Mexican wine originates with the invasion of Hernan Cortѐs in the 1500’s. Cortѐs and his men quickly drank through the supply of wine that they had brought with them (apparently conquering the native populous was thirsty work), and so needed an alternative supply. This is when he ordered that colonists plant 1000 grapevines for each 100 native “Employees”. In this way they would replenish their supplies of wine for religious mass (and washing down meals, of course).
The first attempts to grow grapes in Mexico’s more tropical regions were unsuccessful; the Criolla grapes were first planted in the Parras Valley of Coahuila, but soon were being grown in Puebla and Zacatecas. The very first Mexican wine estate was founded by Lorenzo Garcia in Santa Maria de Los Parras (Coahuila) I 1597. Casa Madero (as it was called) is still in existence today.
Fashionable Mexican wine
The Spaniards were, in fact, doing so well with this colonial wine that Charles I ordered that all ships travelling to “New Spain” should bring over grape and olive vines to speed up production. This confidence backfired, however, when the rise in French wine and it’s increasing prestige contributed to a slump in demand for Spanish wines. As a result, and in order to protect local (Spanish) products, Philip II put an end to all Mexican production.
Ban on Mexican Wine
This ban on Mexican commercial production didn’t stop religious houses from producing their own for religious purposes, of course. The Jesuits were the first to do so after priest Juan Jugarte established the Santo Tomas Mission with its vineyards in Baja California. Soon after this the Dominicans followed suit in the Guadalupe Valley which is now at the centre of Mexico’s wine industry. After the War of reform in 1857 all of the Catholic land holdings and vineyards became property of the state and were later sold off to a group of investors who operate to this day as the Bodegas Santo Tomas.
Mexican wine production began in earnest in the 1980s when the National Viticulture Association supported the implementation of modern techniques. Many of the grapes grown now are of either French or Spanish origin.