Tuesday, 22 June 2010

World Cup Wine: Mexico vs Uruguay


In the Parras Valley, in La Laguna region of Mexico, is Casa Madero, originally founded as Hacienda San Lorenz way back in 1597. This is the New World's oldest winery and it still turns out quality red wines. But although Mexican winemaking began with the Spanish and is responsible for a huge range of varietals, unlike its continental neighbours Mexico simply doesn't have a definitive grape to offer consumers. 

It doesn't have that point of difference, that USP (Unique Selling Point), that one wine style synonymous with the word Mexico. 

Where Argentina has Malbec, Chile has Carmenère and Uruguay has Tannat, and even the winemakers immediately next door have Zinfandel, Mexico's vineyards may contain vines from all over the world but none they call their own. They do cultivate a significant number of Bordeaux varieties, including the left bank's classic Cabernet Sauvignon, and this is the grape I suggest Mexico handles best. 

Baja California is the principal quality region and it is here that Monte Xanic produces a Cabernet and Merlot blend that is now available in London through Wines of Mexico.

Although the vineyards of Monte Xanic were first planted over 100 years ago, it is only since 1987 that the revitalised winery has re-established itself among Mexico’s leading producers, not least through the introduction of modern quality assurance standards.

The 2006 Monte Xanic Cabernet Merlot from Valle de Guadalupe advertises itself with cherry, blackcurrant and vanilla aromas plus blackberry and cherry fruit on the palate.

Uruguay does have a grape to call its own of course. The country's winemakers have taken tannin-rich Tannat to their hearts and now produce definitive versions of the eponymous wine that stand comparison with anything the rest of the South American continent has to offer and superior to much US Zinfandel. 

Look for the names of Casa Filgueira, De Lucca  and Marichal to discover luscious premium Tannat bursting with cherry and plum fruit, filled with blackfruit flavours and with sufficient tannic bite to allow them to improve with age for five years and up.

The difference between Mexico and Uruguay therefore seems to be that Mexico has taken one of the world's classic red grapes to produce reliable variations of classic Bordeaux wine blends, while Uruguay has taken a mostly unregarded variety from Madiran in the South of France and established it as a Uruguay's national wine with a quality and style that none of its competitors have found easy to match.

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