TELEGRAPH.COM.UK – Mexico is known for producing a lot of things. Top-notch tequila? Naturally. Refreshing beer? Sure. First-rate wines? Not so much.
But that’s all set to change, with Mexico becoming one of the world’s most successful emerging wine regions. Or more specifically, one area of Mexico: Valle de Guadalupe, a valley in Baja Norte, just south of the Californian border.
The region, notable for its Mediterranean microclimate and 1,000ft elevation, has been producing Mexico’s finest wines for the last 30 years and with the recent opening of several boutique hotels and celebrated restaurants, has put itself on the map for both discerning Mexicans looking for a local tipple and Californians seeking a hipper Napa alternative. After all, the area is Southern California’s closest wine region, a short one-and-a-half-hour drive from San Diego and just under four hours from Los Angeles.
While the region has been making mass-produced, lower quality wines since the late 19th century, it started to focus on premium wine production around 30 years ago, when big players like Monte Xanic, the area’s first boutique winery, founded by German-Mexican oenologist Hans Backhoff, came onto the scene.
Back in 1988, its wines were the first from Mexico to receive international recognition. Today, Monte Xanic is the third largest winery in Mexico, and its most famous creation, the Gran Ricardo Bordeaux blend, is one of the region’s most widely celebrated.
Backhoff’s son, also named Hans, is now at the helm and has transformed the winery into Valle’s slickest operation, with state of the art fermentation machines and a beautifully designed modern tasting facility, all glass, and sleek concrete.
That’s not to say the rest of the area’s wineries are similarly high tech; in fact, most of them are pleasingly rough around the edges, overrun with friendly dogs and only accessible via incredibly bumpy dirt tracks. But that’s part of the charm. Take Vena Cava, founded by the British husband and wife Phil and Eileen Gregory 15 years ago, which specializes in organic and natural wines.
The self-proclaimed ‘hippest winery in Mexico’, it was designed by renowned Mexican architect Alejandro D’Acosta, who built it out of reclaimed fishing boats and other recycled materials, including leftover lenses from a local optician. The result is a striking space that wouldn’t look out of place in Shoreditch.
The couple also owns the stylish B&B La Ville del Valle, which they modeled on a Tuscan farmhouse, and the celebrated farm-to-fork restaurant Corazón de Tierra.