Mexico wine country is made up of several regions, each with its own unique climate and soil conditions that favor the growth of certain grape varietals. Mexico is a country with a rich and diverse history, stretching back thousands of years. This heritage is evident in many aspects of Mexican culture, but wine production is a lesser known tradition.
Vineyards have actually been around for a long time in Mexico, thanks to the Spanish.
The history of wine in Mexico
Winemaking in Mexico goes back centuries, dating back to the 16th century when Spanish missionaries first arrived in the area. In fact, this makes Mexico the oldest wine region throughout the Americas. Until Mexico’s independence the production of wine in Mexico was prohibited to only religious use.
Winemaking had its setbacks throughout the early 20th century, then in the 1990s, a group of Mexican entrepreneurs resuscitated wine production in the country and it has slowly been gaining popularity since. In the past decade, wine tourism has taken off, especially in Baja California. Interest in Mexican wine grows every year, as it becomes more competitive and pops up on wine lists around the world.
Mexican Wine Country Regions
Mexico’s wine country is not in one place. It’s spread all over the country. Mexico has some unique wine growing regions, many of them at high elevations, up to 7500 feet. While this is not uncommon for South America, for reference, Napa Valley is 250 feet above sea level, and Europe highest vineyard is at 3700 feet in Meltina, Italy.
Baja California + Valle de Guadalupe
Northern Baja California is home to 200 wineries and counting. It’s rapid growth and competition has put Mexican wine on the map in the past decade. The main growing areas in Baja wine country are Valle de Guadalupe, Valle de San Vicente, Valle de Calafia, and Valle de Santo Tomas.
The soils in Northern Baja are a mix of granite and clay, great for growing wine grapes. The climate is hot and dry with cool nights (due to proximity to the ocean), which helps to slow the ripening of grapes in the hottest of summer months. Rhone and Bordeaux varietals are grown here, along with many other types of grapes, as the area has seen a boom in wineries in recent years.
Köppen–Geiger Climate Classification: Cold semi-arid climate bordering a Warm weather Mediterranean region
Soil: granite + clay
Coahuila + Valle de Parras
Winemaking in Coahuila primarily occurs in two subregions, both with high elevation.
Valle de Parras might be the most famous, as it is home to the oldest winery in Mexico and all of the Americas, Casa Madero. The climate here is hot and dry, but the elevation is 4900ft above sea level. Big fruity reds are typical here, like Syrah, Malbec, and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Köppen–Geiger Climate Classification: Hot desert to Hot semi-arid
Arteaga is a really interesting wine growing region. Tucked in the valley right next to to the Sierra de Arteaga mountains at an altitude of 6900 feet, vineyards see big diurnal shifts, and average summer temps don’t often reach above 90°F or below 30°F. Fog and weather patterns around Sierra de Arteaga have a huge influence on the vineyards in the valley, and winemakers are even growing Pinot Noir.
Köppen–Geiger Climate Classification: Temperate subtropical highland
Sonora is located on the west coast of Mexico’s mainland opposite Baja on the gulf. In agriculture, Sonora is best known for its cattle farms, but wine is growing in popularity. Traditionally, grapes are grown in Sonora for brandy, and mostly in Hermosillo and Caborca. While Hermosillo and Caborca are both Hot desert climates, there are tiny areas with more of a Mediterranean climate, which is great for cultivating wine grapes.
Cananea is one such microclimate, home to Cuatro Sierras, a winery growing Syrah, Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Touriga Nacional, Malbec, Mourvedre and Chardonnay.
Köppen–Geiger Climate Classification: Sonora as a whole ranges from Hot, Semi-arid to Hot Desert, but contains tiny pockets of warm weather Mediterranean
Soil: clay, limestone, gravel, stone
Zacatecas + Aguascalientes
Zacatecas has the highest elevation growing region in Mexico, with some vineyards above 7500 feet, including in San Luis Potosí. The area doesn’t receive much annual rainfall, but extreme diurnal shifts. Malbec is a predominant varietal in Zacatecas, but many others can be found growing. It’s also the only area of Mexico that must consider frost and hail, as winter lows can reach 20°F.
Aguascalientes is a small subregion in the south of Zacatecas. It’s the desert, but with elevations above 6000 feet. The soil is mainly loamy clay, and the climate is hot semi-arid, with the exception of a handful of microclimates. In the summer, it’s fairly temperate for a desert climate, with average highs rarely reaching 90°F and summer night lows around 60°F. Malbec and Nebbiolo are popular varietals in Aguascalientes.
Köppen–Geiger Climate Classification: Semi-arid
Another high elevation wine-growing region at 6500-7000 feet, Queretero is known for producing predominantly white wines and sparkling wines. There are several newcomers to the sparkling wine scene, and Spanish sparkling producer Cavas Freixenet has an outpost in this region. Queretaro is the closest wine region to Mexico City. As a mecca for foodies, the wine regions closest to the city will probably see rapid growth in the coming years.
Köppen–Geiger Climate Classification: Semi-arid
Soil: loamy clay
A little further from Mexico City than Queretaro, Guanjuato is also around 6500 feet above sea level. The climate is similar, though cooler microclimates are common in the hillside dotted region. This Mexican wine region also grows Bordeaux varietals, along with Muscat and Tempranillo.
Köppen–Geiger Climate Classification: Semi-arid with Subtropical highland microclimates
Soil: loamy clay
Grape varietals that are grown in Mexico
Many grape varietals are grown for winemaking in Mexico. Some boutique wineries are successfully experimenting with less common varietals, but the most common grapes grown for Mexican wines are Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, Tempranillo, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc. Bordeaux varietals are extremely common across the country, and Valle de Guadalupe as a single region focuses a lot on Rhone varietals.
Visit Wine Country in Mexico
Some Mexican wine regions are more developed for tourism than others, but there are tasting rooms in all of them, should you wish to visit. If you love wine, traveling to the many wine regions of the world is both educational and fulfilling. Consider a wine tasting trip to a Mexico wine country like Valle de Guadalupe. Alternatively, fly to Mexico City and take a few days to explore Queretaro and Guanajuato to the north.