The Tasting Panel magazine

September 2016

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 40 of 116

40  /  the tasting panel  /  september 2016 WINES OF MEXICO I first noticed the wines of Mexico's Valle de Guadalupe just five years ago and was only brave enough to feature a Mexican wine by the glass about a year ago at POT, Roy Choi's restaurant at the Line Hotel in Los Angeles, where I preside as Operations Director. A Chenin Blanc from the only large winery in that region made it onto my list, and its appealing cost-versus- quality factor got me curious. A recent trip to wine country there uncovered a wealth of information. History Winemaking in Mexico dates back to the 16th century, when Vitis vinifera vines brought in by the Spaniards took root, though the Aztecs predated that with acachul, a slightly fer- mented beverage made from wild Cimarron grapes mixed with honey and fruit. As the Spanish took root in Mexico, so too did wine production in "New Spain." Grape growing became so widespread that by 1595 Phillip II issued a law that forbade all new plant- ings. Despite the decreed slowdown, Mexico's first winemaking facility, Hacienda de San Lorenzo, was founded by Lorenzo Garcia just two years later. It still stands today in Parras, in the central state of Coahuila, under the name Casa Madero. After its early start, Catholic missionaries natured Mexican wine through the next 300 years. Wine production in Mexico was subject to chang- ing viewpoints and laws throughout the 20th century, and even saw a little outside intervention from a group of Russian immigrants called Molokans. This lot of 60 deeply religious pacifist families came to the area in the early 20th century seeking safety and peace but eventually diversified their wheat crops to include Vitis vinifera, thus laying the foundation for lay winemaking in Mexico. Regions When people refer to wine of Mexico, they usually refer to the Valle de Guadalupe in Baja California, but the valley is actually composed of three micro-regions: San Antonio de las Minas, El Porvenir and Francisco Zarco. Beyond the most noted valley, there are three others in the region: Valle de Santo Tomás, Valle de Ojos Negros and Valle de Las Palmas. While Valle de Guadalupe is easy access for tourists who post up in Ensenada, the other regions also have a lot of promise for wine growing. The vines of Guadalupe see very little rain and have poor soil, whereas Ojos Negros, for instance, enjoys a more temperate climate and fertile soil types. Production Mexico produces just two million cases of wine annually and has just 4,000 hectares (9,900 acres) of vineyards under vine, while 3,500 of those hectares (8,650 acres) are in the Valle de Guadalupe. There are currently just 150 wineries in Mexico; of those, 110 are in Baja, and among Baja wineries, only five produce 20,000 cases or more. The Wines The wines of Baja are as unconventional and expres- sive as the winemakers themselves. They run from Chenin and Sauvignon Blancs to Nebbiolo, Tempranillo and Garnacha, with plantings of more than 100 more varieties. What I found most often though was the winemakers' proclivity for blending grapes whose roots trace back to different coun- tries—and whose flavors are now distinctly Mexican under the name of free- dom and expression. The Future With its proximity to the resort town of Ensenada and the development of restaurants, hotels, conference centers and tours, the Valle de Guadalupe is primed for a bustling wine tourism business. PHOTO: THINKSTOCK/ KGRIF THE VALLE DE GUADALUPE LEADS THE WAY FOR MEXICAN WINE by Mary Thompson Imbibing through Baja Refer to Down the Aisle on page 28 for a review of the Pavo Real 2012 White Wine from Valle de Guadalupe.

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Tasting Panel magazine - September 2016