Spanish missionaries planted by for religious purposes Mexico’s first vineyards were in 1521.
Three years later Hernan Cortez issued an edict ordering all settlers to plant vines they had been granted
Mexico was self-sufficient in wine and marques de Aguayo winery at Parras (1593) claims to be the oldest in the New World, although in 1980 all the wine was distilled. Mexicans consume more brandy than tequila.
Father Juan Ugarte is credited with spreading viticulture northwards what s today California, by planting vineyards around missions along Camino Real.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Mexico’s vineyards consisted of a few hundred hectares, but grew considerably after 1960’s and today there are more than 10,000 hectares under vine. Much of the production goes into sultana processing.
The best vineyards are in Baja California only 100 kms south of the US border.
Guadalupe Valley harbours the Mission of Our Lady of Guadalupe, founded by Dominican friars in 1864.
Monte Xanic winery is the most famous of all of them, and open to visitors for guided tours and tastings.
Chateau Camon, located just north of Monte Xanic, produces fine merlot wines.
Both wineries maintain large tracts of vineyards manually, claiming to produce better wines because of the care they lavish to the vines. Both have been awarded respected European recognition in international competitions. Surplus wine is distilled to brandy, which Mexicans love to consume in huge quantities.
The overwhelming majority (90 per cent) of Mexican vineyards are in northern Baja California, the rest spreading on northern, eastern and central highlands.
Fr red wines, winemakers prefer cabernet sauvignon, syrah, zinfandel, merlot, cabernet franc, grenache, nebbiolo, malbec, petit syrah, carignane and for whites chenin blanc, trebbiano, colombard, and palomino.
Modern technology acquired by small, new wineries help produce western standard wines with high levels of alcohol. Older wineries still stick to overripe, over-aged, oxidative techniques, that appeal only to a small fraction of consumers.
L.A. Cetto, the largest in Mexico, owns several hundreds of hectares of vineyards in the Guagadalupe and El Escondido Valleys 50 kms north and east from the first.
Vinos Domecq, a branch of Pedro Domecq tequila distillers operates several mission wineries in the Calatia Valley within the Guadalupe region. Domecq also produces significant quantities of brandy.
Santo Thomas is another large winery founded in mid 1800’s, acquired many of the vineyadrs of Franciscan missions and produces a range of liqueurs, sherry-style wines, brandy and wine
Mexico’s climatic conditions are predictable and vintages seldom vary. Excessive sunshine tends to produce overly sweet, dark grapes that end up yielding highly alcoholic, dark wines with low acidity.
High altitude vineyards yield more suitable fruit for balanced wines.
Monte Xanic and Chateau Camon are two wineries who products are highly recommended.