We’ve downed all the tequila and limed all the beer. It’s about time we went south of the border to decant and swirl. Mexico’s rich wine culture is finally gathering admirers outside of its own borders. Truth be told, the country’s wine industry is actually the oldest in the Americas. In 1524, the Spaniards arrived in Mexico. They brought grapevines with them and ordered the natives to start planting.
The nation’s wine industry, which is largely concentrated in Baja California’s Guadalupe Valley (yes, Baja California is located in Mexico), is being recognized for producing some noteworthy juice. Other prominent valleys include the Ojos Negros Valley and San Vicente Valley. Only a small portion of the nation’s juice is moseying upwards towards the US. Most of the wine produced in Mexico stays in its homeland with only about five to ten percent being exported. The country’s small production wineries only make approximately 1.7 million cases of wine per year – compare that to Napa’s 9.2 million cases per year.
Mexico’s wine industry is just beginning to flourish and doesn’t yet hold the same esteem that beloved tequila and Corona do, therefore there isn’t any sort of financing from Mexico’s government set aside for the market nor are any subsidies given to planters. Many of the wines are produced without economy scale equipment and advanced technology that many wineries use in the states, making the winemaking process much more personal and labor-intensive. Winemakers are also heavily taxed on their juice and are consequently forced to sell most of it locally. Of course, these confines affect pricing – Mexican wine isn’t exactly a bargain. It can be difficult to find a good bottle for less than the retail price of $12.
Because of the lack of government financing, there is little regulation of the vinification process, which makes for some fearless winemaking. The country is perhaps most proud of their bold blends. Think racy Nebbiolo (nope, it’s not just for the Italians) and Tempranillo blends, animated white blends that taste like sunny winter days and red-fruit rosés. Juice from this region loves its food. These babies are bottle-trained to pair with Mexico’s colorful cuisine.
Here’s the thing about wine: the charm of a bottle isn’t the bougie branding or its ability to impress the almighty Robert Parker. The fascination and purpose of wine is its capability to translate the personality of the place where it was birthed and grown. The country’s culture has a powerful influence on the winemaking process. The country’s vintners vibe on the absence of government intervention, creating a “try anything once” vinification mentality which is hugely appealing to millennials.
Currently most wines from Mexico are being sold directly to consumers and restaurants. Check out Vino from Mexico, a website dedicated to bottles born south of the border, and order your own. Vino from Mexico ships to 17 states.
Here are a few of the site’s top sellers as well as a few great expressions of the valleys:
- XikBal Baja Tempranillo -Grenache
- Monte Xanic Chenin – Colombard, Gran Ricardo
- Boceto and Trazo from Fraternidad – Tempranillo and Nebbiolo Blends
- From Coahuila, Rivero Gonzalez White (a Cabernet Sauvignon white)