BigHammerWines.com – Does Mexico have wine? Yes! Mexico, the lover of tequila, mescal, and beer, welcomes Mexican wines to the tables of the local middle class and the thousands of tourists who visit each year.
If you’ve taken a trip to Baja California or even Cancun, you may have come across some Mexican wines.
Wine bars are popping up in larger cities around the country. The airport in Mexico City had a wine bar featuring Mexican wines at one time.
Wine has a long history in Mexico, longer than in the U.S.
Mexico’s Surprising Relationship with Wine
Northern Baja California is the largest region for wine in Mexico, producing most of the country’s fine wine.
The oldest winery there, Bodegas de Santo Tomás, was founded in 1791 as a Catholic mission. Commercial production started in 1888. Today, the Ensenada-based winery has a female winemaker, which is rare in Mexico.
The Spanish brought the first vitis vinifera (fine wine) grape to the New World around 1540. This grape, called Listan Prieto, was named the “Mission” grape in Mexico because it was planted by missionaries to make wine for the Church.
Building missions in Baja by 1620 and modern-day California from 1769, the missionaries continued to plant grapevines.
The phylloxera epidemic in Europe wiped out the Mission grape in Spain. It now exists in:
- Mexico and the U.S.
- Chile – called Pais and making a comeback
- Argentina – called Criolla Chica
- The Canary Islands
While not typically used for making fine wine, the Mission grape is vigorous and drought tolerant, a significant benefit in dry climates. Most producers use it to make rosé or fortified wines, such as brandy.
Over the years, the Mexican wine industry rose and fell. Modern commercial production began in the 1970s and quality winemaking in the 1980s.
Large, well-known producers, Casa Pedro Domecq and Vinos L.A. Cetto, opened in 1972 and 1974, respectively. These wineries started by producing brandy and low-quality wines.
Monte Xanic Winery in the Valle de Guadalupe began the push for quality wine in the 1980s.