One of Mexico’s top wine-producing states and the home of Cava varietals and sparkling wine in the country…
Querétaro is one of Mexico’s top wine producing states, containing a variety of producers that range from extremely small scale to the international giant Freixenet and the Mexican giant La Redonda. The state has a well-established wine tourism route that combines well with the European-style cheese-making that is also important in the region. The state is home to significant sparkling wine production in particular, but also has a thriving industry around dry still wines as well as sweetened wine beverages.
In terms of geography and climate, Querétaro is also the southernmost important wine producing state in Mexico, located more or less on the 20th parallel, a full 10° south of the recommended latitude range for wine production. Like the rest of central Mexico, Querétaro’s growing conditions and ability to produce wine are based on microclimates specific to the central plateau of Mexico, which are above all characterized by their high altitude, with many of the vineyards in the state being located at altitudes of between 1,800 and 2,000 m. Rain occurs during the summer months and varies depending on the region in the state, but like in all of central Mexico, this can be a challenge for production in the vineyard.
In terms of characteristic grapes, while red grapes often seem to dominate as is the case in almost all of Mexico, it is interesting to note the use of Cava varietals – Xarel-lo, Macabeo and Parellada – among multiple producers in the state for the production of both sparkling and still white wines. In terms of red grapes, the state tends to repeat the same classic central Mexican varieties, namely Malbec, Tempranillo, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Nebbiolo. However, sparkling wine production is very important in this state among a variety of producers, a fact which sets it apart from other regions of Mexico where sparkling wines are rare or an afterthought.
There is a great deal of variety in wine production in Querétaro. While many states have a marked division between mass-produced industrial wine and grape products of poor quality as opposed to small-scale high-quality wine, things are less clear-cut in Querétaro.
The largest producer in the state, Freixenet, a Spanish company which set up shop in this state of Mexico in 1982, produces high-quality sparkling wines using the traditional method with both Cava and Champagne varieties, occasionally incorporating other varieties, accounting for 80% of production in the state. It is also one of the largest exporters of wine produced in Mexico. On top of it sparkling wine production, it also has a selection of still white, rosé and red wines, but bubbles are without a doubt its specialty. Freixenet is an interesting example of an international company setting up shop in Mexico, which is very likely indicative of the wine-producing potential of the area, although at this point in time other international actors are not yet on the stage.
The other large-scale producer in the state is La Redonda, which is interesting in the variety of the selection of wines that it produces. Offering at least twenty different wine labels ranging from low-priced easy to drink (for some people) off-dry grape juice-style wines to oak-aged mid-range wines and finally expensive and serious premium wines, without forgetting its range of sparkling wines on the way, it is hard to summarize the production of La Redonda. Of particularly good value is its Orlandi product line. This producer was founded in 1975 and is located in the region of Ezequiel Montes.
Small-Scale Quality Producers
There are many noteworthy small-scale producers in the state of Querétaro, although they may be overshadowed by the popularity of the above two producers.
Bodegas de Cote is literally Freixenet’s neighbor, but the two couldn’t be more different. De Cote is home to a luxurious high-end restaurant on a very refined property where its selection of wines can be enjoyed. De Cote has three different product lines for its wines, Inédito, Atempo and De Cote, the latter of which is the brand name for its premium wines. Nonetheless, all three contain high quality wines, including remarkable whites made from Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay as well as dry and off-dry rosés with excellent acidity, followed by a selection of red wines made from the typical varietals of central Mexico including blends as well as a monovarietal Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. De Cote is the state’s third-largest producer, although by no means compares to the volumes of Freixenet and La Redonda.
Cava 57 is another premium wine producer that also places particular emphasis on its range of sparkling wines produced from Cava varietals. The sweetness of its bubbles range from brut nature to demi-sec, but they are all made from the above-mentioned grape varieties. This producer also makes-quality red wines from Malbec, Merlot and Syrah. Overall, it is an excellent choice if you are looking to try a sparkling wine from the state produced on a less industrial and more quality-focused scale than those of Freixenet or La Redonda.
Located in the municipality of El Marqués, Vinos del Marqués is another boutique producer. It produces a remarkably mineral and high-acidity still white wine made from Macabeu, Sauvignon Blanc and Xarel-lo. It also produces a range of red wines from the classic varieties in the state, which are more the focus of its production, of which it is absolutely worth noting the reserve Nebbiolo-Syrah, but all of which are excellent. Its one rosé wine is also made from Nebbiolo and confirms the fact that this winery is not afraid to produce wines with real acidity (despite the difficulty of selling acidity on the Mexican market). This producer is owned by the same owners as Dorantes Cervera, which is another quality-focused wine producer in the region of El Marqués.
Other quality producers in the state include: Viñedos Azteca, which is an artisan wine producer that uses Bordeaux varietals for red and rosé wines as well as produces a white from Chardonnay; San Juanito, also located in Ezequiel Montes, the specialty grape of which is Malbec, from which it produces a young Malbec without barrel aging, a reserve Malbec and a rose version of the varietal; Paso de Serra, which in particular produces a sparkling rose from the Syrah grape as well as a red blend from Malbec, Merlot and Shiraz; and Puerta del Lobo, which claims to be an enotourism development in addition to a wine producer, and which produces a noteworthy Sauvignon Blanc as well as red wines.
