Domaine Bousquet: how a winemaker swapped his French winery for an Argentine one, and then his Kuwait-born Iraqi son-in law grew it to be the country’s leading organic winery

This week I met with Labid al Ame­ri (pic­tu­red abo­ve), co-owner of Domai­ne Bous­quet, in Lon­don to hear the story of how this French-owned winery grew to beco­me Argentina’s lea­ding orga­nic pro­du­cer, and also to tas­te through some of the wines.

The story begins with a vine­yard owner who swap­ped the south of Fran­ce for Argen­ti­na. Jean Bous­quet was the third gene­ra­tion run­ning his winery in Car­cas­son­ne, but on a trip to Argen­ti­na in 1990 he beca­me con­vin­ced of some of the untap­ped poten­tial here, par­ti­cu­larly in higher alti­tu­de sites. He sold the French winery and star­ted plan­ting vines in Gual­ta­llary, a high-alti­tu­de subre­gion of the Uco Valley in Men­do­za. Bous­quet were one of the two pio­neers in the region, which now is the most sought-after sub-region in Men­do­za – at the time peo­ple thought it was just too cold for making good wine consistently.

When Jean arri­ved in the late 1990s, land here was for sale for $100 a hec­ta­re. He wan­ted to buy 400 hec­ta­res, but when the locals saw a French wine­ma­ker snif­fing around, the pri­ce increa­sed by a fac­tor of 10, but Jean still pur­cha­sed his 400 hec­ta­res, even at the ele­va­ted pri­ce. The­se days plan­ted vine­yard land here goes for $100 000 per hec­ta­re. 2002 was the first har­vest from Bousquet’s vine­yards. He’s still the lar­gest vine­yard hol­der in Gualtallary.

So whe­re does Labid come in? He a Kuwait-born Ira­qi, grew up in Spain, and moved to the USA whe­re he stu­died in Min­ne­so­ta. He’d seen the film Wall Street, and had deci­ded that he wan­ted to beco­me a ban­ker. He follo­wed through on the­se dreams and beca­me a tra­der with Fide­lity, and then wor­ked his way up to beco­me head of the tra­ding desk.

During this time he met and married Jean Bousquet’s daugh­ter, Anne, who was wor­king as an eco­no­mist. ‘I heard that my father-in-law had sold his winery in Car­cas­son­ne and went to Argen­ti­na in 1998,’ says Labid. ‘I said that’s so crazy, to sell a winery in Fran­ce to go to Argen­ti­na. Back then, Argen­ti­na was unk­nown. I said, becau­se he is crazy, I want to meet him, so I went to Argen­ti­na and I was in love with the place.’

In 2002 they visi­ted her parents’ winery in Argen­ti­na, and Labid ended up joi­ning the family busi­ness in 2005, whi­le Anne con­ti­nued as an eco­no­mist, until the couple took char­ge of Domai­ne Bous­quet in 2011. They live in the USA but spend qui­te a bit of time in Argen­ti­na too. And this has beco­me Argentina’s most sig­ni­fi­cant orga­nic pro­du­cer. Recently, they beca­me only the fourth winery to recei­ve Rege­ne­ra­ti­ve Orga­nic Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, and the first winery in the southern Hemisphere.

Nowa­days, Domai­ne Bous­quet pro­du­ces 4 million litres a year, both from their own vine­yards and also other gra­pes pur­cha­sed from neigh­bours in Tupun­ga­to (of which Gual­ta­llary is part) and exports 95% of its volu­me. Labid has esta­blished sepa­ra­te impor­ting com­pa­nies in USA, Euro­pe and Brazil.

Bousquet’s strength is con­sis­tency and value for money. The styls is one that tends to fresh­ness, hel­ped by the high alti­tu­de of the vine­yards. All the­se wines are good, but in par­ti­cu­lar the Fin­ca Lalan­de, on the shelf at Wai­tro­se at £10.49, is a bar­gain, becau­se there’s a pro­mo­tio­nal mecha­nic whe­re this is offe­red from time to time at £7.

The top wine is Ame­ri. ‘I said to my wife that all our wines have your name on them,’ says Labid. ‘I said, can I have one wine with my name? She said yes, but just one. So it’s going to be the best wine.’ Ame­ri is a sin­gle-vine­yard wine plan­ted in 1998 in Gual­ta­llary. The­re are two wines – a red blend (65% Mal­bec and 20% Caber­net Sau­vig­non, with the balan­ce Syrah and Mer­lot), and a Mal­bec. Everything is fer­men­ted and matu­red in 500 litre oak barrels with fer­men­ta­tion inte­gra­le (the barrels are sea­led and are moun­ted on rollers). Labid says that that the wood inte­gra­tes bet­ter when the wine is fer­men­ted in the barrel.

