Wines of Mexico

  • By Miguel A. Villanueva
  • 22 Mar 2021
  • 5 MIN
  • Level 101
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La Carrodilla - Credit : Miguel A. Villanueva

The origins of Mexico's wine industry date back to the arrival of the Spaniards on the American continent and the conquest of the Aztec Empire in 1521. Mexico’s favourable climatic conditions allowed for the development of wine production, however this  economically impacted the Spanish wine market, and therefore in 1595, King Felipe II limited wine production in Mexico for only religious purposes.

However, two years later, Hacienda de San Lorenzo, today Casa Madero, located at Parras, Coahuila, received Felipe II’s approval to plant vineyards and produce both wine and brandy, leading to the creation of the first wine cellar in the American continent. Although at that time wine production in Mexico showed promise, it wasn't until some 300 years later that it regained strength, when the Santo Tomás winery was founded in 1888.

Following this, L.A. Cetto winery was founded in 1928 by Italian immigrants, then Santo Tomás and Casa Domeq wineries, in Baja California, and Casa Madero, in Coahuila, were consolidated, boosting grape and wine cultivation in Mexico. In 1987, Monte Xanic winery was founded with a focus upon premium wine, and this inspired many new producers.

Production States Or Regions

Mexico produces wine throughout 14 states or regions: Aguascalientes, Baja California, Baja California Sur, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango, Guanajuato, Jalisco, Nuevo León, Querétaro, Puebla, San Luis Potosí, Sonora, and Zacatecas. Baja California, Coahuila, and Querétaro are regarded as the principal regions.

Baja California

90% of all Mexican wine is produced in this region, at a latitude of 32º North. The climate is Mediterranean, and its soils consist of clay, granite, gravel, sand, and fossil remains. It has an approximate surface area of 4,270 ha planted to vines, an average rainfall of 300 mm, and more than 2,000 hours of sunshine in an average year. These climatic conditions and soils make it, together with Coahuila, the perfect region for producing high-quality wine.

The main varieties planted are Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Tempranillo, and Zinfandel.

Coahuila

The Coahuila region is home to Casa Madero, the oldest winery in America. It is located at a latitude of 25º North and has a semi-desert climate. The soils are predominantly clay, sand and calcareous clay. The region has an approximate surface area of 651 ha planted to vine, and average annual rainfall of 330 mm.

The main white grape varieties planted are Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chenin Blanc, while the main red grapes are Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Syrah.

Querétaro

This region is located at a latitude of 20º North, and has a semi-desert climate, with constantly changing conditions making the area an example of extreme viticulture due to the constant risk that both hail and rain pose during the grape maturation. Its soil is calcareous and clay loam, and it has an approximate surface area of 459 ha planted to vine. Querétaro has an average altitude of 1,950 m above sea level, and an average annual rainfall of 550 mm. It is the main area of production for sparkling wine in Mexico.

The main white grape varieties planted are Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chenin Blanc, while the main red grapes are Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Tempranillo.

Mexican Wine By The Numbers

According to the Mexican Vitiviniculture Council, Mexico has "a surface of 37,000 ha planted, obtaining almost half a million tons of table grape, raisin, grape for juice, and concentrate, grape for wine, and for brandy. 12.5% of the total is used to elaborate wine". Likewise, 2.5 million boxes of wine are produced every year and the annual per capita consumption is only 1 litre. These numbers may seem low compared to other countries of the continent, like Chile and Argentina, but they don't actually reflect Mexico's current wine boom.

Producers are focusing upon strengthening this sector through several actions, such as seeking an increase in the number of hectares planted for wine production, setting the goal to reach 20,000 ha by 2025 (vs. the 6,474 ha currently planted).

Producers' efforts to improve quality have certainly paid off, with many Mexican wines earning prizes in international competitions. Some of the important achievements thus far are Don Leo winery's award for "Best Cabernet in the World" at the Concours International des Cabernets 2020, and the many prizes won by Monte Xanic, Casa Madero, and Tres Raíces at the Challenge du Vin and the Bacchus Awards in 2020.

Mexico has a great deal to offer historically, culturally, and gastronomically (Mexican gastronomy has been part of UNESCO’s list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity since 2010), as well as excellent wines.

Mexican food and wines are definitely a great pairing.

If you are looking for a place to visit, come to Mexico, you will not be dissapointed!

La Carrodilla - Credit : Miguel A. Villanueva