I recently returned from an agave spirit hunt in Mexico. Long story short, I found some amazing Tequilas and Mezcals, perused the blue agave and cupreata fields of Jalisco and Michouacan, toured distilleries and spoke (gringo 7th grade Spanish) with master distillers about their craft.
The most fascinating experience was the barrel tasting we did in the cava of a Mezcaleria on the edge of the city of Morelia. There I tasted some Mezcals that had been aging in Barrels of new American Oak, new French Oak and repurposed American Kentucky Bourbon. The mezcallero had us try each one separately to experience the differences. The mezcal that had been aging for 1-2 years in the American Oak barrel was phenomenal. A deep golden liquor when held up to the light with a round smooth nuttiness and a “canela” cinnamon finish that was excellente! I was with a colleague who imports and distributes Gran Dovejo (which has been awarded some serious accolades in Tequila circles) and he expressed that this particular American Oak aged mezcal was something very special. All I can say, we are buying and bottling it. The mezcalerias in Michouacan do not have the DOC yet, so we await the Mexican bureaucracy with the vigor of an agave grow (let’s hope not – it takes 3-6 years before they can be harvested – ay yi yi!)
“In the past it used to be called vino de mezcal, or mezcal wine,” says Yira Vallejo, director of Mezcal From Oaxaca. “So if in wine you have grapes and you have different names like Pinot Noir, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, in mezcal, you have Madrecuixe, Tobalá, Espadín, Largo, Cirial, Tripón, Barril—150 names.”* If you want to learn more about “Tequila’s rustic cousin” as Rick Bayless describes mezcal, click here to read a well done, succinct explanation on epicurious.com.
On with the show…here is my review of a Mexican wine that I found thoroughly enjoyable…
Well, I’m not disavowing my wine blogging for agave spirits anytime soon. I was intent on finding a Mexican wine for under $10 USD or $140 pesos while perusing agave spirit brands in the bodega. Good news, not too difficult. But finding a wine in the appellation I was visiting was tricky. Jalisco is the Tequila capital, not really a wine growing and producing region. There are three main wine growing areas in Mexico, the central region (Querétaro), the La Laguna area (Coahuila) and the northern and most popular wine growing region (Baja California).** I am totally unfamiliar with Mexican wines, so when I finally found a generous selection of wines from Mexico (tequila selections have wine beat 4 to1) I chose a bottle by varietal. Based upon my experiences with Argentinian Malbecs and their success in similar arid topographies, I deducted that a Malbec/Cab blend from the central wine growing region of Querétaro should suffice.
La Redonda winery is located near Tequisquiapan, a “beautiful” village about 2 hours north of México City as described by Degrandcru on Snooth.com who wrote a great description of the area with pictures of La Redonda’s expanse vineyards and charming winery. These pictures are from the review provided by Degrancru and they epitomize the simple charm that I too experienced in small distilleries where very special spirits were produced and sold across the country.
My ignorance of Mexican wine and it’s potential did not give me much promise. Good news – this wine was very delicious. Light, fruit forward with berries, a little cinnamon spice, very balanced with a soft finish. It was not as chewy as some Malbecs can be and not as bold as most Cabs. The blend reminded me more of a Spanish Rioja that you would drink profusely with tapas. I found it to be highly drinkable and perfect for everyday. I rate it a buy again – so bring on the carnitas, huit la coche, escamoles, molcajete guacamole and some tortillas por favor!
This is a wine that is great at both starting a meal and a conversation. I suggest taking a chance on a Mexican wine, remember, the same padres who founded the industry in California started the North American wine making tradition in Spanish colonial Mexico. Although their industry is small by comparison, todays Mexican wine makers have a heritage rooted in centuries of experience. Let’s face it, their only obstacle was that Tequila stole the show. Buen provecho!
Read more about this fabulous Mexican red wine at: http://www.snooth.com/talk/topic/wine-tour-in-queretaro-mexico/#ixzz3SY7q72eK
**A toast to Mexico’s undiscovered wine country http://www.sfgate.com/mexico/mexicomix/article/A-toast-to-Mexico-s-undiscovered-wine-country-2463746.php?cmpid=twitter-desktop