When most people think Mexico, the buzz terms are generally: sun, sombreros, tacos and tequila. No problems there! When most people think Cabernet Sauvignon, most people think Left Bank Bordeaux, Napa Valley, Chile or Australia. But in recent years, Mexico has quietly become a powerhouse of wine, finally evidenced by a win at the annual Concours De Cabernet competition put on by over 1,200 top sommeliers in France.
After quite a few recent wins from Australia, France and Portugal, alongside one surprise win by Austria, Mexico took home the top prize at this internationally acclaimed competition to be named the world’s best Cabernet. The Wine? Vinedos Don Leo, with the 2013 Don Leo Gran Reserva.
Although the vineyard is a rather recent addition, having surfaced in the year 2000, its history goes back over 80 years, when the original Don Leo Mendel emigrated from Germany to Mexico to escape war. His grandson Arturo now oversees production at the (now) world renowned vineyard.
Vinedos Don Leon may be the newest and most famous face of Mexican wine, but its nearby neighbor in the Valle De Parras, ‘Casa Madero’ is the oldest vineyard in all of North America. Yes that’s right – forget California, or the United States in general, the first wine region in North America was in Mexico. The region in the center of North East Mexico in between Durango and Coahuila, is the epicenter of the blossoming fine wine scene.
If you’re looking for a reference point: think Monterrey, which is under a three hours drive. The vast majority of fine wines making a name for Mexico come from the Aguascalientes, Durango, Zacatecas and Coahuila areas, with the exception of another booming vineyard scene in Sonora and Baja, to the West.
With wine comes tourism, and as travel looks to continue its rebound, wine tourism will bring an extremely valuable new form of visitor to the country. Cancun, Playa Del Carmen and Mexico City will forever be staples, but wine tourism creates socially distanced visiting, in places not quite as used to the rewards of foreign tourism dollars.
It took Napa about 30 years to earn the full respect (and shocking price points) it now enjoys, but thanks to the sensation known as the internet, it’s unlikely that the Mexican wine tourism scene and it’s many vinous treats will stay underground anywhere near that long.
If you’re thinking of adding a stop to an upcoming Mexico trip, or tagging on a cool side destination to future West Coast USA trips, a quick flight down to Monterrey just might be the most rewarding experience you’ll find. Particularly, of course, if you can get your hands on the top prize winning wine…