Mexico may not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking about wine, but it actually has a long and rich history of wine production. The Spanish introduced wine grapes to Mexico in the 16th century and winemaking took hold especially in the northern Baja California region which shares a similar climate to California. Today, Mexico produces wine in several regions across the country including Baja California, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Querétaro, Aguascalientes, Zacatecas, and Sonora.
Some quick answers to common questions about Mexican wine:
What are the main wine regions in Mexico?
The main wine regions are Baja California, Valle de Guadalupe, Santo Tomas Valley, and Ensenada in northern Mexico along the Pacific coast. Central Mexico also has some emerging wine regions like Querétaro.
What grapes are grown in Mexico?
Popular grapes include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Tempranillo, Nebbiolo, Barbera, and Syrah. Many international varieties are produced but there are also some native grapes like Mission used.
What is Mexican wine like?
Mexican wines are often full-bodied reds with good structure and complexity. Whites tend to be fruit-forward and aromatic. Quality varies but there are excellent wines comparable to good California wines. Prices also range from cheap table wines to high-end fine wines.
Is Mexican wine any good?
Yes, Mexican wines have improved dramatically in quality in recent decades. Advanced winemaking techniques combined with good terroir makes regions like Baja California able to produce very good wines. Several boutique wineries are gaining international recognition.
The Best Wine Regions in Mexico
Here are some of the top wine regions to check out in Mexico along with some of their notable wineries:
Valle de Guadalupe
The Valle de Guadalupe is located in Baja California close to the Pacific Ocean. It has a hot, dry climate perfect for quality wine grapes. Over 200 wineries operate in the valley making it Mexico’s most productive wine region.
Some top wineries in Valle de Guadalupe include:
– Monte Xanic – One of Baja’s first boutique wineries, known for Cabernet Sauvignon and blends.
– Casa de Piedra – Specializes in Cabernet Sauvignons under the influence of Bordeaux techniques.
– Chateau Camou – Family-owned winery making high-end Bordeaux style blends.
Santo Tomas Valley
This is Mexico’s oldest wine region located in Baja California. It has ideal terroir for Spanish and French grape varieties. Top wineries here include:
– Viñas de Garza – One of the longest operating wineries in Baja with extensive vineyards. Produces Cabernet, Zinfandel and Tempranillo.
– El Cielo – Smaller boutique known for bold Super Tuscan style blends and monovarietals.
– Roganto – Rustic style wines including Nebbiolo, Barbera, Sangiovese and interesting blends.
Ensenada is positioned on the coast of Baja California. Its high elevations and cool coastal influence make it suitable for Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Recommended wineries:
– Bodegas de Santo Tomas – Known for fine wines made from European noble grape varieties.
– Vena Cava – Specializing in sparkling wines produced using Methode Champenoise.
– Viñas Pijoan – Family operated boutique winery with estate grown Pinot Noir, Nebbiolo and blends.
The Querétaro region has been rapidly developing in central Mexico. Its high elevation provides ideal conditions for quality wine grapes. Up and coming wineries include:
– Freixenet – The Spanish cava producer makes high altitude sparkling wines at their estate.
– La Redonda – Winery situated at 6,000 feet making terroir driven wines from Syrah, Cab Sauv, Merlot and Tempranillo.
– Cuna de Tierra – Boutique focused on single-vineyard estate wines reflecting unique microclimates.
Tips for the Best Mexican Wine Experience
If you want the best wine tasting experience when traveling in Mexico, here are some helpful tips:
Visit the Valle de Guadalupe
No trip for Mexican wine is complete without visiting the scenic Valle de Guadalupe wine country. Spend a day or two touring the area’s top wineries and tasting rooms. Don’t miss experiencing the excellent cuisine as well.
Join a food and wine tour
Guided wine tours are a great option if you want to hit several wineries in a day with knowledgeable guides. Many also include gourmet food pairings and transportation making for an effortless experience.
Check out emerging regions too
While Baja California offers the best wineries, add new finds in up and coming areas like Querétaro and Aguascalientes to your itinerary. It’s exciting to taste wines from new terroirs.
Sample a variety of grapes and styles
The wine scene in Mexico is diverse. Taste single varietals like Nebbiolo along with blended GSMs and Bordeaux-style wines. Don’t shy away from sparkling wines either.
Chat with winemakers and tasting room staff
Some of the most memorable experiences are chatting with passionate winemakers and learning the stories behind the wines. Let their expertise guide you to the best bottles.
Savor food and wine pairings
Many tasting rooms offer delicious bites paired with their wines. This lets you fully experience how wines complement Mexican cuisine.
Check ahead on tasting room hours
Some smaller wineries have limited hours so it’s best to call ahead or email to confirm they are open. Have a flexible itinerary when wine touring.
Purchase a bottle for later
Found a wine you love? Pick up a few bottles direct from the wineries at reasonable prices to enjoy later. It’s a great souvenir too!
The Best Grapes and Wine Styles of Mexico
Mexico produces many excellent wines across a diversity of styles. Here are some top varietals and wine styles to experience:
The most widely planted red grape thrives in the hot, dry conditions of Baja California. Well-made examples exhibit dark fruit flavors of cassis and blackberry with herbal and spicy complexity.
