When you think of a wine producing country, it’s easy to automatically reference old world countries like France, Italy or Spain. Or maybe you think of new world countries like the U.S., Australia or Chile. Despite the commonality from the standpoint of latitude, climate for both new and old world locales, there are some countries that may not necessarily come to mind when one thinks of wine production, but in truth, actually produce some incredible wines. For now, let’s talk Mexico.
Winemaking in Mexico began in the early 1500s when the governor of ‘New Spain’ (as Mexico was known at the time),conquistador Hernando Cortes, ordered every Spaniard with a land grant to plant 1,000 grape vines for every 100 Indians in his employ. The vines were cultivated by missionaries who needed wine for religious masses and consequently, areas of once inhospitable deserts were transformed into areas of cultivation and wine growing.
The earliest Mexican vineyards were planted around the town of Parras de la Fuente, Coahuila, which translates to ‘vineyards of the spring.’ Today, the wine regions of Mexico are located in the slightly cooler, ocean-moderated climate of Northwestern Baja California, aka the heartland of the Mexican wine industry. About 90% of all Mexican wine is produced along this peninsula in the valleys of Guadalupe, Calafia, Santo Tomas, San Vicente and San Antonio de las Minas. Top producers include Casa Pedro Domecq, L.A. Cetto and Bodegas de Santo Tomás, which is Baja’s oldest existing winery.
Which varietals does Mexico generally produce? For reds, Mexico’s grapes are Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Cabernet Franc, Carignan, Grenache, Merlot, Malbec, Syrah, Petit Verdot and Tempranillo. Whites, on the other hand, are dominated by Chardonnay, Chasselas, Chenin Blanc, Macabeo, Moscatel, Palmino, Riesling, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc.
There you have it – next time you find yourself traveling to Mexico, think of ordering a glass of local wine over the ubiquitous beers. Be sure to check out their less explored wine country and take your wine knowledge to a new level.