THE WINES

Domai­ne Bous­quet Pre­mium Orga­nic Unoa­ked Char­don­nay 2021 Tupun­ga­to, Men­do­za, Argentina
Focu­sed and bright with a nice citrus line. There’s a very direct lemony qua­lity with some pear drop, too, finishing very fresh and inten­se. 90/100 (£11.99 Vin­ta­ge Roots)

Domai­ne Bous­quet Pre­mium Orga­nic Char­don­nay Torron­tes 2021 Tupun­ga­to, Men­do­za, Argentina
This is an unu­sual blend, but it works: it’s a dis­tin­cti­ve, fresh wine with lively citrus fruits and some gra­pey ter­pe­nic notes, with nice pre­ci­sion. Gra­pe­fruit and lime to the fore, finishing zesty and ali­ve. 90/100 (avai­la­ble at Gou­cho restaurants)

Domai­ne Bous­quet Pre­mium Orga­nic Rosé 2022 Tupun­ga­to, Men­do­za, Argentina
Blen­ding together Pinot Noir, Syrah, Pinot Gris and Viog­nier, this is a pale rosé with lively, pre­ci­se gra­pe­fruit and cherry notes, a zesty edge and nice inten­sity. A touch of cran­berry too. Nice zip. 91/100 (£11.99 Vin­ta­ge Roots and Gau­cho by the glass/bottle)

Domai­ne Bous­quet Pre­mium Orga­nic Mal­bec 2021 Tupun­ga­to, Men­do­za, Argentina
Nice flo­ral aro­ma­tics with red che­rries, and a sup­ple nicely weigh­ted pala­te with tex­tu­red ripe fruit. Hints of pep­per and gra­vel, with a smooth finish. Qui­te lush, but well defi­ned. 91/100 (£11.35 Vin­ta­ge Roots, Abel and Cole, also at Gaucho)

Domai­ne Bous­quet Fin­ca Lalan­de Per­mium Orga­nic Mal­bec 2021 Gual­ta­llary, Men­do­za, Argentina
Ripe but fresh with a lovely silky tex­tu­re and nice spicy hints. Has dry dusty struc­tu­re and some flesh, sho­wing great balan­ce. 92/100 (£10.49 Waitrose)

Domai­ne Bous­quet Came­león 2021 Tupun­ga­to, Men­do­za, Argentina
Nice flesh here. This has some flo­ral hints but the main the­me is nicely struc­tu­red open cherry and berry fruits with fine spicy notes and really nice weight. 90/100 (£15.99 Majes­tic, £12.99 mix six price)

Domai­ne Bous­quet Gaia Orga­nic Mal­bec 2021 Gual­ta­llary, Men­do­za, Argentina
Struc­tu­red with nice den­sity, and dusty, spicy tan­nins sho­wing lovely flesh and focus. Nicely spi­ced with some bal­sa­mic hints under the fruit. A subs­tan­tial wine. 92/100 (£16.99 Waitrose)

Domai­ne Bous­quet Gran Orga­nic Mal­bec 2020 Gual­ta­llary, Men­do­za, Argentina
Good con­cen­tra­tion and struc­tu­re here with some spicy berry fruits and a touch of black­cu­rrant. This has nice depth and a good struc­tu­re. Plenty of weight and focus. 93/100 (£19.50 Vin­ta­ge Roots, Davy’s, and on the list at Gaucho)

Domai­ne Bous­quet Ame­ri Orga­nic Mal­bec 2020 Gual­ta­llary, Men­do­za, Argentina
Flo­ral and vivid with sweet black cherry and black­berry fruit. Nice sup­ple fruit here with good con­cen­tra­tion. Shows fresh­ness and purity with an inky den­sity and admi­ra­ble fresh­ness. Juicy and vivid. 94/100 (£32 no lis­ting infor­ma­tion yet)

Domai­ne Bous­quet Ame­ri Mal­bec 2019 Gual­ta­llary, Men­do­za, Argentina
This is ripe and sweetly frui­ted with good den­sity, as well as silky cherry fruit and some sweet plums, as well as a touch of black­cu­rrant. Lovely fresh­ness and den­sity with some green hints and nice sali­ne hints. 93/100 (£28 Vin­ta­ge Roots)

Domai­ne Bous­quet Ame­ri Orga­nic Red Blend 2020 Gual­ta­llary, Men­do­za, Argentina
A blend of 60% Mal­bec with 20% Caber­net Sau­vig­non, 10% Mer­lot and 10% Syrah. Fresh and detai­led with some fines­se. Lovely black­cu­rrant fruit with some green fresh­ness and a sup­ple cha­rac­ter. Qui­te ele­gant, and nicely expres­si­ve. 94/100

Domai­ne Bous­quet Ame­ri Orga­nic Red Blend 2019 Gual­ta­llary, Men­do­za, Argentina
A blend of 60% Mal­bec with 20% Caber­net Sau­vig­non, 10% Mer­lot and 10% Syrah. Rich, spicy and a bit tarry with black­berry and black­cu­rrant fruit. This has nice den­sity and it’s grippy and firm with some spi­ce and tar notes. 93/100 (£28 Davy’s)

UK agent: Enotria & Coe

Find the­se wines with wine-searcher.com

Sour­ce: https://wineanorak.com/2022/11/10/domaine-bousquet-how-a-winemaker-swapped-his-french-winery-for-an-argentine-one-and-then-his-iranian-born-son-in-law-grew-it-to-be-the-countrys-leading-organic-winery/

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