Ever tried Mexican wine? Mexico is the oldest wine region in the Americas but due to it’s complicated history, Mexico has been left behind by the likes of neighbouring California. But it does exist and it is a growing market. So let’s get in to the history of Mexican Wine and why it’s not as popular as it could be.
I’ll start by explaining why I’m looking into the niche area of Mexican wine when I live down under in Australia. I’m lucky enough to have a job that gives the opportunity to travel and work in another country if you successfully pitch yourself for the exchange. I amazingly landed on Mexico City, the dream destination! So here I am, trying out the local vinos and learning about the countries history, one glass at a time.
So let’s begin the history lesson….
Where it started
Legend has it that Hernán Cortés and his soldiers drank the wine they brought from Spain to Mexico celebrating the conquest of the Aztecs in 1521. As a result, Cortés’ first act as governor was to plant grapevines throughout Mexico in monasteries and haciendas in Puebla, Coahuila and Zacates.
These vines formed the first vineyards in North America, making Mexico the oldest growing wine region in the Americas at 450 years years old. The arrival of the Spanish marked the beginning of a new era for the country, both in how the country is rules and in wine.
What happened next?
The Spanish grapes the soldiers planted took so well to Mexican soil that wine exports from Spain to America plummeted. This meant the Spanish King prohibited the production of wine, except for wine making for the Church.
Thankfully some rebel missionaries managed to get some grape vines to the Baja California peninsula and for the next couple of centuries most of the wine production was made by clergy, until the start of the Mexican Independence war in 1810.
After independence, wine making for personal use was no longer prohibited and production rose once more.
What do we know about Mexican wine now?
Despite its history, Mexico is not a big wine drinking country.
Wine is taxed at 40% making it hard to compete with beer, tequila and mezcal and the average wine consumption per capita in Mexico is two glasses per YEAR! Madness. But consumption is growing and imports are up by 4 times more than the previous 10 years.
And although Mexican people don’t drink wine they do drink Brandy – distilled wine. As the fourth largest consumer of brandy in the world, Mexicans drink more brandy than they do rum or tequila (which I find a little hard to believe based on my first few days here but maybe it’s an age thing?).
In terms of regions, there are more than 100 wineries and more than 1000 different wine labels produced in Baja, where 90% of Mexican wines originate from.
There are about 40 different grape varieties in Mexico and the most popular include…
Red: Cab Sav, Sarignan, Cab Franc, Zinfandel, Malbec, Petite Verdot, Merlot, Tempranillo, Nebbiolo, Grenache, Petite Sirah and Syrah.
White: Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Chasselas, Macabeo, Palomino, Riesling, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier.
So there you have it. Watch this space for places and wines to drink in Mexico City. If you’re looking to try Mexican wines in Australia, I’d suggest heading to Mexican Cellars who delivered three delicious bottles on the same day I ordered. How good?
Fancy cooler climes instead? Try England and their sparkling vinos here.