A tour of the world of Mexican wine

Contrary to what you might think, wine in Mexico has a long story.

We will go back to before the Spanish conquest, when table grapes already existed and were consumed by nomadic peoples such as the Purépechas, Mexica, Otomi, Tarahumara, and more.

The “Vitis Vinifera,” better known as the wine grape, was introduced by the conquerors. The religious missionaries were dedicated to producing wines for consecration and fortified wines from a grape called “Mission.”

Hernán Cortes is considered the leading promoter of wine in Mexico as he ordered the planting of Vitis Vinifera in the country. In fact, on March 20, 1524, Hernán Cortés signed a decree ordering that all Spaniards should annually plant a thousand Spanish and native vineyards for every hundred indigenous people at their service to achieve rapid hybridization in the new lands.

This is how viticulture began to expand throughout the New World, with Mexico as the place where the first vines were planted.

Casa Madero

The first winery on record in the American continent is Casa Madero, located in Parras, Coahuila, Mexico, and it continues to operate today.

Casa Madero was founded in 1597, thanks to the Spanish Crown, which allowed its establishment, according to information documented in the Libro de las Mercedes. The wine labels from Casa Madero feature extracts from that book.

Although wine already existed in Mexico, the wineries produced table wine, wine for distilling (such as Pedro Domecq), and consecration wine.

Two other important references in the wine industry in Mexico are:

  • Bodegas Santo Tomas, founded in 1888, is the first winery in all of Baja California.
  • A. Cetto, also located in Baja, California, was founded in 1928. It is the most important company in Mexico in terms of production quantities.

It was not until 1980 that quality in wine began to be committed, thanks to the visionary Vinícola Monte Xanic located in Baja, California. This was a turning point since, from this point on, the wineries that already existed began to produce higher-quality wines.

vineyard closer look

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Important Wine States

Baja California

In the north of the country, bordering California, USA, and located in the wine belt, is the region where more than 85% of Mexican wine is produced. It has a Mediterranean climate with cold winters and hot summers and a marked thermal difference between night and day. Although Valle de Guadalupe is the most famous and well-known sub-region, others include Valle de Ojos Negros, Valle de Santo Tomás, Valle de San Vicente, etc.

Today, Baja California has more than 200 wineries. The oldest in this region is Santo Tomás, founded in 1888. Some of the best known and most important are:

LA Cetto, Bodegas Santo Tomas, Monte Xanic, Magoni, Adobe Guadalupe, La Carrodilla y a Lomita, Chateau Camou, Vena Cava, El Cielo, Montefiori, Casa de Piedra, and more!

Coahuila

This state is second in command in terms of production quantity. Its location in the highlands with a semi-desert climate allows for experimenting with different grape varieties.

The Parras Valley is the best-known sub-region, and Casa Madero is the oldest winery in America that is still operating today. Parras has grown little by little; today, more than 18 wineries are known in this region. Some examples are: Viñedos Don Leo, Rivero González, and Parvada, among others.

Querétaro

Querétaro is the third main state in the production of wine in Mexico. This region is known for producing sparkling wines thanks to the altitude of 2,000 meters above sea level, its semi-dry climatic conditions, and thermal differentials. Some subregions are Tequisquiapan, Ezequiel Montes, El Marqués, and San Juan del Río.

One of the most important wineries in this region is Finca Sala Vivé, owned by the renowned sparkling wine producer in Catalonia: Freixenet. Some other important wineries are: La Redonda, De Cote, El Marqués, among others.

Guanajuato

It is said that this was where the first vines in all of Mexico were planted, but it was not until a few years ago that this area began to position itself on the Mexican wine map. Some of the most important wineries are Cuna de Tierra, Dos Búhos, Cava Garambullo, Viñedos SMA among others.

This region has excellent wine tourism and real estate projects with vineyards.

San Luis Potosi

This state, located in the center of Mexico, has recently begun producing high-quality wines. Although there are still very few producers, they are beginning to position themselves and be recognized in the country. The main wine in this region is Cava Quintanilla.

