- Is it Cava if it’s made by one of the largest Cava makers in Spain?
- Is it Cava if it’s made by Spanish winemaker Lluis Raventós?
- Is it Cava if it’s made with 50% Macabeau, 50% Xarel-lo, two of the main varietals in Cava?
- Is it Cava if it’s made in MEXICO?
- If you’re a fan of Cava, the affordable, available sparkling wine made in the traditional method in Spain, you will love Freixenet’s sparkling wine made from commonly used Cava grapes grown at 7000′ elevation just north of Mexico City.
I was this many years old when I learned that grapes are grown and wine is made in the main part of Mexico.– including sparkling wine! While I had tasted wine from Baja on trips there in Valle de Guadalupe in the late 1990s, when the wineries were just getting going and before I was doing much wine writing, and knew that the wine scene there has developed to be very exciting so in 2022 I will be exploring this topic including a visit to the region in the fall.
In fact, Baja California grows the grapes for 90% of all Mexican wine production, and the Valle de Guadalupe is known as Mexico’s Napa Valley. The northernmost wine growing region in Mexico lies only a few hours south from Los Angeles and offers Mediterranean climate and granite-rich soils with the Pacific Ocean only a few miles away as the crow flies. You’ll even find Mexico’s first Biodynamic Certified winery, Finca la Carrodilla, located in the heart of the Valle de Guadalupe. Owner Owner Fernando Pérez Castro founded both Finca la Carrodilla and La Lomita, a certified organic winery, in 2009.
But it hadn’t occurred to me that wine grapes were grown elsewhere in Mexico. Who knew? Not me! But Freixenet bought land there in the 1970s, and planted vineyards high in the mountains where it is cool at night and warm during the day. Founded in 1979, Freixenet México is located in Ezequiel Montes, Querétaro. The southernmost wine producing region in the Northern Hemisphere has vineyards at an average elevation of 7,000 feet above sea level specializing in sparkling wines made in a style similar to Cava. In addition to varietals common to Cava like Xarel-lo, Parellada, and Macabeo, the region grows Malbec, Tempranillo, Nebbiolo, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay.
In addition to Valle de Guadelupe and Querétaro, grapes are grown in other regions including Aguascalientes, Guanajuato, and Zacatecas. Like Querétaro, these are all high elevation vineyards so the grapes don’t get too hot during the day and have a chance to cool off at night.
- Aguascalientes, one of Mexico’s smallest states, has the fifth largest wine producing region in the country. The region’s high elevation vineyards (over 6.500 feet above sea level to over 10,000 feet above sea level), grow Nebbiolo, Malbec, and Sauvignon Blanc. As the name indicates, the area is known for its hot water springs.
- Located in Central Mexico, Guanajuato averages over 6,500 feet above sea level, with very warm days and cool nights and early August rains for an early harvest. Grapes grown here include Malbec, Tempranillo, Merlot, Syrah, and Muscat.
- Northwest of Guanajuato is Zacatecas, the location some of the highest elevation wineries in Mexico. With a cool, dry climate and mineral-rich soils at 7,500 feet above sea level, the region’s vineyards produce mostly Malbec, plus Nebbiolo, Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Viognier.
MENU: TACO BAR
Since we love sparkling wines with fried foods, I picked up some lobster and shrimp bites which we baked in the oven. Our taco bar also included grilled chicken which we purchased already marinated in Mexican spices, fresh grilled fish, and Instant Pot Barbacoa. Cilantro, limes, Cotija cheese, grilled onions, salsa, and cabbage completed the picture. Consider also slices of mango, fresh strawberries, and grilled vegetables like zucchini.
And don’t limit yourself to Mexican food for pairings with Mexican wine!
Freixenet Mexico Finca Sala Vivé Vina Dona Dolores Brut Reserva, Mexico
- ABV 12%
- SRP $15
- Varietals: 50% Macabeau, 50% Xarel-lo
- Importer/Distributor: Tozi Imports LLC
Freixenet México is the largest winery in Central Mexico, and one of the largest in the country overall with an annual production of 225,000 cases of wine. Located in semi-arid conditions at over 6,500 feet above sea level, Freixenet México focuses primarily on sparkling wine with it making up 70% of its annual production. Spanish winemaker Lluis Raventós uses Xarel-lo, Macabeu, Ugni Blanc, and Cabernet Sauvignon for his sparkling wines. In addition to sparkling wine, they make, white, red, and rosado wines.
Color: Pale yellow, big lively bubbles.
Aroma: Dirty socks, kiwi, Meyer lemon, ocean breeze, sea grass, fresh creekside, white pepper
Palate: Lemon curd, kiwi, key lime pie, the sweetness of the fruit lingers on the palate, sweeter sparkling, very similar to a Cava. Kind of burpie.
Pairing: Great with a little manchego cheese and salami. Perfect with the breaded lobster and shrimp tacos. Nice with the grilled chicken tacos; even better with the grilled snapper in orange juice. Goes well with the black beans. Would be great with any grilled fish or seafood. It even worked with the lively, rich, complex flavors of the Barbacoa.
Want to learn more about Mexican wine, especially wine in the Valle de Guadalupe?
The 43rd World Congress of Vine and Wine and the 20th General Assembly of the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) will take place from 31 October to 4 November in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico, at Baja California Center. After a two-year hiatus, Mexico will be the host of this important event, “CURRENT CHALLENGES: SUSTAINABILITY, COVID AND CLIMATE CHANGE” which will bring together the world’s main specialists in viticulture and oenology, as well as in health, safety, law and economics in relation to viticultural production. Check the congress website here. Find more information here.
Even easier: check out these wines with pairings and the hashtag on twitter #winepw where we will be chatting about Mexican wines and pairings on Sat. April 8, 2022, at 8am Pacific.
- Wendy from a A Day in the Life on the Farm will share “Mexican Foods and Wines always provide for a Perfect Fiesta”
- Susannah from Avvinare is “Discovering Mexican Wine”
- Jen from Vino Travels is taking “A First Look at Mexican Wines Including Italian Grapes”
- Carlos from Carlos’ Food & Wine is serving up “Mexican wines featuring sparkling wine risotto & grilled hanger steak with mushroom-red wine sauce”
- Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla is sharing “Outside the Pigeon-Hole: Pairing Mexican Wine with Thai Cuisine“
- Gwendolyn from Wine Predator Gwendolyn Alley features Sparkling Wine from Mexico For #TacoTuesday”
- Robin of Crushed Grape Chronicles shares “Mexican Wines – 2 wines from the central Mexican highlands of Querétaro #WinePW“
- Linda from My Full Wine Glass is “Saying ‘hola’ to Mexican Tempranillo and sparkling wine”
- Martin from ENOFLZ Wine Blog will share “Exploring Mexican Wine Beyond Baja”
- Nicole from Somm’s Table is “Sipping Mexican Wines with a Bowl of Birria“
- Liz at What’s in that Bottle posted “Salud a Los Vinos de Mexico!”
- Terri from Our Good Life pairs “Grassfed Ribeye with Steak Butter and Grilled Oyster Mushrooms Paired with Monte Xanic Cabernet Sauvignon“
- Here on Cooking Chat we paired “Roasted Beet Pesto Pasta with Mexican Merlot”