Zacatecas

A not so well known state, but an important producer of grapes in Mexico and a region with much potential…

Zacatecas shares many climactic features with the rest of central Mexico, although like Aguascalientes, grape production here experienced a significant decline in the late 1980s-early 1990s, from which it is just starting to recover. Nonetheless, quality producers are emerging or established, namely Tierra Adentro and Luevano Ruiz. Despite the climactic challenges in the state, its future looks promising, although progress is being made slower than in the more prolific wine-producing central Mexican states of Guanajuato and Querétaro. Even so, other agriculture in the state predominates over winemaking, and many grape producers choose not to produce wine, instead selling their harvest to other producers in the state or other regions of Mexico.

Zacatecas Tierra Adentro
The characteristic sign at Tierra Adentro Wines in Zacatecas

Climate and Geography

Zacatecas is a Mexican state in the central continental region of the country. To place it with respect to other wine producing regions, it shares a southern border with Aguascalientes and northern borders with Coahuila and Durango. The northern part of the state has an arid climate, while the central and southern parts of the state have semiarid and temperate semiarid climates. The main quality wine producers in the state, Tierra Adentro and Luevano Ruiz, are located in this southern region, to the south of the capital, along the highway to Aguascalientes.

The climate of the winegrowing regions of Zacatecas, despite being less arid than the state’s north, is still characterized by a lack of water, which is exacerbated by the importance of agriculture in the state in general, as the rain that does fall is used as a resource for many crops, among which viticulture is only a minor concern. Rain falls during the summer when the Pacific hurricane season pushes humidity over the Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range toward central Mexico. The timing of this rain can be catastrophic for harvests, causing undesired botrytis as well as inflating grapes. Another characteristic of this state, like most of central Mexico, is its altitude, with many vineyards being located around the 2000 m altitude mark, although altitudes range from 1000 m to 3100 m above sea level across the state. Hail is also a factor that constitutes a risk for grape vines, and nets are used to mitigate this risk. In addition, excessively cold spring temperatures can pose a problem, and the recent cold front in the winter of 2017 caused below-freezing temperatures that did kill off some vines.

Zacatecas Tierra Adentro Vines
Traditional farmer women represented in sculpture at Tierra Adentro Wines in Zacatecas

Producers

The most well-known wine producer in the state is Tierra Adentro. It is located in the Trancoso Valley approximately twenty minutes to the south of the capital. In this region, hail is a challenge, as well as excessively low temperatures, and the replanting of rootstock as well as repeated grafting of vines that do not survive is necessary. But despite these challenges, Tierra Adentro has produced many award-winning wines, the most noteworthy of which is their Syrah. The company also offers a selection of red wines made from Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Despite the local Mexican market being highly oriented towards red wine only, they also produce a rosé (Merlot) as well as two white wines, one Sauvignon Blanc and one Chardonnay-Viognier blend. Although quality is maintained, production here is on the verge of becoming large scale, and the project is a very significant undertaking, with a tasting room open to the public and multiple restaurants on-site, with more developments in the works.

Zacatecas Tierra Adentro Tasting
A variety of wines available for purchase at Tierra Adentro

The other premium wine producer in the region is Luevano Ruiz, which is located in the Barranquillas Valley an hour to the south of the capital, bordering on the state of Aguascalientes. Previously only a grape producer but now producing their own wines on-site, Luevano Ruiz has now shifted its business focus to that of a boutique winery, offering a selection of red wines that are on the verge of being put on the market. Of particular note is its Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Tempranillo. In addition, it is curious to note the quality of its off-dry red wines (Cabernet-Tempranillo), which despite what you would generally think, are very elegant and yet accessible and easy to drink for a Mexican population that is not accustomed to drinking wine.

Zacatecas Luevano Ruiz
Enjoying a wine tasting at Luevano Ruiz Wines in Luis Moya

When investigating wine producers in the state, another that comes up is Cacholá, which is now closed. Its wines can be purchased in downtown Zacatecas, but the youngest examples now date back to 2006, and are most likely long past their best, if drinkable.

In terms of grape production, it is worth noting that there are many producers in the region of Ojo Caliente, but they do not produce wine, instead selling their harvests.

Conclusion

Slowly but surely, Zacatecas is recovering a part of its previous grape growing prestige through the establishment of quality-focused wineries. While only a handful exist for the time being, the state is recognized as a wine-producing region nationally, although wine production has a long way to come if it is to compete with other crops in the area.

Sources:

Zegbe-Domínguez, J.A., Rumayor-Rodríguez, A.F. y Mena-Covarrubias, J. 2010. “Situación actual y agenda de trabajo para la innovación tecnológica del sistema producto vid en Zacatecas”. Publicación Especial No. 17. Campo Experimental Zacatecas. CIRNOC-INIFAP. Online: http://www.zacatecas.inifap.gob.mx/publicaciones/vidActual.pdf

Palacios Medellín, J-T. “Información y vitivinicultores en Aguascalientes, Zacatecas y Durango: el acercamiento inicial”. Colegio de Bibliotecología del UNAM. N.D. Online:

http://iibi.unam.mx/publicaciones/12/necesidades_informacion_comunidades_JOSE_TOMAS_PALACIOS_MEDELLIN.html

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