Believe it or not, Mexico has the oldest winery in the New World. Despite claims that Dutch introduced vines in the Cape Province (currently South Africa) around 1653, it was Spaniards that started growing them in Northern Mexico 60 years before.
Though still in its infancy, Mexican wine production is growing and getting trendier. The country produces very good wines and is an incredibly good place for tasting and falling for the vineyards landscapes. See what Antony Bourdain thinks about Mexican wine landscaping.
Mexico produced 200,000 hL in 2016, barely 60 times less than Australia.
35th world wine consumer, even less that Peru, Uruguay or Bulgaria.
Domestic wine consumption: 900,000hL, 75% of it is imported.
Though wine production started more than 400 years ago, during most of the colonial times and the early years of Independence, wine was totally displaced from Mexican tables. The late 19th century saw a timid effort to re-introduce vines in northern Baja Peninsula. However domestic consumption was still very low.
Wine only became popular in major urban centres in the late 1980s. Local grape producers saw a new and larger market so they switched into growing high quality grapes for wine production. Though still most of wine sold and drunk in Mexico is imported (mostly from Chile, Spain, Italy and Argentina), currently Mexican wines are growing in popularity and preference.
Per capita wine consumption in Mexico in 2000: 200mL
In 2016 it grew to 800mL.
Still low compared to Brazil (2L) or Argentina (9.1L)
Quality and not volume has been the main concern of major players in the market (Santo Tomás, Casa Madero, Monte Xanic, etc). These brands have earned a number of prizes and medals for their products. Monte Xanic was founded in 1988 and currently is the largest winery in the country, producing over 720,000 bottles per year. Their new winery attracted close to 38 thousand visitors in 2016.
So, what are the best regions to understand, enjoy and taste Mexico wine?
The first vineyard in the New World (1597) was located in this tiny town set in a microclimate surrounded by harsh desert. Casa Madero is heir to this very long standing tradition and winner of an amazingly large number of medals (most recently in Mundus Vini 2017, Grand Gold for Shiraz Casa Grande Reserva 2013). Currently, besides Casa Madero there are only a handful of other family wineries, so most attention in Parras is focused on what Casa Madero is doing.
Parras, as a town, is lovely and considered one of the 111 Magical Towns in Mexico. There is a small number of boutique hotels in town. It is a perfect place to get lost for a long weekend in the oldest wine producing country in the New World. While in town you must consider visiting the ScareCrow Museum (Museo de los Monos). You could say the museum is weird and kitsch. I do agree. But it is also an absolute must-do.
There are tours around the old winery and Casa Madero vineyards. Its facilities are also used in fancy weddings for people all over the country.
Wineries in Parras: Casa Madero, Viñedos don Leo, Rivero González
Valle de Guadalupe
The most famous wine country in Mexico. Conde Nast wrote that if you are searching for “North America’s next great wine country” you should look to Valle de Guadalupe, close to Ensenada and barely 90miles south of the US-Mexico border.
Valle de Guadalupe is where most high quality wines are produced in Mexico. History of this region started with some Russian migrants in the late XIX century. They started growing grapes and the seed was there. Around mid-XX century, Luis A. Cetto, started the first real wine production. His brand, L.A. Cetto could be said to be the trigger for wine production not only in Valle de Guadalupe but in all Mexico.
This valley is not only a wine destination, but a serious gastronomic hub. A number of top rated restaurants have appeared in the last 10 years with a new interpretation of Mexican cuisine.
The best way to reach it is from Ensenada following Highway #3 all the way to Mexicali. Wineries and restaurants start to be found no more than 20min after you left Ensenada. There are tours taking you to a number of wineries for sampling. You should also check BAJAtour which runs all along the Baja Peninsula and includes private tastings in Valle de Guadalupe.
Recommended wineries in Valle de Guadalupe: Baron Balché, Clos de 3 Cantos, Adobe Guadalupe, Casa de Piedra, Monte Xanic, L.A. Cetto, Viña de Liceaga, Hacienda La Lomita
Valle de Santo Tomás
The older, but less known brother of Valle de Guadalupe. I have written that Parras had the first vineyard in the New World. However, production came to a total halt for centuries. So, founded in 1888, Bodega Santo Tomás is the oldest with continuous production in the country. That makes this valley, south of Ensenada and Valle de Guadalupe, the place with the longest standing wine tradition.
Main wineries in Valle de Santo Tomás: Viñedos de Palafox, MD Vinos, Vinart, Bodegas Santo Tomás.
Weather in Central Mexico is dry and with sharp temperature contrasts day and night. Aguascalientes is ideally located for grape production. In recent years a number of small wineries have opened. The most famous and open for visits are Hacienda San Luis de Letras and Viñedos Casa Leal. Aguascalientes is so small that you can visit the two of them in the same day.
In the 1970s, Freixenet, a Spanish brand, decided to produce their wines from grapes grown in Ezequiel Montes county, very close to the state capital, Queretaro. The soil proved to have great characteristics for intriguing fruits. Located above 2000m asl with a stark constrast in day-nigth temperature (25 C to 0C), the Ezequiel Montes vines were successful. Today the valley is covered with many more wineries, but Freixenet remains the best to visit. Here you can try cava, the Spanish-equivalent to champagne. More importantly, wineries are so close to Querétaro City that it is easy to add them to COLONIALTour and ADVENTour.
Other wineries in Querétaro: La Redonda, Viñedos Azteca, Bodegas de Cote