The noble grape of Spain adapts beautifully to parts of northern Mexico. Look for medium to full bodied wines with cherry, tobacco and earthy notes.
The famously finicky Italian grape reaches impressive ripeness in Valle de Guadalupe. Appealing floral aromas mix with cherry, leather and tar on the palate.
This versatile French white grape makes fresh, fruit-forward wines under Mexico’s sunny skies. Crisp peach, melon and citrus flavors prevail.
Well-made oaked Chardonnays from cooler regions like Ensenada offer complex baked apple, buttery notes and toastiness reminiscent of California’s style.
Many producers aim for an elegant Bordeaux-blend profile. Look for mixes of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and sometimes Syrah with cedar hints.
GSM blends (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre) yield smooth, layered wines with ripe berry flavors and white pepper spice.
The high elevations of Baja are surprisingly suited for vibrant sparkling wines. Seek out delicate cava-style bubblies and traditional method sparklers.
Pairing Wine with Mexican Cuisine
Mexican food and wine is a match made in heaven when you follow some basic pairing guidelines:
Pair fresh, fruity wines with citrus-flavored dishes
The bright acidity of Chenin Blanc or Sauvignon Blanc complements lime citrus flavors in dishes like ceviche, fish tacos and citrus chicken.
Choose oak-aged wines for moles and rich stews
Full-bodied oaked Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon can stand up to intensely flavored moles and complex meat stews.
Rosados pair well with grilled meats
A lightly chilled Mexican rosé highlights flavors of the carne asada coming off the grill.
Acidic whites work with spicy cuisine
A palate cleansing Riesling or Albariño helps extinguish some of the fire from spicy chilies and salsas.
Pick earthy reds with mushrooms and squash
The umami in dishes with mushrooms and roasted winter squash make them perfect partners for earthy Pinot Noir or Syrah.
Bubbles cut through fried foods
Sparkling wines like cava help cleanse the palate from the richness of crunchy churros, taquitos, and empanadas.
Balance heat with sweet wines
Intensely spicy habanero salsas can be tempered by flavorful, off-dry Rieslings or Chenin Blancs.
Pair desserts with late harvest and fortified wines
The caramel notes in flan pair wonderfully with sweet late harvest Chenin Blancs. Fortified Port-style wines match the spice in churros and Mexican wedding cookies.
Where to Buy Mexican Wines
It used to be difficult finding Mexican wines outside of Mexico. Luckily, the export market is expanding and wines are easier to locate today. Here are some options to get your hands on Mexican vino:
Obviously the best place to buy is direct from the wineries themselves when visiting wine regions. Otherwise, larger cities like Mexico City, Guadalajara and Tijuana have wine shops that carry national selections. La Europea shops specialize in Mexican wines.
Larger liquor stores will carry at least a handful of Baja California and Valle de Guadalupe selections. BevMo is a good chain that stocks 30+ Mexican labels. Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s have limited choices too.
For the biggest variety, check out online retailers that specialize in Mexican wines:
– Old Bridge Cellars – Wide national distribution with 200+ Mexican wines
– Texas Wine and Liquor – Ships to 35 states with 100+ Mexican wine options
– Mexico Wine Club – Sommelier curated packages shipped monthly
Rarer high-end Mexican wines can sometimes be found at auction houses. Keep an eye on upcoming sales at:
– Hart Davis Hart Wine Co
– Acker Merrall & Condit
– K&L Wines
Mexican Wine Producers to Watch
As Mexico’s reputation for wine improves, keep an eye out for these exciting producers pushing the quality envelope:
American born owners produce stunning Old World style wines in Valle de Guadalupe like award-winning Kerubiel, an aromatic white blend.
Focusing on Italian varietals like Nebbiolo, Dolcetto and Vermentino, Lechuza makes elegant wines that reflect terroir.
This family run Baja winery combines modern and traditional techniques to make small batch wines with soul.
Mexico’s oldest winery continues to innovate with new takes on Cabernet Sauvignon and traditional method sparkling wines.
One of Mexico’s largest and most reliable producers, L.A. Cetto offers great value across all major varietals.
This boutique Querétaro winery is creating a buzz with their high altitude Syrah, Grenache and Tempranillo.
Focusing on Rhone varietals, Decantos makes intriguing GSM blends in the Valle de Guadalupe.
The Future of Mexican Wine
The future looks very promising for Mexico to continue improving its reputation as a quality wine producer:
New regions will emerge
Areas like Coahuila, Aguascalientes and central Mexico have great potential for expanding wine production into new terroirs.
More modern techniques
Continued investment in the latest winemaking technology and equipment will help refine quality.
Sustainable and organic practices will help protect Mexico’s wine lands for future generations.
High-end and luxury growth
Ultra-premium and luxury tier wines will attract attention as winemakers hone their top cuvees.
Wine tourism will continue expanding with new tasting rooms, restaurants and improved infrastructure for visitors.
Direct export focus
Producers will increase their focus on direct export to major wine markets instead of relying on bulk sales.
As Mexican wines gain more international media coverage their reputation will spread globally.
The future looks very bright for Mexico to take its place among the great wine producers of the world with its unique and diverse terroirs. Exciting times lie ahead for this up and coming region. With its friendly people, beautiful landscapes, and of course fantastic food, Mexico promises to be one of the world’s most exciting new sources for fantastic wine.