Altitude has become yet another marketing term associated with wine. And yet, how do different wines compare with one another in terms of how altitude affects their growing conditions? We often think of Argentina as being home to high-altitude wines, but the fact that many of the vineyards in central Mexico are much higher than regions like Mendoza (which is only at approximately 1000 m altitude) might come as a surprise to many people.
While the vineyards in Mexico’s main wine-producing state of Baja California Norte are located at low, unremarkable altitudes, a very large number of wine producing regions in the center of the country are located between 1500 m and 2000 m altitude (emphasis on “meters” – we are not talking in feet here!). These states include Chihuahua, Coahuila, Zacatecas, Guanajuato, Querétaro and San Luis Potosí. Altitude is one of the essential conditions making it possible to produce wine in these regions, as it provides much cooler growing conditions than in the Baja, producing a very different style of wines that tend to be less tannic, more acidic and on average closer to European styles. However, this cool climate combined with summer rains means that it can at times be hard for grapes to reach full ripeness, constituting a significant challenge for winemakers in these regions.
It’s important to take into account that central Mexico is a vast stretch of land with many different climates and microclimates, many of which are enabled by altitude. The information provided here might be useful to you if you’re looking for a wine that isn’t going to be as tannic or robust as the “standard” Mexican wine.
While many Mexican vineyards try to lay claim to being the highest in the country, some aspects need to be taken into account. Camino d’Vinos in the state of Guanajuato is most likely the highest at approximately 2400 m altitude, but their grapevines are still too young to produce wine, and because of that they haven’t been included in this infographic. In a few years’ time, we will see whether their vines survive and will adjust accordingly. The wine that they currently produce is made by Cuna de Tierra, which also makes it onto this list.
The top four positions on this image are in fact the four highest vineyards in Mexico. However, moving downwards along the chain, we have mainly included vineyards from each region that makes it onto this map, but obviously don’t have the space to include all of the vineyards in San Miguel de Allende, Ezequiel Montes or Dolores Hidalgo. The fact of the matter is that all of the states in central Mexico are located at relatively high altitudes, meaning that the large majority of vineyards located in these regions are above 1500 m, if not higher.
The graph above compares some well-known and not so well-known wine producing regions in the world in terms of altitude. The reality is that Mexico is pretty high up there! Next time you think that altitude has a big effect on wines in regions such as Tupungato el Alto (Mendoza), consider that Mexico is in fact one of the wine regions with some of the highest vineyards in the world!
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