Mexican Wine Gives a New Meaning to “Old World”

Baja California

They’re difficult to come by, but Mexican wine is appearing increasingly in specialty shops and restaurants in southern California. Will Lyons for The Wall Street Journal takes a trip to Mexico to explore a little known wine region with a long history.

Most associate Mexico’s export beverages with tequila, mezcal and cheap lagers, so it may come as a surprise that Mexico’s vineyards are among the oldest on the American continents: “One estate can trace its lineage back to 1597. Even by European standards, where there are centuries-old châteaux, 450 years is a long time to be in the wine game,” reports Lyons. Today the Ruta del Vino is concentrated around Valle de Guadeloupe, a valley on the northwestern coast of Mexico and Baja California.

The lower valley around Casa Madero, one of Mexico’s oldest wineries, is deceivingly arid and hostile, but once you climb to the higher points of the valley, where mountain water has transformed the land into “an oasis of green vineyards,” you’ll find Madero’s vines. The wine from this region is composed of familiar internationals—chardonnay, chenin blanc, cabernet, tempranillo—often blended and distinctive from their counterparts by other new world producers, thanks in part to the wines’ briny characteristic.

With winemaking tradition more ancient than most European countries, the term “new world” may be unduly applied, and as Mexican wines continue to make inroads, it may be time to reconsider how New and Old have been divided. [WSJ] [Image: Flickr/RebeccaAR]