Chihuahua

Located in the north of the country, it is one of the regions with the greatest potential in the country. Although the grape arrived in this region in 1940, it remained out of focus for many years, and it was in 2009 that the wine industry resumed. Today we have excellent examples such as Viñedos Encinillas and Bodegas Penisque.

Nuevo León

One of the newest wine-producing regions. It is located at the foot of the Sierra Madre. The emblematic grapes of the region are Cabernet Sauvignon, Mission, Merlot, and Shiraz, and the main winery is Vinícola Maravillas.

Zacatecas

This state has been a wine producer since 1980, but it began producing higher-quality wines only a few years ago. It begins to position itself more and more on the Mexican wine map, and the best-known winery in this state is Tierra Adentro.

Aguascalientes

This region began to cultivate the vine in the 16th century. It was recognized for producing in great quantity, as well as for the cultivation of table grapes. In 1936 they brought vines from Coahuila to this region and began to bet more on quality. The main producers are Santa Elena, Contempo, Garza & Pimentel, Renacimiento.

Mexican wine recommendations

2020 Classic Line Sauvignon Blanc – L.A. Cetto

  • A Sauvignon Blanc with many tropical fruits such as passion fruit and citrus.
  • Dry on the palate, with lively acidity and little volume.
  • Its passage through the mouth is smooth.
  • Region: Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California. Get it here.

2019 Reserve Chardonnay – Zanzonico Wines

  • One of the richest Mexican chardonnays. Golden yellow, with a nose of vanilla, butter, white flowers, white fruits, and notes of oak and fine woods.
  • Full body, balanced acidity, structured and complex, and a long finish on the palate.
  • Region: San Vicente Valley, Baja California. Get it here.

2021 Rosé – Monte Xanic

  • A very peculiar rosé wine due to its acidity and citrus touch, very tasty as an aperitif.
  • Notes of pomegranate and cherry stand out.
  • An excellent option for an aperitif or to pair with salmon or shellfish.
  • Region: Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California. Get it here.

2020 ST Merlot – Santo Tomas

  • An excellent Mexican Merlot with a bright plum color with a medium layer and low density, medium aromatic intensity, and notes of red pepper, red and black fruits.
  • Shaking it provides floral aromas and spices.
  • On the palate, its initial attack is medium, with low acidity and astringency. It is semi-dry with a pleasant subtle bitterness, with a short persistence.
  • It is a balanced, expressive, and easy-to-drink wine.
  • Region: Santo Tomas Valley, Baja California. Get it here.

2016 Pies de Tierra – Vinisterra

  • A blend of 62% Syrah and 38% Tempranillo that invites you to drink it.
  • A full-bodied wine on the palate with great aromas of red and black fruit and hints of wood and toast.
  • The wine spends 17 months in barrels (15% new) and then rounds off with its time in the bottle.
  • Region: San Antonio de las Minas, Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California. Get it here.

2018 Cabernet Sauvignon – La Carrodilla

  • Dark purple red, thick and slow tears.
  • Deep aroma of ripe red fruits, marked acidity, fine tannin.
  • High alcohol that’s not perceived as strong due to the concentration of the wine that takes time to open, and when it does, it delivers complex notes.
  • Well, integrated barrel. Powerful, spirited, well done, shows vitality, and promises long aging.
  • Region: Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California. Get it here.

2020 Selección Privada Pet Nat SB – Vena Cava

  • Beautiful Mexican sparkling wine, semi-dry, made by the ancestral method.
  • On the nose, tropical and citrus fruits, are predominantly orange.
  • Vena Cava is one of the few wineries that produce sparkling wines in the region. Ideal to accompany it with seafood.
  • Region: Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California. Get it here.

Also read: Exploring the History of Immigrant Winemakers

Want to read more? Try these books!

New Mexico Wine- An Enchanting History (American Palate) The wines of Southwest U.S.A.- A guide to New Mexico, Texas, Arizona and Colorado (Classic Wine Library)

Categories: This Day in Wine History | Articles, Wine RegionsTags: , , By Published On: February 27, 2023Last Updated: February 28, 2024

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