Posted On January 30, 2020 By In Island Table, Regulars, Top Stories With 188 Views

OFF THE VINE – Wine Adventure in the Heart of Mexico

by Tania Tomaszewska

Wine touring in Mexico? You bet! Last month I was lucky to spend time in Querétero and San Miguel de Allende, about a three-hour drive north of Mexico City and in the corazon (heart) of Mexico.

In this land of tequila, mezcal and beer, wine consumption and production has traditionally not been a huge part of Mexican life, but enthusiasm and investment are spurring growth in winemaking and enotourism here. Valle de Guadalupe in Baja California (near the U.S. border, just south of San Diego) is the prominent Mexican wine region, but other states like Querétero and Guanajuato (which neighbour each other) are putting themselves on the wine map.

Vineyards in this region sit at about 2,000 metres above sea level. It’s semi-desert and arid with high daytime temperatures, but benefits from cold nights and big diurnal swings (like our South Okanagan Valley region) which helps grapes to retain acidity.

There aren’t many pests around, so the main risks for producers are heavy rains and hail storms during their very short growing season. Soils are mixed and include tepetate (a volcanic rock tough for vines to get through) and clay. There’s some dry-farming, but irrigation is largely part of life. Like other wine regions, the pursuit of passion takes on the challenges.

Sparkling and whites seem to do best (with grapes like chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and muscat). But many reds are produced, especially blends using Bordeaux varietals, syrah and tempranillo.

Off-dry styles are popular with local consumers, but I focused on tasting their dry wines. These are generally light-bodied, low alcohol, high in acidity and low in tannins – so very food friendly. As a few Mexican sommeliers have noted to me, big bold tannic reds are really not part of the Mexican wine scene yet.

I hit six wineries in the Querétero and San Miguel de Allende area over two days. Here’s a snapshot of two bodegas to give a flavour of the range of styles on offer.

Viñedos Azteca

For something completely different, check out Viñedos Azteca – an old-style Mexican ranch replete with hacienda buildings and an integrated equine experience. The love for horses and wine comes through in everything here, from the wine labels to sleek silver horses ridden through the grounds by caballeros (performing impromptu tricks for visitors along the way).

You can take it all in over a degustacion flight of four wines while relaxing at one of their small outdoor tables in a tranquil gardened courtyard.

Viñedos Azteca focuses on artisanal winemaking of six reds: cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, malbec, syrah and tempranillo. A stand-out for me was their 2018 cabernet sauvignon malbec blend called Cahuayo (which means “Horse” in Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs). www.vinedosazteca.com Ezequiel Montes, Querétero, México.

De Cote Casa Vitivinicola

Owned by two brothers and built by famed Mexico City architects Serrano Monjaraz in 2014, De Cote greets you with a grand modern winery building and rooftop patio restaurant with sweeping views across their 125 acres of estate vines.

A fantastic guided tour took me into the vineyard, through their impressive winemaking facilities, down into a large subterranean cellar filled with French and American oak barrels, and then to a lovely outdoor tasting area to try the two wines which they poured that day.

De Cote produces more than 20 varieties, but I got to try just a few. I liked the 2017 Chardonnay and 2015 Tempranillo Shiraz and would go back to taste their Reserve range. www.Decote.mx. Ezequiel Montes, Querétero, México.

For more info: www.ttwineexplorer or on Instagram @ttwineexplorer.

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Your West Coast Culture. A magazine about the people and places that make the Saanich Peninsula the little piece of paradise we call home.

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