5 Mexican Wine Regions to Visit
Tequila and cerveza are the stars of Mexican bartending; nothing is quite as refreshing a cold beer or a frozen margarita on a hot summer day, but Mexican wine is making its long overdue comeback. Despite a 40% tax on a bottle of wine and a limit of two bottles allowed to cross the border, Mexican wine is growing in popularity in major cities and tourist destinations. The five regions responsible for the increase in Mexican wine quality and quantity are Baja California, Queretaro, Parras Valley, Zacatecas, and Sonora.
The Baja California region, which produces about 90% of all Mexican wine, has been dubbed the next “Napa Valley.” This coastal region – just south of California – experiences humid winters and dry summers and therefore is able to produce many of the same varietals as the Californian wines. Winemakers promote a Ruta del Vino, a wine route linking the fifty wineries within the Baja California region and promote tourism to the area by incorporating winery tours, boutique hotels, and high-end restaurants.
The semi-desert Queretaro region is home to one of the most famous wineries in Mexico, Cavas Freixenet, which is known for its sparkling wines. A trip to this region is not complete without a visit to Los Rosales, whose use of the Salvador grape creates wonderfully round red wines with robust depth. Queretaro, home to a vast number of dairy farms, is a unique region as it is the hub of Mexican cheese production. As such, Queretaro holds a cheese and wine festival every year in June.
The Parras Valley, a unique microclimate, is a perfect environment for growing grapes. The valley’s low humidity (and therefore low insect and fungus rates) creates a favorable environment for grape production. Water availability is a huge factor for whether or not a region can be successful in the wine industry, but the Parras Valley has no problems with water. Mountain springs flow into this valley providing adequate water. Red wines such as cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and Temparanillo are produced here. Parras de la Fuente has hosted Feria de la Uva y el Vino – Festival of Grapes and Wine – every June since 1945. La vendimia, the annual grape harvest, draws nearly 400 families to this region each August.
Zacatecas is known for producing grapes with high sugar content due its cool winters and cool summers. Most wineries here produce reds including cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and zinfandel. The wineries here are much smaller, especially when compared to the tourist-destination wineries of the Baja region.
The Sonora wine region is located in a predominantly desert climate. Wineries in this region are successful due to maintaining a proper irrigation system. Only about 25% of the grapes produced here are used for wine making. The majority of the grapes produced here are used to produce raisins. For white wines, this region grows Bola Dulce, Esmerald, Palomino, and Thompson Seedless vines.
Despite the obstacles that Mexican wine production faces (climate, taxes, and competition with beer and tequila), Mexican wines and winery festivals are growing in popularity and boosting the economy.