In terms of the not-so-tempting jug wine in the state, there is Vinícola Maracaibo, the producer of the Atonelli brand as well as other grape-based products. Another producer in this category is Vinícola San Patricio, which mainly focuses on the manufacture of young wines, as well as Sherry and Port style drinks. It is the producer of Uva de Oro Sherry.
In another style, Viñedos los Rosales was founded in 1970 and is currently dedicated to producing sweet red wine elaborated using artisan methods with the Salvador grape, although in 2013 they planted five new varieties consisting of cabernet sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Chardonnay and Moscatel, which will allow them to broaden the range of wines that they are able to offer.
Another producer is Vinícola Tequisquiapan.
The state of Querétaro has two main wine producing regions as well as multiple secondary regions. The main regions are Ezequiel Montes and Tequisquiapan and the area between them, although other regions include San Juan del Río, El Marqués, and the Valle de Colón. It is important to note that this division into regions is based on political lines, that is, according to the municipalities contained in the state, which is common in Mexico but does not necessarily always reflect a difference in terroir. While there are certainly variations in climate and geography across the state, a single municipality may be home to a variety of conditions.
Ezequiel Montes is the region where the most wine is produced and where the large-scale producers Freixenet and La Redonda are located. The municipality is located at approximately 2,000 m altitude, with warm daytime temperatures strongly contrasted with cold nighttime temperatures. It is a semiarid region that can be tempered by intermediate humidity. Its soils vary depending on the location, and include red clay rock as well as limestone. It has an average of approximately 500 mm of rainfall per year.
Some 20 km to the south of Ezequiel Montes is the municipality of Tequisquiapan. It is home to numerous vineyards and is second in production in the state. However, it is important to note that many of the vineyards in the area are located in the area between Ezequiel Montes and Tequisquiapan, which means that their division into two separate regions is more based on political boundaries than it is on geographic factors affecting wine. Like its neighbor to the north, Tequisquiapan is located at approximately 1,800 m altitude and has a semiarid climate. Both regions experience the majority of rain during summer months. Tequisquiapan has an average annual rainfall of approximately 750 mm, with rains being concentrated during summer months.
El Marqués is another important municipality in the state in terms of wine production which is home to multiple smaller-scale producers, along with San Juan del Río, which is located to the south of Tequisquiapan. The latter was the first place in Querétaro where grape vines were planted for wine production, dating back to the times of the conquest and the spreading of wine production across central Mexico through the misiones. Last of all is the municipality of Colón. It is located approximately 25 km to the northwest of Ezequiel Montes and shares the climactic and geographic features of the latter to a certain extent.
Like all wine producing regions in central Mexico, wine production in Querétaro dates back to the times of the conquest, when it was planted by Spanish explorers and missionaries during their expansion throughout the country and the religious mission to evangelize the indigenous populations. However, this history is not nearly as well documented in Querétaro as it is in nearby Coahuila. The first place where viticulture took place was in the Valle de San Juan del Río, due to the fact that it is not as mountainous as its neighboring modern-day wine production regions. For a long time, due to constraints imposed by the Spanish restriction on planting vineyards in the New World, viticulture remained in the shadows in Querétaro.
In the early 1800s, during the beginning of the War of Independence, wine production in the center of the country was put on hold due to the war effort, and only a few churches were able to maintain their vineyards. In the 1820s, there were initiatives to try to recover this production, and during this time Querétaro was home to consistent production, albeit on a much smaller scale than the famous Parras de la Fuente to the north. Viticulture in Querétaro once again experienced an upheaval in 1910 during the Mexican Revolution, during which a large number of battles once again took place in the state, seriously setting back viticulture in the area. In the 1920s following the revolution, viticulture once again started to reestablish itself, although it wasn’t until 1952 that the first wine producer set up in the state, and not until 1972 that La Redonda became the first serious producer in the state.
Between this time and the late 1990s, like in Aguascalientes, Querétaro experienced a peak in production, with approximately 3,300 ha of vineyards (for the production of various final products including wine), only approximately 15% of which are currently in existence. This is because during the late 1980s and 1990s, the wine industry suffered from the lack of competitiveness of Mexican grape and grape products faced with the lower cost of imports following Mexico’s signing of the GATT, other factors related to the scarcity of capital during the financial crisis and unprofitable production methods.
However, in the last two decades, Querétaro has successfully been able to make up much of its lost ground, and is currently producing highly-competitive wines. With over 3 million bottles of wine produced in 2015, according to the Asociación de Vinos Queretanos, Querétaro has now stepped past Coahuila to become the second largest wine producer in Mexico in terms of volume, largely thanks to the volume of Freixenet. A significant number of premium producers have popped up in the state in the past 20 years in particular, which has led to a diverse and thriving industry that has already won numerous national and international recognitions for its wine.
Overall, Querétaro has already demonstrated its capacity to produce premium wines, and has won numerous awards for doing so. It is likely that in the future, this region will continue to grow positively, as it currently benefits from a positive reputation while nonetheless remaining somewhat unknown on the national level, obscured by the giant of Baja California and the history of Coahuila. As wine from Querétaro becomes better known, it is likely that the region will be able to benefit from more recognition, including on the international level.
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