Sommelier Angel at Club Med in Ixtapa, Mexico, gave us a short course on the wines of his nation. Proud of the country’s vinous heritage, he stressed the hard work being done to produce wines throughout the country of ever improving quality.
Even the northern states of Mexico are on the fringes of the climatic zones generally thought to favour the growing of wine grapes. But with mountainous regions and areas close to the cool breezes of the Pacific, some vintners are starting to produce some pretty good wines that are now being consumed with pride throughout the country. Cristina Pino, a Spanish oenologist who came to Mexico from Spain a few years ago, is very enthusiastic about the future, pointing out that Mexico has a variety of soils and microclimates, enabling the production of a multitude of wine styles.
In his tasting, Angel introduced us to examples of some of the better Mexican products, including a couple from Monte Xanic, among the best of more than 100 wineries in the Valle de Guadalupe, close enough to the US/Mexican border to be described as a 14 Mile pastoral paradise by San Diego Tourism.
The 2016 Monte Xanic Chardonnay exhibited tropical flavours, with peaches and passion fruit adding complexity. Definitely not a cool climate Chardonnay, but a great match with Mexican spiced dishes. Rating: 88
Next up was V, a rosé from Casa Madero, the oldest winery in North America, founded in 1593. It’s not a pretty wine. This example had lots of guts for a pink wine but lacked the delicacy I look for in this style. Perhaps this was due to it being made from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Still, it’s an interesting bottle and probably a pretty good match with paella or chicken tinga tacos. Rating: 85
Angel then produced what he described as the best wine made in Mexico. Also from Monte Xanic, this 2015 Syrah was something of a revelation. We should note that even the red wines at Ixtapa are stored at a very cool cellar temperature since since the ambient temperature is about 25 degrees C when dining by the sea. But despite beginning at such a cool temperature, the ripe fruit created a great first impression. As time passed, it opened even more to provide a velvety, nicely textured dark berry-edged drink with tobacco and leather overtones. The full dark fruit persisted, but the finish could have lingered a little longer. Still, it’s a very good wine showing real promise. It’s comparable, in my experience, to Alain Graillot’s Syrocco, a luscious Syrah made from grapes grown close to the Mediterranean in Morocco. Rating: 89
On another day we also sampled the V3 from Casa Madero, a Cabernet Sangiovese/Merlot/Tempranillo blend. This wine felt international, with Cabernet Sauvignon dominating. It has a spicy edge and featured dark fruit flavours. The winery suggests pairing it with tuna tostadas or pork carnitas. Rating: 87
We were able to compare this to another Cabernet-based wine, this time blended with Sangiovese, giving it some Italian flair. That wine, the 2015 Villa Montefiori, showed flavors of black cherry with the sensation of toast. Plenty of spice, well balanced and nicely structured. In a blind test, it would be hard to distinguish from an excellent Super Tuscan. Rating: 90
With our experiences with these very good Mexican products under our belts, we returned home in an effort to search out some Mexican wines to test whether they travel well.
Fortunately, the day we arrived home, the 2016 vintage of L.A. Cetto Petite Sirah arrived on our local shelves. It was the only Mexican wine available then.
From the biggest winery in Mexico (founded in 1975), this wine from the Guadalupe Valley has depth and plenty of up-front fruit and spice. Properly known as Durif outside North America, this wine is not related to Syrah (or Shiraz – the same grape) but has some similar characteristics. It is a terrific wine for pizza or burgers, and a bargain as well. at $12.95 Rating: 86