The Mexican wine industry has a new figurehead with some ambitious plans. Salomón Abedrop became president of the Consejo Mexicano Vitivinícola (Mexican Wine Council, MMV) in 2023. He points to rising consumption and the fact that the share of Mexican wines on the domestic market share has trebled over the past two decades, from 10% to 34%.
Mexicans now drink 1.3 litres of wine per capita, compared to 225 ml twenty years ago. “Our consumption rate has increased by six times in two decades,” says Abedrop, a wine producer and owner of Coahuila's Hacienda Florida, pointing out that Mexico's population stands at 130m — so the potential to grow the market is obvious — and that of this figure, 6m adults drink wine, which translates to 20 litres per capita.
“Our industry is focused on younger drinkers, particularly women. This is where we believe there is the most potential for growth,” says Abedrop, adding that the CMV is supplying its members with market research data and actively encouraging them to expand the market by introducing new products and packaging, such as organic and natural wine, bag-in-box and cans.
A move towards quality
Carlos Borboa is director of the México Selection by CMB wine competition; he also manages Mexico City's Wine Bar by CMB, where more than 400 Mexican wines are stocked, served and also sold to take away.
“This growth in quality is exciting,” says Borboa. “Competition results show how Mexican wine production is moving closer to its quality goals. It has gained ground in national and international markets in recent years, thanks to the production chain's efforts to improve expression and consistency in quality.”
Sommelier Manuel Negrete is Wine Director at the Wine Bar by CMB. Commenting on the growth of the wine market, he explains: “Mexicans have recently started to include wine in social occasions and with meals. We have a rich culinary tradition, and wine is being seen increasingly as a complement to our cuisine; food and wine pairing has become more popular.”
He explains that although Mexico has traditionally been associated with tequila and beer, wine is seen as a more upmarket alcoholic beverage, and consumer preferences are shifting towards more sophisticated choices.
Domestic production increases
The emergence of domestic wine production has resulted in a significant increase in the number of Mexican estates. In 1996 there were only seven commercial wineries, but today the country boasts over 400, spread across 16 regions.
Many wineries feature attractive tasting rooms and restaurants, and wine routes and vineyard tours have sprung up, attracting both domestic and international tourists; the development of this kind of tourism has also helped to expose Mexican drinkers to wine culture.
The CMV's stated goal is for one in every two bottles consumed in the country to be of Mexican origin, and the council is strengthening “brand Mexico” both at home and abroad by championing the use of the recently-introduced Wines of Mexico logo, and creating a Mexican wine cluster. It will also be supporting growers with e-commerce deals using platforms such as Amazon; a deal with the latter to sell mixed cases of Mexican wine is scheduled for late 2023.
At a press conference in 2023, the CMV announced targets that included increasing vineyard surface area to 54,000 ha from the current 36,000 ha (9,000 ha are harvested for juice and wine, the remainder are used for table grapes and raisins), and boosting wine production from 38m litres to 53m litres.
Planting more vines to match predicted growth
Working towards PGI status
While Mexico has five centuries of history associated with vine cultivation, the country is still relatively young in terms of wine production. According to Borboa, origin can be an issue: “We still frequently see musts made in the northwest of Mexico bottled as wines from the Altiplano; grapes grown in Chihuahua that are then vinified, bottled and marketed as wine from Querétaro, Guanajuato or Aguascalientes.”
On a positive note, leading production regions Baja and Querétaro are working towards establishing the relationship between their wines and specific geographic areas. The Mexican Wine Council sees this as key: “We need our industry to grow in each state, and to create European-style protected geographical indications,” says Abedrop.
Research has been underway since 2020 in Querétaro (a leader in white and sparkling winemaking and home to Freixinet Mexico since 1979). Here, the Cluster Vitivinícola de Querétaro (CVQ or the Querétaro growers’ cluster) is working with the University of Arkansas to collect and analyse data about soil types, weather, micro- and macro-climates and production as part of a zonificación vitícola project.
“Querétaro is in line to have Mexico's first PGI, which means the introduction of rules for production as well as recognition for our wines' quality. This will be a big step forward in our viticulture zoning process,” says winemaker-oenologist and CVQ member Fernando Cortes.
With its 260+ commercial wineries and 4,500 ha of vineyards, Baja California is responsible for 70% of Mexico's wine output. In 2024, viticulture zoning studies will begin in Baja lead by CETYS University's Center for Wine and Vine Research (CEVIT) with the support of Mexico's Secretariat of Agriculture, the INIFAP (National Research Institute for Forestry, Agriculture and Livestock) and the Sistema Producto Vid de Baja California (Baja Vine Growers Association).
