I love so many of the wine stories that I’ve encountered over the years. It’s part of what keeps me so interested in wine. And while I’ve admired the dedication, the perseverance, the family legacies, and even the genius of some, overall I haven’t found that I have much in common with them. More often than not, these are people that are way more creative than me or happened to be born into circumstances different from mine. Not always, but often. But meeting Labid al Ameri, one half of the amazing duo behind Domaine Bousquet, exposed me to an altogether different player in the world of wine.
I had the pleasure of having a leisurely lunch with Labid where a few of us were able to taste his wines and hear his story. While Labid is charming and has a quiet calm about him, when he starts talking about Domaine Bousquet, the intensity just ramps up. I was enthralled listening to Labid discuss his journey and the decision-making that catapulted Domaine Bousquet to the top of the Argentine wine market.
Even aside from his amazing wine story, Labid has an inspirational life story. Early in his life, the Kuwaiti-born Iraqi and his family were forced to flee Saddam Hussein. After finding temporary refuge in Syria, Labid spent his childhood in Madrid, Spain before going to the USA and earning a Bachelor’s degree in Finance from Saint Cloud University in Minnesota. It was also during his time at Saint Cloud that he met his wife-to-be Anne, the other half of Domaine Bousquet. And to be sure, Anne’s story is just as inspirational as her husband’s. Labid shares that he wasn’t much a drinker before college but would drink liquor to keep warm during the brutal Minnesota winters. He laughs as he recalls meeting Anne and how she stood out as she was the only person at the bar drinking wine. A precursor of things to come it seems.
After Saint Cloud, Labid went on to earn an MBA from Northeastern University in Massachusetts which led him to a career as a trader at the Fidelity Capital Markets’ International Equity desk in Boston. It was during this time that he received a phone call from his father-in-law, Jean Bousquet, that would change the trajectory of his life. With his first vintage ready to sell from an unknown winery in an unproven area (Domaine Bousquet was the first see the potential in the very remote Tupungato, in Mendoza’s Uco Valley)1 Jean Bousquet was desperate for help. So he called his daughter and son-in-law for help. Labid ended up quitting his trading job, and the rest, as they say, is history. Well of course, there is a lot more to the story.
Back when he visited Tupungato Argentina for the first time, Labid fell in love and saw so much opportunity as the area was so undeveloped. He always knew that at some point in his career he would have gone out and started his own business. He just didn’t realize it would be a wine business. Thank goodness his father-in-law came calling!
I was all in listening to Labid talk about the business decisions that help put Domaine Bousquet squarely on the map. One of his first critical business decisions that ended up being a game changer was when Labid secured a European warehouse to store their wine. Back then in the mid-2000s, Europeans wouldn’t buy an entire container (1,200 cases) of wine from such an unknown producer. By securing storage in Europe, they were able to sell a single pallet (56 cases) to interested buyers without too much risk on their end. Another important move was the decision to focus on state controlled markets like Sweden, Finland, and Norway because once the wines were listed, it meant continued substantial volumes. Down the road when they had some bad luck with their importers, his keen business savvy told Labid that they needed to have their own U.S. import company. This helped catapult U.S. imports from 10,000 cases to 100,000. And of course, this means that many of these wines are available in my market and so many others.
Today, Domaine Bousquet crafts wines with a French-Argentine sensibility and is Argentina’s largest exporter of organically grown wines with sales in 60 countries. And they are the most awarded organic winery in the world. That Labid is co-owner of Domaine Bousquet means that it has the best of both worlds. Sometimes you get a creative and passionate winemaker that isn’t business savvy. Sometimes you get a business person that isn’t very creative. In this instance, they have both. So this corporate lawyer was more than thrilled (not to mention inspired) to hear Labid’s story and how we went from equity trading to wine.
Ok, ok, so what did we taste? A lot of darn good wine!
And note the amazing price points which are made possible because they are their own importer. Even better is that everything I had at lunch is available in my local market. #Winning
Sparkling Brut Rosé ($13)
A refreshing sparkler made in the Charmat Method using Pinot Noir (75%) and Chardonnay (25%) and is one of the few organic sparklers in the US. Delicate bubbles carry fresh red berry fruit. A pleasurable sip that is quite easy to go down!
2019 Reserve Chardonnay ($18)
Chardonnay from a Chablis clone with 50% seeing some oak and 50% fermented and aged in tank. Well balanced with ripe tropical fruit and cream with mid-level acidity and a fleshy round body. Very prominent fruit profile that reminds you of sunshine.
2019 Virgin Red Blend ($13)
The Bousquet Virgin Red Blend is the only USDA certified organic wine from overseas. It is so certified as it has no added sulfites. The Virgin blend is comprised of co-fermented Malbec (35%), Cabernet Sauvignon (35%), and Cabernet Franc (30%). Quite a complex wine with intense dark fruits, spice, and a hint of herbaceousness courtesy of the Cab Franc along with smooth, soft tannins.
2017 Reserve Malbec ($18)
Crafted of 85% Malbec, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot, and 5% Syrah, this reminds me why I initially fell in love with Argentinian Malbec. So smooth and easy-going with ripe black fruits, licorice, and earthiness. Absolutely perfect with some grilled beef.
2017 Gaia Red Blend ($20)
Initially inspired by the blends from Châteauneuf-du-Pape, this is a delicious blend of Malbec (50%), Syrah (45%), and Cabernet Sauvignon (5%) and maybe my favorite sip during lunch. Gaia is named for the earth goddess of ancient Greek mythology. Labid shared that the wine label came about partly because Anne told him his labels were boring. Ha! This one is beautiful inside and out. Quite elegant with luscious ripe blackberries and black plum fruit.
2015 Ameri ($36)
The Ameri is only made in the best vintages and is Domaine Bousquet’s top wine. Crafted of 60% Malbec, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Syrah, and 5% Merlot, this is indeed a special wine. Blackberry, black plum, figs, mocha and spice, it just coats the tongue like velvet. It’s amazing that they can offer such a quality wine for only $36.
It’s just astounding that these wines are all organic and come at such amazing price points. And as I’d previously heard Anne’s story, I so enjoyed hearing the other half of the Domaine Bousquet story. I particularly appreciated how Labid’s business background was so instrumental in the winery’s success. Certainly gives this corporate gal some goals to shoot for!
For my Houston peeps, these wines can be found at the Smith Street Specs, Whole Foods Waugh, Whole Foods Montrose, Whole Foods Bellaire, Central Market, and of course, HEB.
Stay safe, stay healthy, and drink great wine.
- When Jean Bousquet left his French homeland and purchased his vineyard land back in 1997 in Tupungato, it consisted of tracts of semi-desert, with nothing planted and no water to be found anywhere in the vicinity. There weren’t even any paved roads. But he was determined to make elegant, cool-climate wines like the ones he loved from France. Tupungato provided that opportunity as it was a good ten degrees cooler than Mendoza. Thanks to his vision and his foresight, today there are wells, paved roads (the first being built by Domaine Bousquet), and a modern winery amongst other things.