On my culinary journey along the Mexican coast last week, I learned more about Mexican wines which hadn't been on my radar at all. The best ways to find and taste them are by coming to Mexico!
Excerpt below from 12/14/2022 Virtuoso article by Lydia Carey ca be found HERE.
It feels like everybody’s talking about Mexican wine right now. The new impress-your-friends move at trendy L.A. dinner parties: busting out a bottle of nebbiolo from Baja California. And at fine-dining restaurants across Mexico, sommeliers with wine lists once only full of European varietals are suddenly gushing about pours from Sonora and Querétaro.
The buzz is for good reason: Mexico’s winemakers are producing vintages that are garnering international acclaim on par with stalwarts from Italy and Napa, all while using innovative growing techniques (such as drone surveillance of their vineyards) and playfully experimenting with grapes from around the world. From the Baja California coastline’s rich mineral soil to the early-morning mists over the southern plateau, the terroir of Mexico is expressed in the country’s most popular bottles.
Though Mexican wines are growing in popularity, it's still rare to find them on shelves in the U.S. The best way to sample them is by traveling to the wineries themselves or choosing local options on wine lists next time you’re vacationing in the country, be it at a popular bar in Mexico City or a beachfront restaurant in Tulum.
“Mexican wine is having a moment right now,” says Aarón Alvarez, a sommelier and the cluster wine director at the Conrad Tulum Riviera Maya. “We’re seeing award-winning wineries use modern techniques to create outstanding wines worthy of bragging rights on the international stage.”
Alvarez leads the robust wine program (with 170 Mexican vintages on the menu and counting) at the 349-room Conrad, tucked into a secluded bay just south of Tulum. We asked him to tell us more about the best and brightest varietals in each of the country’s five main wine regions.
Valle de Guadalupe – Baja California
With a wine trail that’s steadily grown since the 1980s, Baja California – and its Valle de Guadalupe – is Mexico’s star wine region. Warm, dry days and cool nights make Baja adaptable to almost any grape, but droughts caused by climate change have pushed winemakers to adopt more-sustainable practices, such as installing underground watering systems and cultivating ground cover in their vineyards to retain the soil’s moisture.
While the Valle de Guadalupe has some of the region’s best tasting rooms (the rustic Casta de Vinos and the chic Vena Cava) and restaurants (don’t miss the fine-dining Lunario or the beloved-by-locals Finca Altozano), it’s worth venturing north and south of the valley to some of Baja’s out-of-the-way wineries as well. Alvarez fell in love with the buttery chardonnay at Claudius winery in Rosarito years ago. Another great find: the incredible vintages produced by Viñedos Aldo César Palafox in Ensenada.
El Bajío – Central Mexico
While the wineries in El Bajío, a region comprising several central Mexican states, feel intimate and undiscovered, it’s one of the country’s most exciting, of-the-moment destinations for those in the know about Mexican wine. Several award-winning vineyards are an easy day trip from vacation favorites such as San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, and Mineral de Pozos. While places such as Cuna de Tierra, one of the area’s oldest wineries, continue to make some of the country’s best reds, new spots, including Viñedo los Arcángeles and Viñedo San Miguel, already have strong showings with only a few years under their belts.
“Arcángeles is making small-batch, smooth, and sparkling wines, while their sauvignon blanc produced under the Canto de Sirenas label is a real standout,” Alvarez says. “It’s one of the best fumé blanc-style sauvignons I’ve tried.”
Aguascalientes – Central Mexico
While technically within the boundaries of El Bajío, the state of Aguascalientes developed its own wine route in 2005 and is now home to nearly 20 vineyards, including award-winning Vinícola El Secreto, the first winery in the state to grow tannat, a grape more generally associated with France and Uruguay. “Varietals like malbec have found a welcoming climate in Aguascalientes, and they can develop to their fullest expression here,” Alvarez says. One of those malbecs can be found at the Santa Elena winery, one of the state’s most well-established producers. Alvarez also recommends the Anónimo winery’s riesling, which he says is “extremely well done, with an excellent acidity and the notes of a classic, new-world riesling.” It’s a feat, as riesling isn’t an easy grape to grow in Mexico because of the cool temperatures it requires.
Valle de Parras – Coahuila
In the foothills of the eastern Sierra Madre in north-central Mexico, the state of Coahuila’s lush Valle de Parras wine region is home to Mexico’s oldest winemaking traditions. Coahuila’s first winemakers were Catholic missionaries, making communion wine as they trekked across the country, and the Americas’ longest continuously operating winery, Casa Madero, was established here in 1597. If you look for only one bottle from this region, make it the cabernet sauvignon from Viñedos Don Leo, which earned the title of world’s best cab at the 2020 Concours International des Cabernets. This modern winery, which sits at an elevation of 6,889 feet, is one of the world’s highest vineyards. (Coahuila’s higher altitudes make growing cool-climate grapes easier here than elsewhere in the country.) The best Mexican pinot noir Alvarez has ever had is from the tiny, off-the-beaten-path Bodegas del Viento in Sierra Arteaga.
Chihuahua’s vineyards were briefly known for their reds and cognacs in the 1930s, but the northern Mexican state’s winemaking scene stayed relatively off the radar in the decades that followed – until now. Some experts consider Chihuahua – with dry summers, abundantly wet winters, and close to 70 percent of its land good for growing grapes – the future of wine in Mexico. If you ask Alvarez, the entire selection at the Encinillas winery, housed inside an ancient hacienda on the Camino Real, is fantastic. He recommends the winery’s 100 percent syrah, its La Casona cabernet sauvignon-merlot (“a spectacular, balanced, medium-bodied blend”), and the Megacero, a blend of syrah, merlot, and cabernet sauvignon.
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