The Answer is Wine. What was the Question? June 2016
by Janet Dorozynski
Welcome to the second installment of “The Answer is Wine. What was the Question?” With the popularity of wine and easy access to information and education on all things wine, there still seem to be queries and questions that many wine drinkers have but are afraid to ask. This is your chance to ask about all things vinous that weigh heavy on your mind and see if the answer shows up in this column. And remember, there are no stupid questions.
Q: PH Asks: What are the 3 most planted red and white wine varieties in Mexico?
A: Ah Mexico – one of my favourite travel destinations though not really well known for wine. That being said, Mexico is actually the oldest wine producing country in the Americas with production dating back to the arrival of Spanish colonialists in the 1500s who were used to drinking wine and having it part of Catholic religious ceremonies. To encourage wine growing and making, Governor Cortés declared that all new settlers plant 1,000 vines for every 100 Mexicans on the land that had been granted to them. King Carlos V of Spain also decreed that all ships headed to the Americas include grape vines on their Atlantic passage.
In fact, the first commercial production of wine in the Americas was made in Mexico in 1597 at the Mission of Santa Maria de la Parras, which is now the Casa Madero winery. Commercial wine production became so successful and prolific that by the end of the 1600s, the rulers in Spain limited production to sacramental wine in order to protect the Spanish wine industry.
Fast forward to phylloxera in the late 1800s which had a devastating effect on the Mexico wine industry with vineyard land amounting to no more than several hundred hectares at the beginning of the twentieth century. Fifty years later there were just over a dozen wine producers.
The modern Mexican wine industry is relatively recent and has gone through periods of expansion with a huge surge of plantings taking place in the 1960s to meet the demand for domestic brandy production, and thanks to foreign investment from multinational producers such as Martell and Allied Domecq, to retraction, due most recently to the free trade agreement with the EU in 1989 and the onslaught of low priced wines from Europe.
Wine is produced in seven states in Mexico, with the long skinny peninsula of Baja, California in the northwest being the most important in terms of size and quality wine production. A number of grape varieties are grown both within Baja California and other regions with the main red grapes being Bordeaux varieties Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot along with Mediterranean varieties well suited to the hot dry growing conditions such as Grenache, Syrah, Barbera, Tempranillo, Zinfandel and perhaps best known to the Canadian wine market, Petit Sirah. Main white grape varieties include Colombard, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier.
One Mexican winery who has made its way to the LCBO and SAQ on occasion, is L.A. Cetto. Click on the images below to see if one is available at a store near you.
Q: LP Asks: We have recently retired and would like to take some wine trips further afield which combine wine, art and culture. We are long time wine lovers and are particularly interested in going to wine regions that have interesting and major cities nearby, as well as to regions with wine museums or exhibits. Do you have any suggestions?
A: If you fancy a visit to the Bilbao with a jaunt to Rioja, or a hike up Table Mountain in Cape Town and vineyard excursion to Walker Bay, then the Great Wine Capitals Global Network is a good place to start planning your next getaway. Although wine route travel planners and regional websites abound, the Great Wine Capitals is a network of nine major global cities located in the northern and southern hemispheres and nearby both “Old” and “New” World wine regions, all of which are situated nearby internationally known wine regions. The cities and wine regions include: Adelaide and South Australia, Bilbao and Rioja in Spain, Bordeaux – the city and its neighbouring wine regions, Cape Town and the Cape Winelands, Mainz and the Rheinhessen in Germany, the city and wine region of Mendoza in Argentina, the city and wine region of Porto in Portugal, San Francisco and the Napa Valley and Valparaìso Chile and the neighbouring Casablanca Valley wine region.
Speaking of great wine capitals, the Cité du Vin has recently opened in Bordeaux. If preliminary reviews are anything to go by, the museum, both outside and inside, is a feast for the senses and a reason to visit or re-visit Bordeaux. In addition to the exhibits, the museum boasts a fabulous roof top wine bar with a panoramic view of Bordeaux and the river Gironde, a reading room, gift shop, restaurant and tapas bar and of course a wine store that will stock bottles from ‘between 70 and 80 countries from the opening. There is also a 250 seat auditorium that will screen Euro 2016 football matches, accompanied by wine tastings of the competing countries.