Description 1 of 2
The history of Mexican wine production begins in the 1500s, when Hernan Cortes and his conquistadors exhausted their supply of wine while overthrowing the Aztecs. He ordered the colonists to plant 1000 grapevines for every 100 native “employees.” (Needless to say, “that mensch” is not something you hear people say about Cortes.) The Spanish conquistadors had vines brought over for religious mass, and more likely, wash down their food. With failed attempts to grow grapes in the more tropical regions of Mexico, the first grapes, known as Criolla (the mission grape of California and the Pais grape of Chile), were successfully planted in the Parras Valley of Coahuila. Growing in Puebla and Zacatecas soon followed. The first Mexican wine estate, Casa Madero, was founded in 1597 by Lorenzo Garcia in Santa Maria de los Parras in Coahuila and still exists.
The Spaniards were doing so well with their colonized wine production, that Charles I ordered all ships traveling to “New Spain” to bring over grape and olive vines to step up production. This went great guns until the late 1500s when demand for Spanish wine took a downturn with the rise and prestige of French wine. To make matters worse, this wine from the colonies was faring better than Spanish wine. So in an effort to promote only local Spanish products, Philip II put an end to all production. Finito.This didn’t stop certain religious sects, particularly the Jesuits, from continuing to make wine, naturally for the sake of religious authenticity. Jesuit Priest Juan Jugarte is credited for leading this revolt and establishing the Santo Tomas Mission with vineyards in Baja California. The Dominicans soon set up in the Guadalupe Valley, now the center of the Mexican wine industry.
After Mexico’s War of Reform in 1857, all of the Catholic land holdings, and the vineyards, were seized by the government and became property of the state. These were then sold to a private group of investors who to this day operate as the Bodegas Santo Tomas.
The next rise in Mexican wine production came in the unlikely form of a group of spiritual Christian Russian emigres, the Molokans (a.k.a. “Jumpers”) who relocated to Guadalupe Valley to escape brutal persecution from the czar’s army. Many of them had an advanced farming background and reserved a good portion of their crops for quality wine making at the turn of the 20th century. Their legacy lives on to this day, despite an unsettling period during the Mexican Revolution in 1910.
Prestige wine production in Mexico, supported by the National Viticulture Association, began in earnest in the 1980s with the promotion of modern techniques. Many of the grapes grown are of either French or Spanish origin. The main grapes for reds are Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Cabernet Franc, Carignan, Grenache, Merlot, Malbec, Syrah, Petit Verdot and Tempranillo. Whites are Chardonnay, Chasselas, Chenin Blanc, Macabeo, Moscatel, Palomino, Riesling, Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc.
Mexico is divided into these subregions:
*Baja California (which includes Valle Guadalupe)
– Description from
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