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It might be a tad hard to fathom, but five hundred years ago, Mexico was an important wine-growing and producing country. It was the Spanish conquistadores who developed the notion that certain high-altitude areas of Mexico were ideal for European grape cultivation. Conquistador Hernan Cortez demanded the planting of thousands of acres and with the Catholic missionaries utilizing this production at mass services.

A century later, the Spanish crown began fearing Mexico’s wine dominance and banned its production. Only Spanish missionaries carried on the cultivation of grapevines and brought the first cuttings to California and its mission colonies.

Today’s modern Mexican wine industry is considered a frontier of wine with origins as recent as the late 1970’s. Numerous varietals are planted and the country now boasts of almost eight thousand acres under vine. The vast majority of wine production (upwards of 85%) occurs in the Mexican State of Baja California, just south of Tijuana and clustered around the City of Ensenada. At last count, there more than 150 wineries operating throughout the Baja California growing area that benefit from the existing Mediterranean climate, the always present Pacific morning fog, and a favorable topography that resembles several parts of Central and Northern California.

The Valle de Guadalupe is the principal growing region in Baja California and many scribes have christened it “the Napa Valley” of Mexico. A large number of small boutique wines have risen of late and have found commercial success both in the local markets and in some export markets.

Other established growing areas include Sonora, located across the Gulf of California from Baja, and its two sub regions, Hermosillo and Caborca, where Mexican brandy is produced.

The Laguna Region straddles the Mexican states of Durango and Coahuila, and a prized growing area, the Valle de Parras, is found in the latter. The Valle de Parras is home to the oldest winery in North America, Casa Madero, which was founded in 1597 and still exists today.

Central Mexico also boasts of some high-altitude vineyards in Zacatecas, Aguascalientes, Guanajuato and Queretaro, but most of these grapes are used in the production of brandy.

Mexican wine is exported to 38 countries at this time, but is not always easily found.

At the 2016 Vinalies Internationale held in Paris, some 3,441 wines were entered, of which only 30% received medals. Mexican wineries participated in the event and entered 19 wines, with six receiving high awards. This was considered something of a coup in international wine circles.

While Mexican wines are still a rarity in the United States, sage restaurants and wine stores have begun offering a selection of Mexican wines to their customers. We are delighted to offer our International Wine Club members a first look at these amazing wines.

Mexico Wineries