Domaine Bousquet’s deep dark grapes

By Dr. Mike Rosenberg

Photo: The Andes backdrop the Domaine Bousquet vineyards


This space has a long history with malbec, the varietal that has become the national wine and biggest export from Argentina. Malbec was one of the first wines I ever reviewed around here. Malbec’s popularity really took off in the mid-to-late 2000s, as Argentina started sending more and more of this fruity, sweetly tannin concoction to our shores, much of it from warm climate areas of the Mendoza region. Recently, I had a chance to try some cool climate malbec, produced by Domaine Bousquet.

One of my evolutions as a red wine drinker has been the change of my palate from a love of big, alcohol-laden fruit bombs to an admiration of low alcohol wines with more subtle flavors and textures. Some of this has to do with the varietals I prefer – I’m much more into pinot noir than zinfandel these days, for instance. But a lot has to do with where the grapes are grown. You know, good ol’ terroir. I’ve discovered that I prefer wines from cooler growing climates.

The warmer the region, the more sugar is produced in the grapes themselves – which makes for a fruitier, more alcoholic wine. Cool weather makes grapes ripen more slowly. Sugar levels stay lower and flavors become deeper and darker. If you want a domestic example – compare a pinot noir from the cooler Sonoma Coast versus those produced in Russian River Valley. I was very interested to see how this difference plays out in Argentina.

These Bousquet wines are produced in the Alto Gualtallary area of the region of Tupungato, one of the coolest regions in Argentina. This region, situated 4,000 feet above sea level, is where Bousquet co-founders Labid al Ameri and Anne Bousquet set up shop. The two met in school at St. Cloud State in Minnesota and founded the winery in 2005. I had the opportunity to ask them a few questions about the wine and what they’re terming a “cool climate revolution” in Argentina.

“The cool climate in Tupungato offers plenty of sun during the day, which helps increase the sugar level in the grape and good acidity during the night when temperatures can drop 30-40 degrees Fahrenheit,” Ameri says. “This creates more balanced grapes and allows a longer maturity period that lead to more complex and fresher wines.” Bousquet adds, “The disadvantage here is that that some high altitude areas could get frost once in a while due to low temperatures in spring.” The soils they share also have more in common with those in Burgundy than in most of the rest of Mendoza.

I tried the Domaine Bousquet 2013 Reserve Malbec and the Domaine Bousquet 2013 Grande Reserve Malbec, which are produced from nearly identical blends – both are 85 percent malbec with the rest comprised of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and syrah. The Reserve is aged for 10 months in French oak and four months in-bottle, while the Grande Reserve goes for a year in both barrel and bottle.

The reserve has really pretty nose of cherries, chocolate, and herbs like jasmine. It’s plenty fruity, but it doesn’t have the super-fruit forward nature of other Mendoza Malbec. The palate is full of rich, smooth blackberry and plum with a nice graphite and mineral backing. Tannins are well balanced. I thought it was a very drinkable, if slightly muscular, red, and a solid value at $12.

Where its cousin was full of fruity brightness, the Grande Reserve shows some sexy restraint. The nose is deeper, richer with blackberries and cocoa, as well as a little bit of herb. The first word in my notes is “silky.” I’ve sampled a fair amount of malbec over the years, and this is one of the smoothest. There is rich, opulent mouthfeel that eases on into a wonderfully balanced raspberry covered-chocolate and soft tannin finish. It’s just a gorgeous wine, especially for $20.

I asked the pair what they would recommend, meal-wise, to accompany their wines. Bousquet suggests, “Definitely red meats, red sauces, Indian and spicy Asian food such as Thai. The fact that malbec tends to have sweet tannins cools down the spiciness of the food.”

We went the red meat route and tried them alongside a London broil I’d marinated. It was my first attempt tenderizing meat with a kiwifruit. I was surprised at how well it worked, although I think I’ll still stick to my “salt and sit” technique in the future. (If you want to try, take half a peeled kiwi, mash it up, and smear it all over the steak. There’s an enzyme in kiwi that breaks down protein. In 30-45 minutes, rinse it off. Don’t marinate too long, lest you end up with pudding…)

Both of them, as expected, went well with the grilled meat. There wasn’t a great deal of difference between the two, pairing-wise, so if you’re buying a bottle for dinner, I would suggest going with the less expensive of the two. With some chocolate or to just drink on its own – oy, the Grande Reserve was quite choice.

I like asking winemakers what they drink when they’re not drinking their own stuff. “We love pinot noir from California, Oregon, and Burgundy,” Ameri says, “and we also enjoy chablis, white burgundy, Chateauneuf-Du-Pape red and white, and wines from the Sonoma and Napa regions.”

I’m very curious to see whether these cool climate wines will catch on. Some malbec fans have strong opinions about what an Argentine malbec is “supposed to” taste like. Exploring these and other Tupungato creations will certainly be on my list moving forward.

Reach DCP Wine Critic Dr. Mike Rosenberg at or visit his blog at

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Mike Rosenberg
Reach DCP freelance writer Mike Rosenberg at or visit his blog at

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