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Text by Marcia Gage. Ilustration credit: Daily Beast
Did you know that there are 14 different Mexican wine regions?
Granted, when the average person thinks of Mexico, wine doesn’t top the list as their first thought. It’s hot and sunny in Mexico, right? However, whether you’re Mexican, an ex-pat, or just love to vacation in Mexico, if you enjoy wine, you don’t need to deprive yourself of that pleasure. Mexico has several wine regions with ideal climates, mountainous elevations, and the soil quality and terroir to produce high-quality wines.
In fact, Mexican wines have won tons of international awards. Don’t believe us? Check out these award-winning Mexican wines of 2020
Surprisingly, Mexico holds a couple of contrasting titles in today’s world of wine: Mexico is the birthplace of wine cultivation in North America, and yet it also makes up the New Frontier in New World wine.
Mexican wineries, boutique wine shops, and restaurants work diligently at their PR and marketing game to get the word out about their products, but they still face an uphill battle. Per capita, Mexicans average only drink 950 milliliters (.4 gallons) of wine per year! Compare that figure to United States citizens who consume an average of 2 gallons of wine per year per person. The French, of course, put us all to shame at fifteen 15 per year per capita.
History of Wine in Mexico
Mexican wine mirrors that of the rich and complicated history of the country itself. If we understand the history of Mexican wine, we may better advocate it as an industry now and plan for a bright future for viticulture in Mexico.
The Beginnings of Viticulture in Mexico:
Today, Valle de Guadalupe is considered a top wine destination in the world, wine is produced in 14 different states in Mexico and the consumption of wine is growing year after year.
However, there are still some challenges. Logistically, the importing of corks and labels adds an expense, and wineries sometimes struggle with adequate storage facilities and transportation. Climatically, rainfall, either too much or too little, also poses problems.
The ongoing pipeline controversy pits those in favor of recycling wastewater and increasing production with those who follow the ‘less is more’ philosophy voting for better quality boutique wines.
Even with the challenges, wine drinking culture amongst Mexican Nationals continues to grow, and people started to support the industry by buying Mexican wines over imported bottles. Data shows that in 2015 only 30% of the four million gallons of wine consumed in Mexico in 2015 were Mexican wines. However, as pride in the quality of Mexican wine increases and Mexican wines win international awards in wine festivals, it’s likely that those statistics will average out in favor of the Mexican industry soon.
Apart from the local sales, more and more Americans and Canadians request Mexican wine in wine shops and restaurants. Some restaurants and wine shops in major metropolitan areas, especially in places such as New York City and Los Angeles, have started to add Mexican wine to their lists.
Most Important Mexican Wine Regions
Wine is produced in 14 different areas in Mexico. The areas considered the most prominent Mexican wine regions are Valle de Guadalupe (located in the state of Baja Califonia Norte), Valle de Parras (located in the state of Coahuila), Querétaro and Aguascalientes.
Many people wonder how Mexico can produce wines when most of the country falls below the 30th parallel, which puts it below the desired location to grow grapevines.
The answer to that question is that the mountainous regions of Mexico often translate into warm days and cool nights.The soil also lends itself to wine production.
As you may already know, it’s not the black rich fertilized soil that produces the grapes wanted for wine. Instead, you want it to exist of sand, gravel, red clay, and decomposed matter – which abound in the Mexican wine regions. Along with the likelihood of humid winters and dry summers, this kind of terroir comes close to the perfect conditions for growing wine grapes.
The approximately 16,000 acres used for vineyards produce over 40 different varietals, most of them the classic, internationally known grapes. Some of the most common varietals include Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Riesling, Merlot, Nebbiolo, Cabernet Franc, Grenache, and Cabernet Sauvignon. However, there are some wineries enjoying the freedom of new world winemaking to experiment with odd varieties such as Aglianico, Missión, Verdejo or even Gewurztraminer.
There is also a vibrant and growing natural wine scene in México, with natural wine producers popping up in every Mexican wine region.
In the next paragraphs, we’re going to talk about some of the major regions and why they make up an essential part of the Mexican wine scene.
Valle de Guadalupe Wine Region
If you’re a wine lover who exhausted Napa and Sonoma and can’t quite justify spending the money to go across the pond, Valle de Guadalupe may represent the best bet for your next wine vacation. Located in the northern part of the Baja California Peninsula, the weather remains pleasant throughout most of the year.
If you get tired of gazing at the beautiful scenery holding a glass of wine, you won’t run out of other things to do.
In the last 10 years, the area’s wineries increased from about 50 to over 150, and they offer various combinations of tours, classes, and, of course, tastings.
For many Mexican Nationals and ex-pats residing in Mexico, traveling to this region by car makes for a lovely road trip. If you’re starting your journey from just about anywhere else, it’s easy to book a tour in Tijuana. The area possesses no shortage of hotels and restaurants. Many of these establishments boast a short walk to several of the wineries. If you don’t know where to start, we have listed our favorite experiences and tips to visit Valle de Guadalupe.
Several varietals and blends are produced in Valle de Guadalupe, but the Nebbiolo from this region deserves a special shout out. If you’re ever wondering where to start with Mexican wines, Nebbiolo is a great choice.
The Nebbiolo vines arrived from Europe shortly after WWII and combined with the red clay soil produce a uniquely dark full-body, round wine, completely different from the Barolos and Barbarescos in Italy.
