Hearing a name like Domaine Bousquet conjures up a French chateau in one’s mind and you wouldn’t be far off, except this particular property is located in Argentina. Argentina is best known for Malbec, the Bordeaux transplant grape that found its natural home in the Uco Valley’s high-altitude and sunny climate near Mendoza. In fact, the Gualtallary district at 4000 feet in Mendoza’s Tupungato department of the Uco Valley produces some of Malbec’s finest expressions.
This cool climate area fascinated French winemaker Jean Bousquet when he vacationed there in 1990 to the point that he fell in love with it and ended up purchasing 1000 acres of land by 1997. Jean’s acquaintances told him he was crazy as no one was yet making wine there and the area was, by all appearances, a desert. But, like most great ideas, someone has to dare to go first. The daily diurnal temperature shifts and multitude of sunny days were an instant attraction for a Frenchman interested in making vibrant wines with fruit-forward expressions.
Fast forward to today and Jean’s daughter Anne Bousquet and her husband Labid al Ameri run this dynamic winery that offers not only Malbec but also sparkling wines, single variety dry wines, and even a dessert wine. Even more amazing, all fruit for Domaine Bousquet wines is organically grown, yet the winery offers affordable quality wines as well as a premium line.
Sustainability has always been a focus for the winery as Jean realized early on that one of the keys to his success was the ability to source water in his arid region. He promptly dug a well in order to ensure water availability for his vines.
This early focus on sustainability is carried on by Anne and Labid, not only in producing organic wines, but also in economic ways that benefit the surrounding community. Better overall infrastructure was needed so Domaine Bousquet joined a local alliance of wineries to fund new road construction which allowed better access for employee travel, deliveries, and the growing number of tourists visiting the area. As pioneers in the Tupungato area, these are among Domaine Bousquet’s proudest achievements.
I recently had the chance to try several of Domaine Bousquet’s wines outside of their Malbec offering and was impressed with both the diversity and quality of their portfolio. Argentina’s producers have only recently begun importing their sparkling wines abroad so it was exciting to get to try their Brut and Rosé Brut sparkling wines. Both are priced at a modest $13 and made in the charmat method (which means the second fermentation was in tank versus bottle).
The Domaine Bousquet Non Vintage Brut was made from 75% Chardonnay and 25% Pinot Noir. Yellow in color with dancing green flecks, this fresh and lively sparkler tasted of apples, lime, and dried herbs. Racy acidity backed tart fruit with a zesty finish in an exuberant style.
The Domaine Bousquet Rosé Brut was made from 75% Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay. Pale salmon in color with prickly mousse, this delicate wine tasted of brambly raspberry, peach, and earthy mushroom notes. Elegant in style with a refreshing finish, this wine is perfect for a summer barbeque, fish or vegetable dishes.
Blends of all kinds continue to be popular and are an interesting way to create new wines with familiar grapes. Domaine Bousquet’s Gaia wines (named for “the earth goddess” according to Greek mythology) focus on these types of blends varying each based on the vintage at hand.
The 2016 Gaia White ($18) was made from 50% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Gris, and 15% Sauvignon Blanc. Cold maceration for 24 hours (soaking the grapes at cool temperatures prior to fermentation) helped preserve the crisp flavors of red apple, lemon zest, and dried nectarine found in this wine. French oak aging for 6 months for 40% of the wine contributed a round texture and ample body with a lingering spicy citric finish.
The 2015 Gaia Red ($20) was made from 50% Malbec, 45% Syrah, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine is deep red in color with spicy black and blue fruit, black pepper, and green olive flavors. Persistent yet subtle tannins from 10 months in French oak provided structure to this robust wine which ended on a pleasant savory note. This wine is full-bodied enough to go well with steak but light enough to also work with pork or salmon.
Look for the Domaine Bousquet Varietal Series and the Reserve wines if you’re looking for additional alternatives. Five single-varietal wines are offered in the former including Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Merlot (all $13).
The Reserve line offers wines made from lower-yielding vineyard plots which accentuate concentrated flavors and tannins as well as a bigger-bodied style. In addition, the Domaine Bousquet Malbec Dulce ($18) is a red dessert wine made from late-harvested, raisined Malbec grapes. A lush sweet wine rich in blackberry, cassis, chocolate, and mocha notes, this wine is perfect with chocolate and most desserts.