Mucho gusto, Querétaro

When you think of Mexico, do you think of wine? Tequila, sure. But wine?

It may surprise you that Mexico — Querétaro specifically — is one of the oldest wine regions in the Americas.

Just a few years after the Spanish began settling the territory in 1521, colonists started to plant vineyards and produce wine. Good wine. Too good, in fact. In 1699, King Charles II actually prohibited the production of local wine (except for sacramental use), after it began to outsell Spanish imported spirits.

Although Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821, it wasn’t until well over a century later that the country began to slowly pivot back to commercial wine production. In 2006, there were fewer than 25 wineries operating across the country.

Today, however, the Baja region, commonly referred to as Mexico’s little Napa, has more than 120 wineries, and accounts for 50% of the country’s wine production.

But it’s not only the region growing in size, or notoriety. About an hour north of Mexico City, the state of Querétaro is garnering a lot of attention from vinophiles and, according to Food & Wine, has all the makings to surpass Baja as the country’s next “it” wine region.

What makes it so special? As Mexico’s southernmost wine state, Querétaro is not what we’ve come to expect from top-producing regions. Great wine typically comes from vineyards that sit between the 30–50 latitude belt (France, Chile, Argentina, Italy, Napa, etc.). Querétaro sits much closer to the equator at around 20’ N.

However, its location is exactly what makes this region so special. In the very middle of the country, the state straddles Mexico’s drier northern landscape with the wetter southern climate. The diversity has allowed winemakers who operate there to experiment with a wide range of grape varietals and wine-making styles.

That creative freedom is key to Querétaro’s growing success. Unlike countries like France or Italy, which have implemented strict classification systems that dictate where wine is grown and how it’s produced, Mexico has adopted a much more lenient approach to regulation.

One local sommelier perfectly summed it up well: “There are fewer restrictions for Mexican wines. This means you will find a melting pot of grapes, styles, and blends in the region. No other region in the world has the same flexibility for producers and winemakers to explore different styles of wine without being punished for their bottle labeling.”

Although local wine is gaining in popularity across Mexico, it is struggling in international markets, largely due to high taxes. Mexican wines have a base IVA (Value Added Tax) of 16% plus a luxury tax that can range anywhere from 26.5–30%. To put this in perspective, California wine taxes hover around 8%.

However, if you’re able to get your hands on a bottle from the region, give it a try. Mexico has the potential to disrupt the global wine market and, if the Mexican government reconsiders some of its tax policiies, Querétaro might just be the next Napa.

Danilo Diazgranados is an independent investor in the global food and wine, financial services, real estate, and the hospitality sectors.

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