The goal is to replicate these studies in other vine-growing areas in México, defining optimal land for vineyard planting and identifying recommended varieties for each area. “This is a flagship project for everyone involved. It will shape the future of the wine industry in Mexico,” says Rocío Amador, Sistema Producto Vid's representative and a key player in this project.
According to Abedrop, Mexico's main challenge is managing its wine sector, ensuring that it continues to grow at a steady rate. Less than 5% of the country's production is exported; only a handful of companies have the capacity to supply overseas markets, the major players like Baja-based L.A. Cetto and Monte Xanic, and Coahuila's Casa Madero, the oldest continuously operating winery in the Americas, being the exception.
While the domestic market drinks the vast majority of current output, Mexican producers face stiff competition from Spain, Argentina and Chile, who supply accessibly-priced products — a trade agreement with Chile poses a particular problem — with labels that are easy to read for Spanish speakers.
“We can also make cheap wine, but we really need to focus on quality,” says Abedrop.
Borboa says that tax is a major thorn in the industry's side, explaining that taxes represent roughly 42% of the cost of wine in Mexico. Wines are taxed at 16% IVA, the value added tax, with an additional IEPS, or luxury tax, of 26.5% to 30%, making a bottle of wine an expensive indulgence for many.
“We are still waiting for relevant decisions on the tax issue that would help put Mexican wine on the dining table on a daily basis, make it more accessible for the majority of the population and provide better returns for businesses, particularly for the smaller wineries who are largely responsible for the rise of Mexican wine,” he says.
16 wine regions
400+ commercial wineries (2022)
9000 ha of vineyards armed for making wine and juice
50 grape varieties currently grown for wine
100 grape varieties being tested in experimental plantings
Mexico ranks 33rd globally in terms of wine production
The Mexican wine industry has a market value of US$2.4 billion and is the second source of employment in the country's agricultural sector
Wine production in Mexico reached 39.6 million litres in 2022
Mexico wine has a global market share of 0.13%
Of every 10 bottles of wine sold in Mexico, 3 are Mexican
- Wine consumption in Mexico has grown from 225 ml per capita (2003) to 1.3 litres per capita (2023) and is predicted to increase to 2 litres per capita by 2030
- Mexican wines' domestic market share has trebled over the past two decades, from 10% to 34%.
- Mexico currently produces 39.6 million litres of wine per annum. In 2023 revenue was US$986.1m, with the market expected to grow annually by 3.23%*
- In 1996 there were only seven commercial wineries in Mexico; today there are over 400, spanning 16 wine-producing regions.
- Mexico has a new wine region: west-central Nayarit is home to the Meseta del Cielo project. Founded in 2019 with European vines, its first vintage was in 2022.
- An official Mexican Wine Day (October 17th) was declared in 2023 by the Consejo Mexicano Vitivinícola (Mexican Wine Council)
- The Mexican wine industry is moving towards a protected geographical indication (PGI) approach, with plans for zonificación vitícola studies underway in Baja California and Querétaro.
*Compound annual growth rate/source Statista.com
Importers and distributors:
- ECM Vinos: https://www.ecmdevinos.com/
- Orfe: https://italiagourmet.mx/
- Fleuriel: https://fleuriel.com/
- La Compañía del Vino: https://lcv.mx/
- Great Fine Wines: https://gfw.com.mx/
- Krug Gruppe: https://kruggruppe.com/
- Climats: https://climats.mx/
- Terra e Mondo: https://terraemondo.com/
- Viparmex: https://www.viparmex.com.mx/
- Everest Wine & Spirits: https://everestwinespirits.com/
- Selección d’Otto: https://www.dottowine.com/
- Mercado de Vinos: https://mercadodevinos.mx/
- Vid Mexicana: https://www.vidmexicana.com/
- Alcornoque: https://alcornoque.mx/
- Top Vinum: https://www.topvinum.com/
Mexican sommeliers and wine experts:
- Sandra Fernandez (Best Sommelier of Mexico - Canirac 2022)
- Laura Santander (co-owner of Hermitage and La Wineria, ambassador of Oregon and Washington Wines for Mexico, CMB Ambassador to the United States)
- Andrés Amor (food and wine consultant, Mexican representative of D.O. Rías Baixas and Uruguay)
- Luis Morones (wine director of Grupo Presidente, sommelier and Mexican ambassador of D.O. Ribera del Duero)
- Ricardo Espíndola (director, Mexican Sommelier School)
- Johan Valderrabano (organiser of the Court of Master Sommeliers Americas programme in Mexico City)
- Rocío Amador (correspondent for Guia Peñín, representative of the Sistema Producto Vid de Baja California (Baja Winegrowers Association)
- Manuel Negrete, Wine Director, Wine Bar by CMB
Disclaimer: Louise Hurren travelled to Mexico as a guest of the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles.