What prevented Mexico’s early wine industry, born in the late 1500’s, from prospering?
A. A protracted embargo by Spanish monarchs on Mexican wines
B. A prohibition by Spanish monarchs against planting vines in Mexico
C. The predominance of an ancient fermented agave beverage called pulque
D. A generally infertile landscape unfit for growing grapes without any availability of water for irrigation
Christopher Columbus, as early as his second voyage, brought seeds, cuttings, and animal breeding stock on every voyage to the West Indies and the American continent. The climate of the West Indies proved inhospitable, but vines and olive trees thrived in Mexico’s dry sunny interior. Mexico’s early wine industry started with the grape listán prieto, a red that was native to the Spanish province of Castilla-La Mancha, the political stronghold and home of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella (Columbus’ financiers). But subsequent Spanish monarchs were wary of a New World outpost that might threaten or compete with the motherland. Soon, planting both vines and olive trees in Mexico was forbidden. The only wineries that survived the injunction were in the remote northern part of the country where, unmonitored, they continued to prosper. Two of those are still in existence: Bodegas del Marqués de Aguayo founded in 1593, and Casa Madero (originally named San Lorenzo) founded in 1597. The latter is located in the charmingly named Mexican town of Santa Maria de las Parras (“Holy Mary of the Grapevines”), so named for the abundance of wild native grapevines the Spanish found growing there. Beginning in the 1990s and building on the success of already established wineries like Monte Xanic, Santo Tomás, and L.A. Cetto, a group of creative young winemakers quietly began making small lots of delicious wines. Today, Mexico has a growing fine wine industry, and the very top wines are surprising in quality.