Borrowing the legacy of the sparkling white wine bubble girls that wish the world well at the beginning of every year, Mexico has become one of Spanish cava’s new hot spots. Although a relatively recent addition to the country’s export portfolio, companies such as Freixenet are popping the cork of the industry. In fact, European-style winemaking dates back to the 16th century in Mexico, when Spanish settlers realized that European vines thrived in the soil of Querétaro. The sector has been undergoing a revival since the 1980s, sparked by increased competition from foreign investors. Although Mexico is home to a traditionally tequila and beer consumer base, 1.15 million liters of wine was exported from the country in 2011, according to Global Trade Atlas. Known for a climate and soil that is conducive to the cultivation of grapes, the state of Baja California supplied 90% of the fruit for a variety of wines for both export and domestic consumption. In combination with an increasing amount of wine tourism, festivals, and international recognition, viticulture is adding a splash of sophistication to the Mexican economy. In addition to Baja California, the Coahuila, Querétaro, and Zacatecas regions of Mexico are famous for producing wine, with 27,683 hectares dedicated to growing grapes. According to legend, Hernán Cortés ordered the establishment of vineyards after his soldiers quickly depleted wine supplies following the vanquishing of the Aztec Empire. It wasn’t until the late 19th and early 20th centuries, however, that a revival took place. By 2011, wine consumption per capita was approaching 0.6 liters. Although a far cry from the 40 liters per capita consumed in Spain, demand for wine has steadily increased over the past 30 years, and 80 wine producers have contributed to a 40% increase in production over the past five years.
The Mexican Wine Council predicts that demand for wine will double by 2015. Founded in 1948, the council’s mission is to promote the development of grape cultivation, represent the needs of the industry, and defend the interests of its members. Moreover, the council seeks to market grape production and encourage research and innovation in the field. Meanwhile, a number of wine tastings, vineyard tours, and festivals have sprung up around the country, drawing over 30,000 attendees in 2011 seeking to learn about the artistic and traditional components of the winemaking process. The Baja California area is being promoted heavily for wine tourism via the ruta del vino initiative, which connects over 50 wineries with the port of Ensenada, the US border, and the annual Vendimia Harvest Festival. Other major wine tourism events include the Vintage Festival in the Valley of Guadalupe, which hosts wine tastings from over 30 vineyards around the country, and this year’s first-annual Riviera Maya Wine and Food Festival in March 2012, which attracted both international and domestic wine makers.
However, the wine industry still faces a host of challenges. The widespread distribution of domestic wines is hindered by increasing prices driven by the global market, fluctuating exchange rates, and the demand from retailers for financial support in promoting and stocking local products. This has also put a damper on the level of exports, as companies find difficulties in launching large-scale production and solving logistical issues. Although Mexican wine can compete with its counterparts in terms of quality, the volume of exported wine from Mexico—almost 1.15 million liters in 2011—is still well below that of Chile and Argentina. Despite setbacks in volume, Mexican wines have gone on to win a number of international awards, such as the Cabernet Sauvignon of L.A. Cetto, which won the silver medal in Michigan, in 2010, and the Casa Madero winery’s Chardonnay, which took the gold medal in Burgundy in 2007.
The export of the exquisite Spanish sparkling wine cava has also seen substantial success. One such winery, Cavas Freixenet de México, imports the majority of the production components from Spain in order to uphold the tradition of the process, including bottles, labels, and corks. This has prompted a trade partnership between other wineries across the globe. In an interview with TBY, Luis Tormo Jané, Director General of Freixenet, related that the company “produces wine and exports it to Japan, and wine produced in Spain is exported to Mexico or the US. We are trading products between our several wineries around the world in order for our brands to penetrate a variety of markets.” Although “Mexican consumers tend to prefer spirits and beer,” Jané added, “the wine market is showing an upward trend. Demand for wine increases as the income level of Mexico’s population rises. We are eager to meet future demand, and we are determined to enhance our understanding of wine production, as well as promote viticulture domestically.” With this in mind, the Mexican wine industry can expect to grow in popularity and value in the coming years.
© The Business Year