Friday, August 18, 2006
Mexico's 'boutique wine' renaissance
The school band practises noisily outdoors in the sleepy town of Porvenir, where olive trees line the dusty roads.
By Matthew Wells In Baja California, Mexico
Some people are calling the place the "next Napa valley"Directly opposite, there is a school of a different kind, where locals are learning the true value of the grape vines that festoon the landscape in the beautiful but rugged Valley of Guadalupe.
Wine arrived in Baja along with the Spanish colonial-era priests.
But the collapse of trade barriers since the late 1980s, opened up Mexico's small wine industry to foreign competition, and the market began to wither.
Some wild enthusiasts are calling this place the "next Napa Valley" - a reference to the hugely profitable centre of the Californian wine business.
But though the climate is similar, locals are unconvinced it can ever attain that growth, or whether they even want it to.
"The wine industry is going through a renaissance in Mexico," says Don Miller, one of the few foreign wine-makers in the area, who has moved lock, stock and barrel to Baja.
This former Californian banker runs an upmarket inn and equestrian centre, alongside his large winery.
But the more profound development is happening on a smaller-level: through the wine school.
If this region were to have no problems with water, without a doubt we would be growing 10 times faster
Josef BackhoffMonte Xanic winery
There is a realisation that micro-managed, boutique wineries can make a profit and draw discerning tourists to the area.
"You can see 20 people making wine here on any particular day," says Phil Gregory, who has just started to enjoy the heady flavours of his first mini-harvest, down at the school.
Local schoolteacher Juan Carlos Bravo was one of several small-scale producers who brought some of his latest crop along to a tasting at Phil's newly-completed and locally crafted guest house.
Until he attended the wine school, Juan Carlos was going to tear-up his mature Carignan vines. Now he will produce around 7,000 bottles of wine this year instead.
The best known organic producer in the valley is Dona Lupe, whose grapes nestle alongside the country's largest winery, LA Cetto - which even has its own bullring for special festivals.
The article continues here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4555238.stm