When you think of Mexico, wine production probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. For that, you might blame King Philip II of Spain. When Mexico’s first colonizers began shipping back inexpensive, good quality vintages to the Old World in the 16th century, Spanish vintners protested the competition. Thus, the king outlawed winemaking in the colonies, except for religious purposes, a ban which lasted 200 years. Interestingly enough, it was the Spanish who reignited interest in viticulture when refugees fleeing Franco’s reign brought their Rioja-sipping habits to Mexico.
Today, most Mexican winemakers still come from a European background. The owners of La Redonda Vineyards in the state of Queretaro, about two hours northeast of Mexico City, are no exception. Manager Claudio Bortoluz’s grandfather came to Mexico from Italy after World War II when the Mexican government was recruiting knowledgeable oenologists to oversee developing vineyards. Eventually, he made his way to Queretaro in the early 1970s. Although the family has been growing grapes at La Redonda for well over three decades, it was only in the past seven years that they began producing wine on the property.
La Redonda produces 17 types of wine from 15 varieties of grapes, including cabernet sauvignon, sauvignon blanc, merlot, and chardonnay. Bortoluz credits the combination of French and Italian grapes, a resident winemaker from Spain’s Rioja region, and the distinctive qualities of Queretaro’s soil with creating La Redonda’s unique blends.
The vineyard sells 100,000 bottles of wine per year, but as yet does not export any of its vintages, focusing instead on raising its profile within the country. To that end, La Redonda is open for tours and tastings 365 days a year. Visitors can journey through the fields to learn about grape growing, sample wines, and stay for a meal at the on-site Trattoria. Plans are in the works for an inn on the property, which will hopefully open next year.
Signs indicate domestic interest in Mexican wines is on the rise. La Redonda’s business has grown 100 percent every year for the past three years. A second annual wine festival organized by the vineyard drew 10,000 visitors last February. www.laredonda.com.mx
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