South Of The Border Wines

Guadalupe Valley Vineyard

Guadalupe Valley Vineyard
By Tomas Castelazo – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3209506

Vintages from Mexico offer incredible opportunities for discovery.

Looking for a great wine discovery? Look no further than our neighbor to the south. 

Mexico has a thriving wine region, with a wide variety of delicious wines and a fascinating history. Let’s explore.

Wine grapes first arrived in Mexico with the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century.  After some years of trial and error, Mexican wines soon became preferred in the western colonies over wine from Spain. This fact — and the rise of the French wine industry — prompted Spanish King Phillip II to put an end to all Mexican wine production in favor of local Spanish wine. 

However, some Jesuits and Dominican orders revolted. The Jesuits established vineyards in the Santo Tomas region, and the Dominicans set up vineyards in the Guadalupe Valley. Today, both regions thrive in the heart of Mexican wine country. 

Another fascinating chapter in Mexican wine history came in the early 1900s.

This was when the Christian Russian Molokans (a.k.a “Jumpers”) relocated to Mexico’s Guadalupe Valley. There, they escaped religious persecution in their home country. They used their advanced farming skills to grow grapes, producing exceptionally high-quality wine. Their wine making influence is still seen in the region today. 

The most recent advance for Mexican wines came in the 1980s, when the National Viticulture Association began a global effort to promote modern grape-growing and wine- making techniques. Mexican vineyards contain a mix of French, Spanish and Italian grapes that are particularly well-suited to the hot, dry climate. In this melting pot of grapes, you will find many unique wine blends that don’t follow European traditions. 

In Mexico, the vast majority of wine production occurs in the northern state of Baja, California.

The Baja’s the rugged terrain and the cooling effect of fog off the Pacific Ocean help mitigate the searing heat. The major wine-making subregions include Santo Tomas Valley and the Guadalupe Valley. These Valleys were established long ago by the Jesuit, Molakan and the Dominican Christians. In particular, the Guadalupe Valley, known as the “Napa of Mexico,” is a tourist destination and home to many boutique wineries. 

The wines from Baja share many characteristics with other warm-climate wines from regions such as Argentina, Southern Europe and South Africa. The slow change in temperature from summer to fall allows the grapes to become fully ripe, creating higher levels of alcohol. The longer growing season also allows the natural grape acids to drop off, so the resulting wines have bolder, ripe fruit flavors and less acidity.

Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo and Chardonnay are the most planted grapes in Mexico.

These wines thrive in the Mexican climatic zone. Merlot, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier also produce fine wines in this region. 

If you’re interested in trying a wine from Mexico, they aren’t too difficult to find. Large wine mega-stores may stock them, but they also can be purchased through reputable online distributors. Mexican wines are well-priced and certainly worth exploring.  

By Georgene Mortimer, Island Winery

The perfect bottle of hand-crafted artisan wine awaits at Island Winery on Cardinal Rd. Wine by the glass, cheese platters and $5 tastings are available Monday-Saturday from 12:30-5:30 p.m. and Sunday from 12-4 p.m. (843) 842-3141 or www.islandwinery.com.