By James Lawrence
James Lawrence finds out how Argentina’s Domaine Bousquet has inspired others by breaking new ground in sustainable winemaking.
Although the global wine market remains in a capricious mood, Argentina’s wine industry has not lost its nerve. Both major producers and niche businesses have embraced myriad innovations, including streamlining formats to reduce carbon footprint and the use of experimental fermentation techniques, driving greater levels of innovation and collaboration. These pioneers understand that the world – and consumer priorities – are in a constant state of flux; dynamism, flexibility, and creativity have become fundamental to success.
“Domaine Bousquet prioritises eco-friendly practices by exclusively employing lightweight bottles for all our wines. All our bottles are under 550g,” says Anne Bousquet, co-owner & CEO, Domaine Bousquet. “And approximately 80% of them weight in at just 420g. Our commitment to sustainability extends back to 2007, when we pioneered the use and export of these lightweight bottles to Sweden. At that time, this innovative bottle, known as the Eco bottle, was virtually unheard of in South America.”
But times change. Domaine Bousquet has inspired others by breaking new ground in sustainability and ethical wine production.
“We are particularly proud to have spread the importance of working organically and sustainably across the Uco Valley, in Mendoza, where we are based. We have supported growers in this region to certify an additional 1,000ha to organic viticulture, which has resulted in both higher-quality grapes and higher prices for the growers,” says Anne Bousquet.
The firm has also spearheaded an innovative biodiversity programme, “protecting the wider environment and encouraging local fauna – including endangered species – which supports biodiversity”. Bousquet continues: “One of its recent projects included welcoming a flock of sheep – which has doubled in size over the past year. While they devour weeds and provide manure for compost, they also help us reduce motor mowing and automatically fossil fuel use by the mowers.”
Meanwhile, leading members of the trade have been captivated by Argentina’s renewed focus on regionality and site-specific wines. Twenty-five years ago, amorphous blending – and varietal labelling – were the lifeblood of many New World brands. Yet the Argentinians now take a more sophisticated and progressive approach. “Argentinian wine has long been associated with its calling-card varieties: Malbec and Torrontes, from classic wine-producing areas in Mendoza,” says Steve Daniel, head of buying, Hallgarten & Novum Wines.
He continues: “For the past few years, however, the focus has been put more on defining regionality, not just in the pursuit of altitude but identifying the best terroirs for a broad range of different grape varieties. From Patagonia in the far south, to high-altitude sites in Gualtallary, winemakers are hunting out the best vineyard sites.” Buoyed by fearless innovation and ongoing investment – with proven results – Domaine Bousquet has raised the quality bar to unprecedented heights.
Q&A (Paid promotion): Anne Bousquet, co-owner & CEO, Domaine Bousquet
Domaine Bousquet is now a major innovator in Argentina’s wine industry. Was that your vision from the outset?
We have run Domaine Bousquet sustainably since my father founded the estate 25 years ago. The organic way is our approach to reach the highest quality we possible can produce. We call it a 360˚ sustainability approach, which – on the winemaking side – incorporates 100% organic winemaking by lowering our sulfite added and in few products, such Virgen Vineyards and Alavida, we don’t add sulfite to the wines because they are healthy and do not need it. Most of our vineyards have completed conversion to biodynamic practices, and we are aiming to be 100% certified biodynamic by 2024. We are also certified B Corp, which is a designation that a business is meeting high standards of verified performance, transparency, and accountability on many factors, such as employee benefits, production, and supply chain practices. The purpose is to build trust with consumers, communities, employees, and suppliers.
Which innovation(s) have had the most dramatic impact on the day-to-day operation of your business, and the quality of your wines?
Working regeneratively has undoubtedly improved the quality of our soil and grapes. Composting is a key element, something we are studying very closely. Effective composting improves both nutrients and physical structure and safeguards against erosion while improving soil porosity. This results in micro development and diversification of the land, which in turn leads to yeast balance which directly affects the fruit, meaning more stable fermentations and fewer interventions. We can already see the effect of this on the health and quality of our grapes and therefore the wines.
What does the future hold?
We are always looking to improve, so we are always innovating, always progressing. Since achieving Regenerative Organic Certified (ROC) status last year, our focus has been on soil health, which ties in to becoming carbon net zero. One of the routes to this is stopping tillage, and alongside the composting is continuing to encourage cover crops to improve biodiverse nutrients and soil structure, all contributing to carbon sequestration. We are working on a comprehensive sustainability report in line with the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, Global Reporting Initiative and UN Sustainable Development Goals to measure all our outputs, from the vineyards through production to the consumer, and how we can then continue to minimise our impact on the environment.