Guanajuato

Wine for drinking and wine for tourism…

Above all, viticulture in Guanajuato, as opposed to its more wine-focused neighbors, is very much focused on the tourism aspect of the industry. On one hand, certain wine producers produce premium wines in small quantities sold on the property as a part of a wine-based tourism experience, while on the other hand, real estate companies have established vineyard real estate developments, the purpose of which is to sell the experience of living on a vineyard. Wine production remains limited in the state (just under 30,000 cases produced in the state in 2013 as per the Consejo Mexicano Vitivinícola – probably significantly more today), with Guanajuato being the lowest-volume wine producing state out of the major wine producing states in Mexico. Nonetheless, it appears that following a significant decline from the late 1990s to the early 2000s, the industry is once again starting to pick up the pieces and become viable.

Another important aspect of viticulture in Guanajuato is the marked presence of organic agriculture, although it must be noted that “organic” has no legally-established meaning in Mexico, which means that it is necessary to trust the words of producers when they say that their agriculture (no pesticides) or their wine (no chemicals during vinification) is organic. In the end, it is unclear whether “organic” is a reality or just another selling point for wine. Family and artisan wine production is also an important element in the state.

Cuna de Tierra, Guanajuato
Structures for nets at wine producer Cuna de Tierra in Dolores Hidalgo

Geography and Climate

Like other regions in central Mexico, Guanajuato is located on the central plateau at generally high altitudes, often around 2,000 m above sea level, but which vary depending on the area of the state. This central region of Mexico is delimited by the Sierra Madre Occidental to the west and the Sierra Madre Oriental to the east, along with multiple minor mountain ranges, and especially the Sierra Gorda. These high altitudes give a relatively cool climate during the growing season taking into consideration the latitude of the area, with average daytime temperatures in the mid-20s. Soils vary depending on the region and area in question. The rainy season is during summer months, generally between May and September, although rains are often not regular.

Regions

In Guanajuato, the main wine producing region is located between the population centers of San Miguel de Allende and Dolores Hidalgo or nearby one of these two towns. San Miguel de Allende is better known for being a very popular tourist destination and home to a large number of Canadian and American ex-pats, which have in part driven the tourism-based wine industry in the region, both due to their much higher consumption of wine than the Mexican average and their desire to purchase land, which has been translated into real estate opportunities to purchase personal vineyards managed by a parent company. The average altitude of the greater municipality of San Miguel de Allende is 1,870 m above sea level, although at specific points this varies from between 850 to 2,700 m altitude. The climate in the area ranges from temperate to semi-arid, and has a large amount of water available due to the presence of both rivers and springs.

Dolores Hidalgo is located approximately 40 km to the north of San Miguel de Allende, on parallel 20, at approximately 2,000 m altitude. During the summer months, daytime temperatures vary between 22 and 26°C. The climate is semiarid and its soil is sandy in general.

In the state, vineyards are also located in San Felipe to the north near the border with San Luis Potosí as well as in the population of San Francisco del Rincón in the part of the state bordering on Jalisco. Moreover, there is a project in the population of Sangre de Cristo high up in the mountains surrounding the city of Guanajuato, but their vines still have a few more years to grow before wine production will be established. However, this last project, called Camino d’Vinos, is interesting in that if it is successful, it will be the highest altitude vineyard in Mexico at approximately 2,400 meters – that is, if nobody beats them to it!

Conventional Vineyards

Despite this focus on wine-based real estate development, there are nonetheless vineyards in Guanajuato that are more exclusively focused on wine.

The largest of these is Cuna de Tierra, which is located in the Dolores Hidalgo region. This project was started in 1989 but their first wines weren’t sold on the market until 2008. They currently produce one white wine made from Semillon as well as red wines from Tempranillo, Syrah, red Bordeaux varietals and Nebbiolo. They also have American grapes planted, from which they are currently producing a fortified dessert wine. This is one of the few producers in the state that is well-known on the national level, with 30 hectares of vineyards and an approximate annual production of 70,000 (2015).

Dos Búhos is a boutique producer in the area of San Miguel de Allende. It currently produces wines that are organic both in the vineyard as well as in the winemaking process. In terms of white wine, they have Sauvignon Blanc, as well as a noteworthy serious rosé made from Grenache, and red wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon as well as a Petite Sirah in a carbonic maceration Beaujolais-Nouveau style, among others. It produces approximately 9000 bottles per year.

Dos Búhos, Guanajuato
Welcome sign at the entrance to small-scale wine producer Dos Búhos in San Miguel de Allende

Another wine-oriented vineyard in the area is Vinícola Toyan, also located in San Miguel de Allende. Like Dos Búhos, Toyan’s wines are organic both in the vineyard as well as in the winemaking process. This producer is particularly noteworthy for its impressive underground cellar: dug a full story under the ranch, not only does this allow them to age their wines for significantly longer than many other Mexican producers, attaining an absolutely stable environment in a country where summer temperatures can be very high, it is also an interesting visit at the winery, as it is outfitted with a medieval-style tasting room that certainly adds ambience to their wines. They produce both red and white wines. Their white varietals include Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, whereas their red varietals include Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. In addition, they have Pinot Noir planted and recently obtained their first harvest of the varietal, although it hasn’t yet been released to the market, if it will in fact be made available. Before turning to wine production, Rancho el Toyán was dedicated to organic agriculture, which it continues to also do, and it appears that this supplemental income has allowed them to establish very interesting winery infrastructure.

