Casa Madero, 3V, 2018 | Valle de Parras, Mexico

By Dirk Smits

Wine of the Week – September 7, 2020

The vineyards and winery of Casa Madero are located at the foothills of the Sierra Madre Mountains in the northern state of Coahuila in Mexico. Their history can be traced to 1597, making their wine cellars the oldest in the Americas.

The beginnings of Mexico’s wine industry date back to 1521 and the Spanish conquest of the Aztec empire. The early colonists plotted out land to cultivate the grape vines they were bringing with them, even though native grapevines were also being discovered. This was several decades before the planting of grapes in Chile (1548) and Argentina (1551).

The indigenous grapes failing to produce the wines they desired, these early settlers focused on the vines they had brought with them, as additional vines were being sent by the motherland. It led to the start of the oldest winery in the Americas when Lorenzo Garcia founded Casa Madero in Santa Maria de las Parras in Coahuila in 1597. Ironically, vines from the Parras Valley were later exported to Napa Valley, as well as to Chile and Argentina.

Initially, the Mexican wine industry flourished. Grapevines adapted easily to Mexico’s Mediterranean climate. The Spanish emperor, Charles I, even ordered that all ships traveling to New Spain bring a quota of grapevines for cultivation. The first grape variety grown was the ubiquitous Mission grape of California known locally as Listan Prieto; the same variety is called Criolla in Argentina and Pais in Chile.

But just as wine in the region began to take off, it was criticized as having too much of an impact on exported wines from Spain to these new colonies. Because of this, Charles II of Spain placed a ban on its further production in 1699.

The Catholic missions were exempt from the ban and allowed to make small quantities of wine for religious purposes. Despite being restricted to making only small quantities of wine for sacramental purposes, they became significant wine producers. Between 1699 and 1857, the various Catholic missions produced virtually all wine in Mexico.

The wine industry lost a huge part of its vineyards to phylloxera at the turn of the century. Wine making was further disrupted by the violence and domestic turmoil that accompanied the Mexican Revolution of 1910. Many wine estates were destroyed or abandoned by their owners.

The wine business recovered somewhat in the 1920s. High-end wine production began in the 1970s. Today, there are approximately 200 wineries in Mexico.

Origin: Valle de Parras, Mexico
Varietals: 1/3 Cabernet Sauvignon, 1/3 Merlot, 1/3 Tempranillo
Sustainability: Sustainable practices
Suggested retail price: $20.00
ABV: 13.8%

The wine was fermented in stainless steel tanks and aged for one year in French, Eastern European and American oak.

It has a dark red color with aromas of cherries, plum, strawberry, violet, spices and toasted wood. The wine is very balanced with smooth, ripe tannins and fruit on the palate finishing with good acidity and elegance.

Suggested food pairings: beef carpaccio, pork carnitas, pizza, steak, paella, fajitas, grilled vegetables, ripe cheeses.

> For more information, visit the Casa Madero official website.

> Check out GAYOT’s Best Mexican Restaurants.