A taste for tequila
But don’t overlook the wines of Mexico
t wasn't until I came to the United States
nearly 18 years ago that I realized that my
birthday, 5 May, had any significance. I had
never heard of Cinco de Mayo growing up
in England, so when people started com-
menting in Spanish at immigration and
Social Security offices about my birth date,
I must have looked pretty dumb.
The day is celebrated in Mexico to mark
the victory of the Mexican army over the
much larger French forces at the Battle of
Pueblo in 1862. In the U.S. it marks a day of
celebration of Mexican heritage and is
often a great excuse for a party.
I have not had the opportunity to visit
Mexico until recently when I attended a
conference for Relais et Chateaux hotels in
Cabo San Lucas. We were picked up
at the airport by the hotel driver who
whisked us along a beautiful new road
abutting the Sea of Cortez, flanked on both
sides by cacti and sage brush. This is truly
As we entered the outskirts of Los Cabos
(the Capes), I saw a sign that said "vinoteca"
and asked the driver what that meant.
"It's the name of a wine store," said he,
and a few yards later there it was, a huge,
modern, brightly lit liquor and wine shop
bustling with people. I asked him about the
local wines. He laughed and said that Mexicans don't really make or drink much wine.
"We prefer tequila!" he said.
On checking later on my trusty iPad, I
found that he was right. Mexicans drink an
average of only two glasses of wine per
year but almost five liters of other liquor, a
major portion being tequila.
The host hotel for the conference was a
spectacular property set on a cliff on the
southern tip of the Baja. There were several
restaurants and they had great wine and
drinks lists. Based on what the driver had
told me, I didn't expect to see much in the
way of Mexican wine on offer, but I was surprised to see large sections devoted to
both red and white wines from different
parts of the country.
The very helpful staff steered me initially
toward a chenin blanc and colombard
blend from the Guadalupe Valley in the
north of the Baja California. Turns out that
this area, which includes two other similar
valleys, San Vincente and Santo Tomàs,
produces about 90 percent of Mexico's wine.
Later I would taste sauvignon blanc,
viognier (which is native to the Rhone
Valley in France), tempranillo (a Spanish
grape variety), sparkling wine made by the
Spanish company Freixenet and a sweet,
red dessert wine made from cabernet sauvignon. Each was well made and had tons of
The northern part of the Baja California
shares many characteristics with its northern
neighbors: lots of sunshine, cooling breezes
from the Pacific and varied soils.
It is a shame that the wines are rarely seen
outside of Mexico but if you should be
vacationing south of the border, give them
a try. Airline regulations prevented me from
bringing any home but I have a teeny bottle
of 100-percent agave tequila that I will use
to celebrate another year on Cinco de Mayo!
Originally from England, Stephen Beaumont lived
in Wisconsin for 10 years before relocating to the
British Virgin Islands. He is a Certified Wine
Educator, a designation that requires extensive
knowledge and tasting skills.