Wine production in Mexico has a long history, supposedly going back as far as the early 1520s when conquistador Hernán Cortés reportedly ordered colonists to plant grapevines to make up for a shortfall of wine in the Spanish colony.
Almost 500 years later, Mexico’s governors are seeking to further consolidate the industry: last week they presented an unprecedented legislative proposal to the Senate, containing measures to encourage its growth.
Entitled the General Law Initiative to Promote the Wine Industry, the draft legislation calls for direct government incentives to wine producers and controls over production.
Baja California Governor Francisco Vega, who chairs a National Conference of Governors (CONAGO) committee looking at ways to promote the wine industry, presented the plan last Thursday to the Senate Committee on Commercial and Industrial Promotion.
The draft legislation is the result of discussions that began in May 2016 and took place in Baja California, Guanajuato, Nuevo León and Coahuila, all wine producing states.
However, it is Vega’s state that is by far the nation’s largest wine producer, responsible for approximately 90% of total production.
Valle de Guadalupe, located to the northeast of Ensenada and often considered the Mexican equivalent of California’s Napa Valley, is home to the greatest concentration of wineries in the country.
According to Vega, one aim of the legislation is to guarantee the quality of Mexican wine and to ensure that the varietals contained in every bottle are correctly classified, thus giving greater certainty to consumers.
Another proposal is to establish a Denominación de Origen classification for Mexican wine. Only wine made from grapes planted, grown and harvested in Mexico and with contents completely fermented and bottled in the country would receive the designation.
The legislation also proposes establishing a national commission to promote the wine industry. It would become part of the Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (SAGARPA) and the Secretariat of Economy (SE).
The role of the commission would be to advise and support governments on the design of public policies, especially those that affect wine producers. The draft proposal states that policies that help the industry to reduce costs would also be beneficial to consumers, as the price of quality wine would go down.
Vega stated that if the proposal became law it would benefit the wine industry, rural Mexico and tourism.
Mexico’s wine industry generates around 7,000 direct and indirect jobs. However, that number doesn’t include the significant spillover effect that comes from tourism to the country’s wine regions.
The matching of wine to food also plays an important role in creating successful gastronomic experiences such as in the Baja California cooking style known as “Baja Med,” officially recognized as a Mexican regional cuisine 15 years ago.
While per-capita wine consumption in Mexico — currently 0.4 gallons per year — is growing, it is still much lower than in countries such as the United States where it is two gallons and France, where it is 15.
Mexico ranks as the world’s 25th largest wine producer but 66th in wine consumption with Mexican wine accounting for just one-third of that, as drinkers prefer wine from Europe, Chile, Argentina, the U.S. and Australia.