What, surprised? Yep, it’s true that Mexico’s about more than tequila and beer. In fact, vino here dates back to the 16th century, when vines were brought over from Spain – so never mind Argentina and Chile, Mexico is where this hemisphere’s wine heritage was sown, and the Western Hemisphere’s oldest winery, Casa Madero, is still in operation after 432 years. For various reasons – including, in the last century, the disruptions of the Mexican Revolution, and the beer and tequila preferences of Mexicans – the wine industry hasn’t become as internationally known as others in Latin America. But nonetheless, especially in the last three decades or so, winemaking south of the border has been making up for lost time, exporting to dozens of countries and winning some pretty impressive awards; in the past several years, in fact, media around the world has spoken of a “Mexico’s boutique wine renaissance.” Many Mexican restaurants and resorts which would once have never considered serving vino mexicano now regularly have at least a few local labels on offer. I can see why – when I did a tasting on my last visit, I was blown away, in comparison to the first bottles I’d sampled years earlier (of which the less said, the better).

The center of the country’s wine industry is up north, in Baja California, Sonora, Coahuila, and elsewhere, and many of the grapes grown here are the reds and whites you’re familiar with: Borden, Grenache, syrah, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc, among others.

A Mexican Wine Tasting

If you’re a wine-lover vacationing in Mexico's hottest tourism area,  the Riviera Maya,/Cancun, I just have to recommend a visit to Xcaret. While this eco-cultural tourist playground may be better known for its folklore shows and splashing around, less famous is its Vino de México Wine Cellar. Picturesquely cavelike and stocked with more than 180 labels from vineyards all around the country, it offers a 90-minute, US$39 tour and tasting which provides a nice overview of Mexico’s oenological scene, plus a tasting of five wines paired with tasty Mexican dishes. For what you get, it’s a pretty decent deal, and certainly a fascinating educational experience.

For more info on Mexican wines, check www.TheWinesofMexico.com.

photos: Lunita LuTomascastelazo

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