If you’re ready to try it, we carry several Mexican Nebbiolos in our shop with free shipping available to anywhere in Mexico on orders above $2,000 pesos.
Querétaro Wine Region
The Querétaro wine region in central Mexico claims second place in terms of size and wineries, behind only the Baja California Peninsula. Its vineyards stand at an elevation of between 1500 to 2000 meters (5,000 and 6,000 feet). The retentive clay soil seems to provide the perfect nutrients to make this region ideal for producing especially sparkling wines and white wines.
Mexico continues to gain ground in demonstrating they’re competitors in the world of bubbles. With amazing sparkling wines from Mexican wineries such as Cava 57, a savvy wine shopper doesn’t necessarily need to go to the Champagne shelf when it comes time to celebrate.
And, if your travel companions don’t share your degree of enthusiasm for wine (what’s wrong with them?!), this region also offers many other attractions.
The three Pueblos Magicos around the city of Querétaro provide entertainment for everyone. In Tequisquiapan, you’ll experience hot water springs and spas, and you may even take in a hot air balloon ride. San Sebastian Bernal features the third largest monolith in the world, and Caderveta offers numerous caves ad archeological sites.
Coahuila Wine Region
Of course, any discussion of Mexican wine must include the Coahuila wine region. Here in Santa Maria de las Parras in the Parras Valle, Casa Madero opened its doors in 1597. Today, Casa Madero continues to produce superb wines as the first and oldest operating winery in North America.
Coahuila’s low humidity discourages adversities such as fungus and insects. The elevation of 1500 meters above sea level (about 5000 feet) with its warm and arid climate presents an ideal terroir for producing Boudreaux blends, Cabs, Shiraz, Chardonnay, and Semillon.
Arteaga Valley, represents another exciting region in the state of Coahuila that also produces excellent wine. Their cooler climate allows for the production of world-class Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Malbec.
If you’re ever in this area, make sure to visit the beautiful tasting room at Bodega Los Cedros.
Aguascalientes Wine Region
As you travel through the state of Aguascalientes, you’ll see lots and lots of grapevines. Most of these grapes will find their way to market as table grapes, raisins, or brandy. But with its soluble salty soil nestled between the Sierra Madre Occidentals and Sierra Madre Orientals, Aguascalientes managed to climb to the status of the fifth largest producer of wine in Mexico.
Though most of its wine categorizes as mass-produced, boutique wineries continue to emerge, making it the wine region with the most potential for growth. The region started in 1575 thanks again to the efforts of Catholic Monks. Though relatively little happened with winemaking for centuries, the resurgence in this area started after WWII in 1947. Aguascalientes owes its excellent Nebbiolo to vines transplanted from the Valle de Guadalupe.
Currently, only 25% of the grapes in Aguascalientes turn into wine. Still, with excellent bodegas such as Santa Elena and Origen paving the way, we will most certainly see this region continue to evolve.
We love doing business with these wineries!
At Uncork Mexico, we strive to educate you and help you enjoy wines from all over the world. But, of course, we take special pride and enthusiasm for Mexican wines.
We love visiting the various Mexican wine regions and sharing our excellent findings with you.
Wineries from Valle de Guadalupe
JC Bravo is one of our favorite wineries! The owner, Juan Carlos Bravo comes from three generations of grape growers but didn’t enter the winemaking world until the early 2000s. The vineyard has some of the oldest vines in Valle de Guadalupe (50+ years old) and used to sell the grapes for brandy production. When big brandy producers from the region stopped buying grapes, Juan Carlos took winemaking classes and started making his own wines.
The winery produces wines from only two grapes, Carignan and Palomino, and prides itself in being one of the very few wineries in Valle de Guadalupe that doesn’t irrigate their vines, allowing the grapes to fully express the terroir.
Roganto is another family-owned winery producing excellent wines! They specialize in producing mono-varietal wines from noble grapes and have been collecting international awards every year. Just in 2019, they were awarded the Gran Gold Medal for their Malbec wine and another gold medal for their Syrah.
You can also see our full selection of Wines from Valle de Guadalupe here.
Wines from Querétaro
Vinaltura does an exemplary job of working with nature and respecting the environment. The locals in the area love it, and it’s no wonder as its wines boast several awards. Their white wines show beautiful balance and are amongst the best we have tried from Mexico.
Cava 57 is our go-to when looking for a Mexican sparkling wine. They work with Lluis Raventos, the representative of Cava Freixenet in Mexico, to produce excellent cava style wines.
You can see our full selection of wines from Querétaro here.
Wines from Coahuila
Bodega los Cedros is one of our favorites in the Coahuila region! You would need to go back to 1911 to trace its origins. This winery emerged from land in the Sierra de Arteaga bought by Rosendo Davila. Five generations tended the Rancho el Cerrito when finally, Rosendo A Villarreal came up with the idea of planting a vineyard in 2009. They work with Spanish renowned Spanish oenologist Jose Trillo to innovate their processes and guarantee great results in all their wines.
Wines from Aguascalientes
We look forward to watching the Aguascalientes region continue to grow. We love doing business with Bodega Origen as its establishment reflects respect for both the land and the technology making it an important contributor in Mexico’s wine culture. We’re proud to carry outstanding wines from Bodega Origen.
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