Mexican Wines. That might not be something that comes to mind when you are looking for wines, but quality wines are coming from regions in Mexico.
Like other new world regions around the globe, wine in Mexico has seen a dramatic increase in the last couple of decades. As recently as 2006 you could barely find 25 wineries in Mexico. Today there are hundreds of boutique wineries making high-quality wine their way.
This month #WinePW is exploring these regions, thanks to some beautiful samples sent our way by Tozi Imports, an Import company focused on Mexican Wines.
We are led this month by David of Cooking Wine Chat, you can read his invitation post here.
You can join the conversation as we take to Twitter on Saturday April 9th at 11 am Eastern time/8 am Pacific. Just follow and use the hashtag #WinePW to hear all about Mexican wines!
A bit of history on Mexican wines.
Grape growing in Mexico dates back to 1521, when the Spanish, led by Cortez defeated the Aztecs. Spanish sailors drank wine and they brought cuttings with them and began the plantings in “New Spain”.
The region became a hub for winemaking in the New World from 1521 to 1699. They became so popular that the King of Spain banned commercial winemaking in Mexico to protect Spanish winemaking. The only wineries allowed to stay open in Mexico were those making sacramental wine for the Catholic Church.
Casa Madero in Coahuila’s Valle de Parras was one of these. This winery began as the Mission of Santa Maria de Las Parras and today it is the 5th oldest continuously operating winery in the world.
Mexican Wine Regions
Mexico does not have an appellation system for wines, you will find them labeled by the Mexican State they are grown in.
They are divided into north, and central. The southern portion of Mexico is too hot for growing wine grapes.
As you look at this map the regions to focus on are Baja in the Northwest, where you will find the Valle de Guadalupe region that is quickly growing to be a favorite getaway for Southern California. Further east you find Sonora, Chihuahua and Coahuila. Coahuila contains the Valle de Parras wine area.
In central Mexico there is Durango, Zacatecas, San Luis Potosi and Aquascalientes.
The most southerly regions are Guanajuato & Querétaro. We are heading to Querétaro (which you can see in red) with the two wines we tasted.
Querétaro on the 20th parallel
Wait? Isn’t that too far south for wine grapes to grow?
Yep, Querétaro sits on the 20th parallel. It is the southern-most wine-producing region in the Northern Hemisphere.
That seems like it would be way too hot, considering the typical latitude for wine-growing regions sits between 30 and 50 degrees (you can see the bands of those latitudes on the map below). But here, in Querétaro, you are at altitudes of 5000 to 6500 feet, so it is cooler.
This altitude also gives you diurnal shifts to stretch the growing season and get the grapes fully ripe while keeping their acidity. The higher altitude also means more intense sun and UV rays which thicken the skins, you know the part of the grape with the most flavor.
Vina Dona Dolores Brut Reserva
This wine is 50% Macabeu (also known in some parts of Spain as Viura) and 50% Xarel-lo.
Macabeu and Xarel-lo are two of the grapes typically used for Cava (the 3rd is Parellada). This should come as no surprise as this wine is made by Freixenet de Mexico. Freixenet is one of the largest sparkling wine companies in the world making those black bottles of Cava in Spain and some amazing wines in Sonoma at Gloria Ferrer.
Max of Tozi Imports told us that Freixenet is very supportive of the young wineries in the region, many of whom are growers for them also. They lend space and equipment, making it possible for many small vineyards to begin making their own wine. (A rising tide raises all boats!)
The vineyard here is at 6,500 feet, perfect for sparkling wine grapes.
This sparkling wine is made in the traditional method and spends 18-24 months sur lie.
The nose on this is green apple, pear, Meyer lemon, chalk, and bread dough. On the palate, I get a bit of lime in addition to the apple, pear, and lemon.
We paired this wine with a simple TJ’s special! We had run by Trader Joe’s and I picked up some fun pasta, a Cascatelli that they had on an end cap, I found a jar of Limone Alfredo sauce (alfredo with lemon and pepper) and a bag of frozen Organic Green Vegetable Foursome. I was able to whip this up quickly, pop the bottle, and enjoy!
Paso de Serra Beatus 2016 Syrah
Another wine from Querétaro, this from the Paso de Serra vineyard that is at 6,466 feet. Some of the vineyards here were originally planted by Father Junípero Serra, who is famous for bringing wine grapes to Baja and the Valle de Guadalupe as well as to Southern California, as he spread the word of the Franciscans.
Alvaro Larrondo and Renata Gomez began this winery in 2013 after growing grapes for Finca Sala Vivé (Freixenet Mexico). This young winery has 10 hectares of vines that they make into their Previo blends and their Beatus line of wines that are single varieties from mature vines.
We tasted the Paso de Serra Beatus Syrah 2016.
This syrah sees 16 months in a combination of French and American Oak. It sits at 12.5% abv, which seems so low for Syrah, but keep in mind that this is a high-altitude wine.
It is deep in color with notes of blackberry, black cherry, and stewed fruits on the nose, with bits of black pepper. You also get a hint of chocolate, coffee, and spice in the background.
I was expecting it to be big and jammy on my palate, from the stewed fruit aromas that I was getting, but this wine is bright, like fresh blackberry juice. It is juicy and has great acidity, which is unexpected in a Syrah from the 20th latitude. The high altitude allows the grape to retain its acid and balance out the fruit. I also found that the wine had much more body than its 12.5% abv led me to expect.
