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Raise Your Glass: Desert yields a wonderful dry Chardonnay

  • Warren Johnston. Copyright (c) Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



For the Valley News
Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Domaine Bousquet

Chardonnay, 2017

Mendoza, Argentina

$13.99/$10.99 on sale

Alcohol content: 13%

Domaine Bousquet Chardonnay is a refreshing wine that is well suited for sipping with appetizers or with a meal of grilled fish or chicken on a warm evening.

This dry, unoaked wine is 100 percent Chardonnay and is a bright yellow color with aromas of citrus and tropical fruit and flavors of apple, pear and mild spice, the tasting notes say.

The vines that produce the organic grapes for the wine are grown in some of the highest vineyards in the world, 4,000 feet above sea level in the Andean foothills, arid land with sandy soils.

French winemaker Jean Bousquet (pronounced Boo-skay) stumbled on the unlikely future vineyard in the scenic, remote Gualtallary Valley in the Tupungato district in Argentina’s Mendoza region, during a 1990 vacation, his daughter Anne Bousquet said in a 2018 interview with Drinks Business magazine.

Today, the area produces some of Mendoza’s finest wines, but when Jean Bousquet considered buying 1,000 acres, he was scoffed at even by the real estate agent selling the property, who suggested he was buying a beach without a sea.

Bousquet recognized the terroir as having all the right ingredients — high acidity, cool climate, lots of sun — to produce fruit-forward wines. And the price was $1,000 an acre versus $30,000 in Argentina’s more established wine-growing areas.

In 1997, Bousquet sold his interest in vineyards in Languedoc, France, purchased nearly 1,000 acres of desolate land and moved to Argentina. His first task was to establish a well, almost 500 feet deep, to feed a drip irrigation system. Other hopeful grape growers who had come before him had failed because of a lack of water. He planted more than 170 acres of vineyards, and the dry climate allowed the grapes to be grown organically without pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers.

Anne Bousquet and her husband, Labid Al Ameri, who met in graduate school in Minnesota, started investing in Domaine Bousquet in 2002 and built the winery.

Anne, who was raised in France, became an economist in the paper packaging industry. Labid, an Iraqi born in Kuwait who emigrated to Spain when he was 10, was a financial trader. However, Jean Bousquet’s love of wine and the beauty of his vineyards were infectious, and they caught the bug, a 2016 article in the Huffington Post says.

Anne and Labid moved to Tupungato in 2009 and created the structure of the family-owned business. She is the CEO and co-founder and runs the day-to-day operation and handles financial planning and business development. Labid is president and co-founder. He is in charge of marketing and sales. Guillaume Bousquet, Anne’s brother, also is a partner and European sales manager, the company website says. Jean Bousquet retired in 2011.

To raise money and keep operating, the Bousquets sold off a portion of the company’s acreage, retaining initially 173 acres by the time they bottled their first vintage in 2005, Anne Bousquet said in the Drinks Business interview.

“Bottle by bottle, money was raised to buy a vat or equipment,” she said.

Today, Domaine Bousquet has a modern winery with a hospitality area and restaurant. The property now has 667 acres planted in vines, all certified organic.

Anne Bousquet says farming organically improves the quality of the grapes and the wines, and the critics seem to agree with her. The company’s higher-priced wines as well as the more affordable premium lines, such as the Chardonnay, have received ratings in the high 80s and low 90s on a 100-point scale.

Not only does Domaine Bousquet farm organically, but the company also invests in community infrastructure and trains its employees in viticulture and office work. In addition to using light-weight glass on bottles to save energy, the company is installing solar panels to provide all of the company’s electrical needs.

Domaine Bousquet is ranked among the top 20 Argentine wine exporters and is the leader in organic wine. The company produces about 3 million bottles a year with 95 percent of the production going to more than 50 countries.

Along the way, the company has been helped by a devaluation of Argentine currency, which made land cheap and the country’s exports very competitive in worldwide markets, Anne Bousquet said.

Since 2015, she and Al Ameri have lived in Miami, running their import companies. They alternate spending a week each in Tupungato, checking on the quality of the wines and the daily operations.

Domaine Bousquet Chardonnay is a great value and a fine unoaked wine for spring, summer and fall. It is widely available in New England. I like this wine a lot. Check it out.

Suggestions of wines in the $10 range are always appreciated. Warren Johnston can be reached at raiseyourglassofwine@gmail.com. For past recommendations, go to raiseyourglassofwine.com.