Reserve Malbec, 2018
Mendoza, Argentina, $18.99/$14.99
Alcohol content 14.5%
Domaine Bousquet’s Reserve Malbec is a soft medium-bodied red wine with a silky finish and aromas and flavors of roasted mushrooms and red berries, a well-suited drink for holiday meals.
In the spring, I wrote in this column about Domaine Bousquet Chardonnay, a premium wine that often goes on sale for below $10. It’s an excellent-value wine, and I continue to drink it. The Reserve Malbec is a step up not only in price but also in quality, which makes it a good choice for a special occasion or a festive meal.
This dry wine is a blend made from 100% estate-grown, organic grapes — 85% Malbec and 5% each of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. It is aged for 10 months in French oak barrels and in the bottle for another half of a year before it is released for sale, the tasting notes say.
The grapes are grown in the family-owned winery’s vineyards. In the foothills of the Andes, 4,000-feet above sea level, the gently sloping plots have sandy soils with desert-like climates that swing as much as 59 degrees between night and day and provide the low-yielding vines with 353 days of sun. The arid climate and the drainage of the soils help keep diseases, blight and funguses at bay and allow the winery to grow its crops organically.
The hot days mean the grapes have a higher sugar content, and the cooler nights yield fruit with more acid. The grapes also develop thicker skins as a protection from the heat and cold. The skins are where the flavor is, and the wines from the estate grapes have more body, more tannin, and more flavor and aromatics than grapes grown at lower elevations, the company’s website says.
During a 1990 vacation to Argentina’s Mendoza region, French winemaker Jean Bousquet (pronounced Boo-SKAY) found 1,000 acres of remote, high arid land in the Tupungato district of the Uco Valley. It was semi-desert with nothing planted, no water above ground, no electricity and a single dirt track for access.
Locals dismissed the land as too cold for viticulture, but Bousquet saw it differently. For him, it was a sunny desert beach without a sea. It offered the climatic conditions he was looking for, a perfect blend of hot and cold, and the land prices were a tiny fraction of those in the established wine areas in Mendoza. The land also had groundwater — albeit 500 feet down — that other tracts in the area didn’t.
Despite the challenges and the criticism he faced, Jean Bousquet sold everything he owned in France, including his family’s winery and vineyards near Carcassonne, and bought the land in Argentina in 1997. He planted grapes a few years later and produced his first vintage in 2005.
But he needed help. He called his daughter, Anne Bousquet, an economist working in Boston, and her husband, Labid al Ameri, an equities trader with Fidelity. They decided to get into the wine business. Al Ameri was a natural-born salesman, and Anne had a strong grasp of business details. To develop a market for the unknown Domaine Bousquet in Europe, they cashed in their personal savings and bought a container, 1,200 cases, of Jean’s Malbec, and sold it to buyers in less risky 56-case lots, thus launching the brand and getting the winery on its feet.
In 2011, Jean retired and sold the business to his daughter and son-in-law and his Bordeaux-based son, Guillaume Bousquet, who handles European sales for the company.
Domaine Bousquet is now Argentina’s 15th-largest winery, with 100 full-time employees and sales in 50 countries. The company is Argentina’s largest exporter of certified organic wines.
Domaine Bousquet’s owners are full-throttle sustainable. In addition to being 100% organic, they have encouraged other growers in the region to follow their lead. They also have worked to make the Tupungato area a better place to live, helping improve it from a neglected backwater to a thriving community with good roads and other infrastructure. In addition, they’ve worked to improve the education and training for the company’s employees.
“Sustainability encompasses more than just organic fruit or a reduction of your carbon footprint. It includes economic sustainability for the surrounding community — call it ‘360 Sustainability,’” Anne Bousquet said in a recent interview with Drinks Business magazine.
“The wine industry has transformed the Tupungato economy, but we were there first. That’s why we consider it among our proudest achievements.”
Domaine Bousquet Reserve Malbec is an excellent wine to drink with a fine meal. It’s versatile and pairs well with dark-meat turkey, roast pork, as well as grilled cuts of beef. It also goes well with most dishes that contain mushrooms, and I found it is really good with blue cheese.
The wine is widely available in New England and when you find it on sale, it’s a real bargain; you’ll be drinking a $25 bottle of wine for $15.