and is better known as Charbono in California, which also sounds Italian. There is an Italian grape called Bonarda Piemontese; however, Jancis Robinson thinks that the Argentinian Bonarda has more to do with Dolcetto, from the Piedmont, and is definitely the same as a French grape called Corbeau, grown in the Savoie.

The Wine Advocate’s review of the 2005 vintage of this wine was short of effusive, but certainly laudatory. Of course, this is just up their alley: a generous mouthful of juicy, ripe fruit for practically no money. If that sounds like your cup of tea as well, then jump all up in the Vina Antigua without delay. It’s a guilty pleasure that won’t bruise any resolution you’ve made, unless you resolved to spend too much on wine this year.

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