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HAVE Mexican wines improved?

I worked in Mexico City in the 90's. The one really bad thing that stands out in my mind was the horror that was Mexican wine ... and I know nothing about wine and will happily drink Franzia. However, Mexican wine was in its own little corner of hell. I'm pretty sure it was Cetto and they made two at that time ... red and white.

I read things here and there that things are improving. Is there anything really drinkable? What is going on with Mexican wine?

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  1. 15 - 20 years ago friends and I would go to a great French restaurant in Mexicali, but the problem would always be the wine. French wines cost as much as the meal. Most Mexican wines (like Santo Thomas) weren't much good. Then we discovered Chilean wines (the first I'd ever had) and enjoyed them.

    But over the years, fine wine production in the Guadalupe Valley (the valley between Ensenada and Tecate) has gotten much better. I am especially fond of LA Cetto's Nebbiolo - which imho is as good or better than any California nebbiolos of my acquaintance. I have had some good Mexican Chenin Blancs also.

    From a webpage of an English wineseller: "We cannot speak too highly of L.A. Cetto wines, as verified by wine writers Joanna Simon, Oz Clarke, Paul Levy and many others. The winery has just celebrated it's 75th Anniversary and is now, more than ever, producing wines of top international quality at different price points. Cetto wines have been snatching medals at wine challenges all over the world for the past couple of decades. Most recently the 2002 Petite Sirah was highly recommended at the London International Wine Challenge 2004. The 1996 Nebbiolo won a silver medal at the London International Wine Challenge 2003 and the 1999 won a gold medal at Vinitaly 2004 competing against some of the top Barolo's in Italy!"

    Even more expensive Mexican wines are being made - Monte Xanic comes to mind - but I have not tried most of them, as I haven't done much fine dining in Mexico in the last few years, and customs limits me to bringing back one bottle each time I go en el otro lado.

    Hopefully, one of these days, I will get to Laja - supposedly a truly excellent restaurant in the Mexican wine country which features local produce and local wines. It would be nice to sample a variety of what they are producing now.

    ed

    1. I just wanted to add one more note. I have never seen Cetto red or white. Every label of theirs I've read has given a grape varietal.

      Now, Domecq has long produced red and white wines in Mexico. Both pretty nasty. But Domecq in Mexico is mostly growing grapes for brandies. Were I a betting man, I would guess that you tried Domecq wines, not Cetto's.

      ed

      1. Thanks for the info. Nope, definately not Domecq. Somewhere the brain cells will kick in and I'll be able to confirm the wine. I fear the experience was so bad I'm blocking it.

        Yes, Mexico is where I discovered the wonders of Chilean wine. For some reason, the same brand in Mexico would be better than what was sold in the U.S. Concho and Torress (close enough) had some fabulous wines at a little nothing cafe near my hotel. They would let me buy bottles of it to take out. Yet I could never find a decent bottle for that label in the US.

        2 Replies
        1. re: rworange

          You may be right about certain Chilean wines being better in the versions for Mexico - or perhaps they were just better years ago before tons of them started getting shipped to the US. I have fond memories of Concha y Torres' Caselliero de Diablo (sp?), which I recall as much better 15 years ago than the bottle or two I have tried in the US in the last 5 - 8 years.

          ed

          1. re: Phoo D

            No, this was back to back tasting. I worked in Mexico City during the week and would fly home on the weekends. So I was looking for that brand at the same time in California. The bottles here were so bad that I gave up on the brand totally.

        2. Yes, they've improved a lot.

          On the other hand, I still don't like them. I was in Guadalajara for ten days last month and after a few days of my friend's favorite Baja wines I went out and got some Chilean and Spanish.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            Then again, they had no where to go but up. Have you ever visited any of the Mexican wineries?

            1. re: rworange

              No, never been to that part of Mexico.

              I think they're doing a good job of emulating California wines. I just don't care for that style.

          2. The last Cetto I had was Petite Sirah and it was quite credible. Some of the Cetto reds have had quite a bit of brett, so if you're sensitive...

            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

            It's been a few years since I've had anything from Monte Xanic, but tasting through the portfolio then, my recollection is that the Semillon or Semillon-blend was my pick of the bunch. It was a good wine but priced too high for the quality level.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Melanie Wong

              My memory is that the Cab from Cetto wasn't much good years ago. In fact, I don't recall ever having had a good Mexican cab. The only Santo Tomas wine I ever found drinkable was called St Emillion, but if memory serves, it was primarily carignan. Most of the buzz about Cetto seems to be about the PS and Nebbiolo. I guess I got lucky when I picked up a bottle of the Nebbiolo for the first time over a year ago. Nebbiolo is a grape that doesn't seem especially succesful in American California - though if you know of good American examples I would love to hear.

              My memory of Monte Xanic is of a chenin blanc, I think. There is also a winery called Chateau Camou which sells its stuff at boutique prices.

              ed

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                I too have liked the Cetto Petite Sirah, but especially the Nebbiolo. Never tried the cabernet, though.
                Senor Fred Mexican restaurant in Sherman Oaks, Ca., has Cettos on the wine list - see link.
                http://www.senorfred.com/drinks.htm

                1. I spent the last weekend in Ensenada and had several Mexican wines. The best of the bunch were from Monte Xanic: a 2004 sauvignon blanc that they called Kristal, I believe, and a chardonnay that was big, buttery and oakey in the classic California style. Both were good, if a little overpriced. MX's 2003 Kristal, however, was a sauvignon blanc/semillon blend that had some bitter notes -- I wouldn't recommend it. We also sampled several other wines from Mexican wineries, including a tempranillo (lacked fruit forward, tasted kind of raisiny) and a pinot noir (a surprisingly good, feminine style p.n. with a somewhat hot finish which nevertheless didn't ruin it completely).

                  My overall impression was that some Mexican wines are much better today than in the past, but you still have to be very careful what you buy -- there just aren't that many good ones.