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In the heart of central Mexico, just a few hours' drive from the capital, lies Querétaro, one of Mexico's most exciting wine regions. Though Querétaro is dwarfed in size by the better-known Baja, the state is poised to become the country's next great success thanks to its blossoming wine industry and skilled local winemakers.
Querétaro falls well outside the normal range for wine production. World-class wine being made along the 20th parallel may seem like madness according to conventional winemaking wisdom. Yet Querétaro defies the traditional 30 to 50 latitude belt that we've come to accept for viticulture. Like so many marginal regions, its success lies in microclimates—and of course, its local talent. You'll find everything from lush rainforests to arid deserts in Mexico's southernmost wine-producing state, with many distinct ecosystems represented. Querétaro is a bridge of sorts between the drier north and wetter south, and this diversity means winemakers can experiment with a wide range of grape varieties and styles.
Summer brings rain. Many of the best vineyards lie on higher altitude sites upwards of 5000 to 6500 feet above sea level, allowing an otherwise hot, semi-arid climate to benefit from the cool evenings that preserve acidity in grapes.
“This last factor is the one that makes the most difference with other areas. The altitude generates grapes with thicker skin due to the radiation of the sun, rather than the hours of sunshine. Here we say ‘extreme viticulture,’” says Jesus Cardoso, a winemaker at Vinedos Azteca.
Calcium-rich sandy clay is found in vineyards across Ezequiel Montes, a municipality with many wineries. The soil offers both good water retention during the dry season and excellent drainage when it's wet. Coupled with the higher altitudes and diurnal shift, those pockets of calcium carbonate do wonders for the vines, encouraging higher acidity, disease resistance, and a well-developed root system.
Classic international varieties like Chardonnay, Syrah, and the Bordeaux varieties crop up in vineyards, along with the Cava grapes Macabeo, Xarel-lo, and Paralleda. Tempranillo has carved out a place in Querétaro, where it yields rich, flavorful wines. Ultimately, time will tell what varieties will come to define Querétaro, and that's part of the thrill.
You'll see a familiar name or two in Querétaro. Freixenet has an outpost in Querétaro. The region's large sparkling wine output is largely thanks to the Cava giant's Finca Sala Vive and its major regional rival La Redonda. That said, it's Cava 57 in the high altitude San Juan de Rio which offers some of the best sparkling wine in the country. For dry wines, Bodegas de Cote and Vinedos Aztecas have established themselves as being ahead of the curve.
Querétaro is also a hub for cheese production, including cow, goat, and sheep's milk cheese. They're precisely as delicious with the local wine as you'd expect. If you're able to visit (post-COVID, of course), treat yourself by traveling the wine and cheese route, or head down to pueblo magico Tequisquiapan for the springtime cheese and wine fair.
The state's wine industry is not dissimilar to how Baja looked just a decade or so ago. Right now imports to the States are few and far between, which offers the perfect excuse to head down for a visit.
5 Bottles from Querétaro to Try
2016/2017 Vinedos Azteca Pretexto Red Blend
A six varietal blend crafted from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot, Syrah, and Tempranillo, Pretexto is deliciously fruit-forward with blackberry, currant, and black cherry notes laid over generous spice and a hint of vanilla in the finish. It boasts a beautifully well-balanced palate.
2015 Bodegas De Cote Tempranillo Gran Reserva
This stunning Tempranillo is barrel-aged for two years. Heady notes of red currant, cherry, fig, and candied red fruits, with elegant floral aromas layered with mocha, pepper, and a whisper of cinnamon spice. The tannins are quite plush, with lovely acidity that lingers well into this wine's lengthy finish.
Cava 57 Palomas Brut Nature NV
Easily one of the best sparklers currently made in Mexico, Cava 57's Palomas Brut Nature is a classic Cava-style bubbly. Ample green apple, lemon, lime, with a pleasant minerality. Lees aging lends a creamy, round texture to this brut nature, balanced by mouthwatering acidity and an overall delightfully fresh character.
Vinedos La Redonda Orlandi Vino Espumoso Brut Nature NV
A lovely Chardonnay-based bubbly from one of Querétaro's oldest wineries, the Orlandi Brut Nature is a fantastic traditional method blanc de blancs which is aged for 24 sur lie. Lovely peach, zesty lemon, Granny Smith, and brioche. Vibrant, with a fine mousse, it’s truly an excellent sparkling wine.
Vinos del Marques Danza de la Marquesa
Danza de Marques is a blend of Nebbiolo, Tempranillo, and Grenache. Notes of ripe yellow peach, strawberry, cherry, and crushed rose petals. Danza de la Marquesa is a phenomenal food wine that will go with your favorite Mexican dishes.