BY JAMIE KNEE | DECEMBER 26, 2023
The Petite Wine Traveler in Plaza Grande, Mérida
As I reflect on my recent journey through the captivating landscapes of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, a vibrant tapestry of wine, food, and travel experiences weaves itself through my memories. This region, rich in natural beauty, unfolds a compelling invitation to explore at every juncture. Its picturesque beaches tell stories of tranquility and wonder, providing serene moments amidst the embrace of the Gulf of Mexico’s inviting waters.
Did you know that Mexico produces wines? Well, they certainly do! Amid the Yucatán’s undeniable beauty, my primary purpose in visiting the region was to unearth Mexico’s concealed treasures within the realm of wines. Immersed in this breathtaking locale, I found myself as a wine judge at the Mexico Selection by CMB Wine Competition. The event gathered over 35 international judges from 12 countries, showcasing a collection of over 800 distinctive wines sourced from 20 states across Mexico. This assembly proved to be a delightful rarity within the world of oenology, presenting a magnificent spectacle where flavors harmonized in a lively fiesta-like dance. The blind-tasting wine competition served as a celebration of diverse palates and entrée into the wines of Mexico.
Let’s delve deeper into this fascinating world. Often underestimated for its winemaking prowess, Mexico stands out as an innovator in the Americas’ wine-growing domain. This legacy traces back to the 16th century when Spanish conquistadors introduced vines, a heritage that has blossomed into a thriving scene today. With over 16,000 acres of vineyards cultivating more than 40 varietals, Mexico showcases a diverse range including beloved international classics like cabernet sauvignon, nebbiolo, malbec, and sauvignon blanc.
Baja California emerges as the shining star within Mexico’s wine country, housing over 150 wineries that proudly showcase wines echoing the region’s Mediterranean climate and diverse topography. Among its noteworthy sub-regions, Valle de Guadalupe, Valle de Calafia, Valle de San Vicente, and Valle de Santo Tomás stand distinguished by their granite-rich soils akin to France’s Northern Rhône Valley. These wines boast robustness, jammy textures, and a unique stony minerality – a tribute to the region’s coastal proximity and groundwater irrigation.
Valle de Guadalupe, the crown jewel of Baja, parallels the elegance of some of Napa Valley’s finest wines. Here, boutique wineries craft symphonies from diverse grape blends, showcasing opulent richness and vibrant hues that have captured global attention. The region’s moniker – the “Napa Valley of Mexico” – testifies to its allure and burgeoning wine tourism, painting a vibrant image on the global wine map.
Chihuahua, often overshadowed, holds a unique presence in Mexico’s vinicultural narrative. Though its acclaim is not as widespread, this northern region contributes significantly to Mexico’s wine production. Its climate fosters grape growth tailored for brandy and raisin production. Yet, amidst these terrains, adventurous winemakers explore the region’s distinct terroirs, endeavoring to unveil flavors that define Chihuahua’s wine identity.
Nestled in Central Mexico, Guanajuato might not be the first name that springs to mind when thinking of Mexican wine regions, yet it’s steadily crafting its place in the spotlight, and is carving a niche in the realm of fine wines. With elevations soaring up to 6,500 feet, and a blend of loamy clay soils that retain crucial moisture, this terrain becomes a nurturing cradle for grape cultivation. The bubbly scene in the subregion of Urireo has been popping since 1979, thanks to Spain’s Freixenet setting up shop there. Now Urireo is the shining star of Mexico’s sparkling wine world, boasting the title of the country’s biggest sparkling winery. With its specialty in sparkling wine production, it’s no wonder this place attracts visitors from around the world.
Despite being less renowned than Baja or Valle de Guadalupe, Guanajuato promises an exciting canvas for winemakers, fostering the creation of distinctive, high-quality wines that are gradually leaving an indelible mark in Mexico’s wine portfolio. What’s truly buzz-worthy is the region’s upcoming role as the host city for the prestigious Concours Mondial in 2024, where over 300 judges from across the globe will converge to savor its wines, indulge in its cuisine, and relish its remarkable hospitality. This event promises to catapult Guanajuato’s thriving wine scene onto an international stage, shining a vibrant spotlight on its
But the true star of Mexico has to be Mexico City. Despite lacking vast vineyards, its cosmopolitan allure birthed a coveted wine culture. Imagine trendy wine bars and upscale venues offering global wine pairings – earthy reds, and joyous whites, catering to every discerning palate. This wine scene, much like the city itself, is diverse, dynamic, and always primed for a taste adventure. But wait, Mexico City, where sophistication meets celebration, doesn’t stop at vino!
This dazzling epicenter bursts with culinary innovation and sensory delight, a pulsating revolution that elevates every taste and sip to an ode to Mexico’s flavors and spirit. Visualize this flavor fiesta: the melody of taco stands serenading you with heavenly pastor (pork) tacos, the ocean’s bounty unfolding in mariscos (seafood) tacos adorned with fresh fish or shrimp embraced by zesty salsas. And have you indulged in the tantalizing taste of nopales (cactus) tacos? They’re an absolute delight! Meander through markets overflowing with a kaleidoscope of vivid produce, each vibrant hue promising a burst of sunshine in every bite.
The culinary enchantment extends far beyond the streets! Step into award-winning restaurants orchestrated by global culinary maestros, transforming dining and wine pairing into an art form where every dish weaves a narrative and every sip carries its own revelation.
So, amigos, the takeaway? Mexican wines aren’t just a thing; they’re the next big thing! The journey through these vineyard treasures and the exploration of Mexico’s wine regions have been nothing short of thrilling. Cheers to the vibrant streets, the exquisite flavors, and the rich tapestry of Mexican wines – here’s to embracing life’s vibrant flavors in every sip and every meal. ¡Salud! https://yucatan.travel