Vinicola Toyan, Guanajuato
A surreal sight at the tasting room at Vinícola Toyan near San Miguel de Allende

Other wine-oriented producers in the state include: Vinícola Bernat in Dolores Hidalgo, which produces Viognier and an interesting Grenache; Vinos Guanamé in San Felipe, which produces rosé wines as well as reds from Malbec, Merlot and Syrah; and Bodegas del Lobo in San Francisco del Rincón, which is currently producing a large variety of different grapes for experimentation purposes considering that is a pioneer in this region of Guanajuato, as well as which produces a significant amount of red globe grapes in addition to wine grapes.

Wine as a Tourist Commodity

One of the characteristics of the wine industry in Guanajuato that in many ways sets it apart from the same industry in other states of Mexico is its predominant focus on tourism related to wine. Most likely this is due to the fact that the state is a very popular tourist destination among both national and international tourists, and is home to a large number of American and Canadian ex-pats who own property. While the above vineyards certainly contribute to tourism by offering tours and tastings at the winery, in this section, the focus will be on full-scale real estate or tourism developments focused on selling vineyards as a personal lifestyle experience that can be purchased by those with the cash.

Santissima Trinidad, Guanajuato
A luxury mansion surrounded by personal vineyards at La Santissima Trinidad, San Miguel de Allende

In terms of these real estate developments, the main ones (for the time being) are Viñedos San Miguel, Los Senderos and La Santísima Trinidad/San Lucas, with the latter two being owned by the same company. The first of these is a 120-hectare real estate and vineyard development which will be divided into smaller plots on which people can build houses and establish their own vineyards. The idea is that the company will take care of the vineyards as well as provide tools for the vinification process to the residents of its real estate development. Los Senderos offers a similar product, with the characteristic of also possessing “organic” orchards. The same goes for La Santísima Trinidad, also in San Miguel de Allende, which sells houses on small plots of land with vineyards, olive trees, lavender or all three. All of these “vineyards” show to what extent viticulture has been transformed into a tourist product in the state, although in many ways, this allows for a great deal of added value allowing them to run much more profitable businesses, although the focus appears to have shifted away from the wine somewhat.

Another interesting project worth mentioning is Camino D’Vinos, a relatively new undertaking in Sangre de Cristo and which will become (potentially) the highest vineyard in Mexico at 2,400 meters in a few years when the vines that have planted start to produce fruit adequate for winemaking. It is also a large-scale tourist development with a luxury hotel and restaurants all set up at the site of a former mining hacienda up in the mountains.

Camino D'Vinos, Guanajuato
A picturesque sight at Camino D’Vinos of the former mining complex, overlooking one of the few hillside plantings of vineyards in Mexico.

Conclusion

Above all, it is interesting to note the different focus of the wine industry in Guanajuato, as while tourism is a significant aspect of the wine industry in multiple Mexican states, in no state has it attained the same level as in Guanajuato, where real estate development has now become oriented around wine, albeit with wine at times solely constituting a marketing point for larger projects. Nonetheless, there are still more exclusively wine-oriented producers in the area, although tourism at the winery is still an important part of their business. Above all, the current focus of much of the industry is not so much the production of wine itself as it is selling the experience of wine to the masses of national and foreign tourists that visit the state on a yearly basis. Even so, this influx of cash may give rise to a well-financed industry with the potential for future growth.

Sources:

Cuna de Tierra. http://cunadetierra.com/es/

Clima de Dolores Hidalgo. Wikipedia. https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dolores_Hidalgo#Clima

Dos Búhos. http://dosbuhos.com/bodega/vinos/

Estadísticas del vino en México. Consejo Mexicano Vitivinícola. Información de 2013.  http://www.uvayvino.org/index.php/noticias/22-economia-y-mercados/41-estadisticas-del-vino-en-mexico

Peña Aguilar, Ana Laura. “Los productores de la vid en el estado de Guanajuato: algunos resultados de su perfil informativo”. UNAM, N/F. http://iibi.unam.mx/publicaciones/272/estudios%20de%20usuarios%20diferentes%20comunidades%20Los%20productores%20de%20la%20vid%20Ana%20Laura%20Pena%20Aguilar.html

Peña Aguilar, Ana Laura. “Recursos de información para el uso de los productores de la vid en el estado de Guanajuato. Avances”. UNAM, N/F http://cuib.unam.mx/publicaciones/15/15.NECESIDADES_DE_INFORMACION_Recursos%20de%20informacion_ANA%20LAURA%20PENA%20AGUILAR.html

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