Today is Cinco de Mayo, the holiday commemorating Mexico’s victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862 (not Mexican independence day, which many people seem to believe). And while you might typically guzzle margaritas in celebration (no judgment!), if you’re looking for a less tenacious hangover tomorrow, you might want to opt for some Mexican wine instead.
Yes, that’s right, Mexico makes wine! In fact, the oldest winery in North America is Mexico’s Casa Madero near the Texas border in Parras de la Fuente, which was founded in 1597. For context, that’s the same year Romeo and Juliet was originally published. Huzzah!
Mexico’s most established wine region, however, is Baja California’s Guadelupe Valley, just about two hours south of San Diego, where there are about 50 wineries.
The oldest is Bodegas Santo Tomás, which was founded way back in 1888, though missionaries had been cultivating vines here since the 18th century. Among the varieties you’ll find in the area are Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc among the whites, and Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Tempranillo among the reds.
Before you start clearing out too much room in your wine fridge, keep in mind that Baja produces about half of a percent of the amount of wine California makes, so you still won’t find too many around outside of Mexico. However, their popularity and availability are starting to grow.
There are larger wineries like LA Cetto and Domecq to visit, but try to make your way to smaller premium brands like Monte Xanic or Casa de Piedra (and find their bottles in your high-end wine store). Personally, I like Monte Xanic’s Sauvignon Blanc. It is crisp without being teeth-squeakingly so, and has some lovely tropical flavors. Casa de Piedra’s Vino de Piedra is a muscular blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Tempranillo, and is one of the area’s cult wines.
If you try some Mexican wines for Cinco de Mayo, be sure to tweet me about it @clustercrush!