Friday, October 27, 2023

Wines with Altitude: Domaine Bousquet from Gualtallary, Argentina

Imagine a 240 hectare wine estate located in the Andes foothills at an altitude of 4,000 feet above sea level.  The highest peaks in California's Sierra Nevada, Washington's Cascade Range, or many of Colorado's peaks are only 300-500 feet higher. In this environment, rainfall is scant, sunshine is plentiful, and the desert-like climate creates a massive 59° F day/night temperature differential. The area also has poor stony and alluvial soils that are interlaced with layers of sand and limestone. This diverse combination creates free-draining soils that, due to the already mentioned limited water availability, stress the vines.  The grapes react to these conditions by increasing skin tannins, concentrating flavor, and retaining acidity and aromas. 

The Domaine Bousquet estate is situated in the northern reaches of the Uco Valley, specifically in Gualtallary within the Tupungato mountain range. This massive Andean lava dome is one of the highest mountains in the Americas rising to 21,560 feet above sea level.  The winery's founder, Jean Bousquet, fell in love with the region during a vacation and returned in 1977 to plant this estate -- close to the very highest extremes of Mendoza's viticultural limits. There were many naysayers who doubted Bousquet's endeavor, but Jean believed "he’d found the perfect blend between his French homeland and the New World (sunny, with high natural acidity and a potential for relatively fruit-forward wines)". This feat was within the family winemaking tradition which goes back four generations in the South of France.  This tradition continued as Bousquet’s daughter, Anne Bousquet, and her husband Labid Al Ameri became investors and eventual owners of the family operation. And one last important feature, the estate is 100% certified organic.

Domaine Bousquet produces a range of still and sparkling wines released through almost a dozen brands leveraging the ability to plant multiple grape varieties such as Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot  Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, and the focus of this post: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. We received samples of two Méthode Traditionnelle sparkling wines, the Méthode Traditionnelle Chardonnay-Pinot Noir Brut NV ($18) and Méthode Traditionnelle Pinot Noir-Chardonnay Brut Rosé NV ($18). The first grape in each listing accounts for 75% of the blend and as expected the Rosé had a more red fruit character whereas the Chardonnay dominate Brut was more citrus and floral. And both shared a bready - yeasty character. What was unexpected was the softness of the effervescence and their lasting nature as well as noticeable minerality in both wines. Gualtallary's limestone soils may have something to do with this. 

At $18 retail SRP, these are tremendous values which we plan to have on hand during our Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Cheers. 

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