We all know about wonderful Malbec from Argentina and incredible Carménère from Chile. What about amazing Mexican wine? With Cinco de Mayo just behind us, I thought it was a good time to take a look at this country’s wine.
The History of Mexican Wine
- The starting point. Did you know that Mexico has the oldest vineyard in America? It’s true. Hacienda de Casa Madero, in the state of Coahuila in northeastern Mexico, has been making wine for 420 years! The Hacienda, which was established by some of the first Spanish settlers to the area, was given a royal grant to produce wine back in the 16th century.
- The 1800s. A lot of the wine from the early days was made for religious use. After Mexico’s War of Reform in 1857, all of the Catholic land holdings, including the vineyards, were seized by the government. They were then sold to a private group of investors who to this day operate as the Bodegas Santo Tomas.
- The early 1900s. At the turn of the 20th century, a group of Christian Russian emigres relocated to Guadalupe Valley to escape persecution from the czar. Many of them were trained farmers, so they focused their energies on quality winemaking.
Hugo D’Acosta Is Responsible for the Latest Mexican Wine Revolution
Hugo D’Acosta is an internationally trained winemaker who came to Baja from mainland Mexico in the late 1980s. He started by working at Santo Tomás winery, D’Acosta. But he soon began to explore side projects in the Guadalupe Valley, including his family’s winery, Casa de Piedra. D’Acosta was convinced that this rural valley was similar enough to California in terroir to produce excellent wines. He started a wine school and custom crush facility in 2004 called La Escuelita, the “little school.” To date, people who trained at La Escuelita or worked with D’Acosta at Santo Tomás have started more than a dozen small wineries.
Mexico features a wide variety of grapes from France, Spain and Italy. Wine blends are very popular and include some very creative blends, such as Cabernet Sauvignon with Grenache and Barbera. Alcohol levels tend to run high due to the area’s warm climate.
Mexico is divided into six sub-regions:
- Baja California
Many people claim that Baja (from Tacate down to Ensenada) is the new Napa or Sonoma – a trendy wine region well worth checking out. The most important Baja sub-region is Guadalupe Valley, or Valle de Guadalupe locally. This region is known for its granite-rich alluvial soils, which are similar to what you would find in the Rhone region of France. Most of the vineyards are at high altitudes, which allows for some much-needed coolness in the incredibly hot environs.
According to Wine Folly, “wines from this region are typically full-bodied, ripe, jammy, and robust (higher alcohol), and grapes have thick skins to add a deep color. As fruity as this sounds, Baja wines are often said to have a ‘stony minerality’ or saline-like component to their taste, which is attributed to groundwater irrigation and proximity to the ocean.”
Another important Mexican wine region worthy of a visit is Parras Valley in Coahuila, where Hacienda de Casa Madero is located. This valley provides fertile soil for some of the most innovative winemakers in the region.
When and Where to Visit
The best time to visit the vineyards is during harvest, which in Mexico is from July through August. Most of the wineries are located off Route 3 in the Valle de Guadalupe, about 2 hours south of San Diego and just 10 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean.
If you’ve tasted Mexican wine, please share your thoughts with us here. Gracias!
As an independent wine consultant with WineShop At Home, I absolutely enjoy bringing a taste of the Napa wine country home to you one sip at a time. Whether you simply love to drink wine, seek a special personalized wine gift, or are in search of a new wine jobs opportunity as a wine consultant, feel free to contact me for a truly unique wine tasting experience!
WineShop At Home