Mexico, the oldest wine producing country of Americas had more than 40 000 hectares under vine in 1992, although only a small fraction was used for wine making. Most of the harvest is sold as table grapes and made to raisin for export.
Mexico’s Wine Industry began in 1521, just one year after the arrival of Spanish conquistadors, who had no intention of abandoning wine drinking and religious ceremonies, although their religious fervency remains debatable to this day.
Hernan Cortez issued and edict in 1524, ordering all Spanish settlers to plant vineyards on their granted land. This made Mexico self sufficient in wine, curbing Spanish exports to the “New World” from Andalusia, now commonly referred to as Xeres de la Frontera (aka sherry).
Marques de Aquayo at Parras in northeastern Mexico claims the title of the oldest winery in teh Americas; it was established in 1593. Father Ugarte is believed to be responsible for spreading viticulture in what is now Mexico, and western U.S.A. Mexicans much prefer beer and tequila (or mescal or pulque), but younger generations and the rich like to consume wine with their meals.
The average per capita wine consumption is less than 500 ml. but still large producers like L.A. Cetto, Freixenet, Domecq,Monte Xanic, San Antonio, Valmart and many smaller wineries manage to produce more than 11.6 million cases of wine, much of which is exported to the U.S.A, EU, Canada, and a few other Latin American countries, the remainder being consumed by Mexicans and tourists.
Mexico’s Wine Industry
There are six grape growing regions.
Sonora (in the north producing fruit for brandy distillation
Baja California (including Valle Guadalupe)
Baja California’s vineyards start on 30-north altitude and end at 25. Here planting vineyards on high altitudes mitigates the hot climate. Sierra de la Gigantes in the east of Baja California’s peninsula provides appropriate soil and altitudes.
Queretaro located northwest of Mexico City is located on 22 degrees north latitude, but the plateau being high enough for vines, makes it possible to grow grapes suitable for sparkling wine. Freixenet from Spain owns vineyards and a winery here.
The main grape varieties planted are cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel, cabernet franc, carinena, ruby cabernet, petite syrah, nebbiolo, garnacha, merlot, malbec, syrah, petite verdot and tempranillo for reds, and trebbiano, colombard, chardonnay, chasselas, chenin blanc, macabeo, muscatel, palomino, riesling, semillon, and sauvignon blanc for white. Due to the dry nature of the climate, irrigation is necessary, and practiced wherever possible.
Mexican wines tasted so far lack adequate levels of acidity, vibrancy and brilliance, are relatively high in alcohol, and highly extractive, all of which can be easily remedied with careful and scientific vineyard management practices, plus modern winemaking technology.
Mexican wines cost less than their North American counterparts, as land is less expensive, labour widely available and inexpensive.
L.A. Cetto exports to several countries, Domecq specializes in brandy distillation and is focused on the local market. Freixenet makes and markets sparkling wines within Mexico.
Mexico’s Wine Industry