We wanted to do something elegant with this wine. Syrah, makes me think of duck or steak, so we combined the two.
New York Strip seared in duck fat with duck fat crisped marble potatoes, topped with a poached duck egg.
As if that wasn’t enough, we added grilled baguette slices with duck liver mousse and rounded it out with a spring green and radicchio salad with a berry vinaigrette.
All of this paired spectacularly with the wine. All that fat? Well, the acidity of this wine cut right through that and the bright fruit was a brilliant complement to the meat.
Want to try these wines?
The truth is that Mexican wines are hard to find in the US. We suggest looking at The Urban Grape.
They ship nationwide. They carry the Dona Dolores Brut. At $18 this is a great value!
While the Paso de Serra Beatus Syrah is not currently available, the Paso de Serra “Revio” Red Blend from (Queretaro, MX) is available at $22.
If you are a wine shop or restaurant looking for an importer of Mexican wines, you can find Max and Tozi Imports at https://www.toziimports.com/
More on Mexican Wines and Pairings from the Crew at #WinePW
My colleagues at #WinePW all dove into Mexican wines and pairings this week! You can explore their articles below!
- Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm will share “Mexican Foods and Wines always provide for a Perfect Fiesta”
- Susannah from Avvinare is “Discovering Mexican Wine”
- Jen from Vino Travels is taking “A First Look at Mexican Wines Including Italian Grapes”
- Carlos from Carlos’ Food & Wine is serving up “Mexican wines featuring sparkling wine risotto & grilled hanger steak with mushroom-red wine sauce”
- Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla is sharing “Outside the Pigeon-Hole: Pairing Mexican Wine with Thai Cuisine”
- Gwendolyn from Wine Predator Gwendolyn Alley features “Sparkling Wine from Mexico For #TacoTuesday”
- Linda from My Full Wine Glass is “Saying ‘hola’ to Mexican Tempranillo and sparkling wine”
- Martin from ENOFLZ Wine Blog will share “Exploring Mexican Wine Beyond Baja”
- Nicole from Somm’s Table is “Sipping Mexican Wines with a Bowl of Birria”
- Liz of What’s in that Bottle shares “Salud a Los Vinos de Mexico!“
- Terri of Our Good Life shares “Grassfed Ribeye with Steak Butter and Grilled Oyster Mushrooms Paired with Monte Xanic Cabernet Sauvignon“
- David from Cooking Chat will pair “Roasted Beet Pesto Pasta with Mexican Merlot”
New York Strip seared in duck fat with duck fat crisped marble potatoes, topped with a poached duck egg. How decadent does that sound?
As if that wasn’t enough, we added grilled baguette slices with duck liver mousse and rounded it out with spring green and radicchio salad with a berry vinaigrette.
All to pair with a spectacular Mexican Syrah from the high-altitude vineyards of Queretaro!
- 1 lb New York strip steak
- ½ lb marble potatoes
- ½ cup duck fat divided
- 2 duck eggs
- Duck liver mousse
- Salad greens
- Berry jam
- Balsamic vinegar
- Brown mustard
- Dried cherries
- Dried cranberries
- Allow 30 minutes for the steak to come to room temperature.
- Boil the potatoes for 15 minutes
- Season the steak with salt and pepper
- Place 2 tbs duck fat in a cast iron pan heat to
high (smoking temp for duck fat is very high).
Sear the steak for 3 min per side building a good crust. Continue
flipping and cooking until the internal temp is 130 degrees.
- Rest 5 minutes.
- Drain the potatoes, and add another tbs of duck
fat to the pan the steak came out of. Add
the potatoes and smash with a potato smasher or spatula, just to break them
open and flatten a bit. Season with salt
and pepper. Cook turning until crispy.
- For the dressing, mix 1 tbsp berry jam, 2 tbsp EVOO,
1 tbs balsamic vinegar, and 1 tsp spicy brown mustard. Season with s& P. put in a jar and shake. Mix spring greens with chopped radicchio,
chopped pecans, and chopped dried cherries and cranberries. At the last moment drizzle and toss with the
- Slice the baguette into ½ inch thick slices on the
diagonal. Brush both sides with olive
oil and broil for about 30 seconds per side (don’t look away they will burn!).
- Set a pot of water to a light boil with 2 tbs of
vinegar. Crack each egg into a small
bowl. When the water is lightly boiling,
stir the water in a circular motion to create a whirlpool at the center, drop
one egg in, and gently stir to keep the white from covering the pot. Gently stir and add the second egg. Allow the eggs to
simmer for 4-5 minutes then scoop out gently with a slotted spoon.
- Slice the steak on the bias. Place the potatoes on the center of the
plate, top with slices of steak, and finish off with a poached egg. Garnish
with salt and pepper. Add the baguette slices, the sliced duck liver mousse,
and the salad. Cut the egg open just before eating.
Amount Per Serving Calories 2337Total Fat 140gSaturated Fat 51gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 75gCholesterol 1104mgSodium 1655mgCarbohydrates 171gFiber 10gSugar 59gProtein 98g
Nutrition information isn’t always accurate.
Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine and WSET 3 Certified. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.
When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.