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.
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