This weekend I made a quick visit to an emblematic place in northern Mexico: Parras de la Fuente. This place is famouse because it houses the oldest winery in the American continent: Vinícola San Lorenzo or better known as Casa Madero. Parras de la Fuente is also a Pueblo Mágico (Magical Village) like Pátzcuaro.
A little bit of History
Around 1568, Spanish conquerors discovered the Valle de Parras while they were searching for gold; but they did not find the gold, but a majestic place with water springs and wild vines. Motivated by this amazing finding, some jesuits moved to this valley in 1594 in a mission the called: Misión de Santa María de las Parras. Later, one of the original settlers named Don Lorenzo García succeeded in establishing a good relationship with natives from around, so he asked Felipe II for a Merced (land endowment). So, in 1957 Felipe II grant this lands to Don Lorenzo to make wine and Brandy under the condition to allocate most of their production to the Clergy.
Unfortunately, and maybe one of the reasons why Mexico was far behind in terms of wine production compared with the US or South America, in 1699 the Spanish Crown decreed the “Law of the Indies” which was intended to regulate social, political and economic life in the Colonies. In the fine prints of this law was established that no one could produce whine or alcohol beverage unless they were for the Clergy, so this vineyards survived producing sacramental wine and brandy for the church till the Independence of Mexico was signed in 1821.
In 1893, Don Evaristo Madero bought the vineyards to a french family. Don Evaristo hired the best technicians, winegrowers and winemakers from Spain, France and Italy. He upgraded all the facilities and send their kids to Europe so they could be trained to make good quality wine. From this, a curious fact related to Mexican History emerges: Don Evaristo Madero had a grandson that was sent to study, just as everyone else in the family to the best Universities around the world: he studied agriculture in Maryland, USA; then, he studied commercial trading in Paris and finally he finished his studies in agriculture in Berkeley University, in California. Everything seemed like he was going to continue collaborating with the family business.. but he definitely had a different plan for his life. This grandson is the former president of Mexico: Francisco I. Madero. Ever Since then, this wineries have belonged to the Madero family.
Bodegas Rivero González
We visited two different wineries: Bodegas Rivero González and Vinícola San Lorenzo (Casa Madero). Bodegas Rivero González started growing vine in 1998 so they are relatively new in the wine business. Nevertheless, I believe they have accomplished great wines, and above all, they have opened diversity among the offer of wine labels in Parras de la Fuente. They have developed innovative marketing strategies since the owner gave control of the company to his daughter. Rivero González is a very youthful winery which has been betting in new techniques and also in adapting new varieties to the zone (the have experimental vineyards). Their operation room is really small and they only use high tech equipment to make the wine: every machinery is really clean and well kept. They are more like a Napa / Sonoma Valley winery, really modern; nevertheless walking through this winery gives you a familiar feeling.
As a curious fact, is very common to find a Rosebush or a Bugambilia at the beginning of each line of vines; it looks incredible beautiful, and is common to think that is for decoration, but it is actually used to detect the presence of fungi like Mildew or Oidium, which are extremely harmful to the vines: roses and bugambilias are more sensible to both fungi, so if the vine grower detect that the roses are becoming sick, it means that probably the vines will get sick, so he can decide what to do so that the grapevines remain healthy.
Another curious fact: one of the biggest headaches for vine growers is dealing with Phylloxera. This insect destroyed most of the vineyards in Europe in the 19 century. Nevertheless, since the insect is native to America, most of the native grape species in America al partially resistant to the insect; so most of the grapes are grafted in native rootstock, and grafts are imported from Europe.
At the end of the tour, we get to taste a wine, Syrah grape, right under a 50 year old walnut. It was really a relaxing and enriching experience.
Vinícola San Lorenzo (Casa Madero)
Casa Madero is a very different winery from Rivero González, you can not compare them (and I don’t believe they see each other as competition). Casa Madero is a really old winery with a lot of history. They have really good quality wines that have won many medals in Europe and they have been making wine since… like forever jaja. Even though they also use high tech machinery, they still have their old machinery, which gives you the feeling of an old-world winery. They have a larger vineyard extensions, about 450 ha, and they have a small piece of land with organic certified vines (meh… ). Even though their tours contain very interesting information, they are massive and that gives you a more impersonal feeling. They do not take you to the vineyards either (which was the part that interested me the most). If you want to visit the vineyards, you have to rent a horse.. jaja. So, I did it… and let me say to you, it was quite and interesting experience (I had never ride a horse in my life).
Parras de la Fuente is a place that worth being visited. Even if Valle de Guadalupe is the first Valley that comes to our mind when speaking about Mexican wine, Parras Valley has its magic too!
Note: If you want to see more photographs from this post, click here.
Rivero González (2016). Our History. http://riverogonzalez.com.mx/en/
Casa Madero (2014). Historia. http://www.madero.com.mx/#
Emilio Moro (2013). Bog: Roble Francés vs Roble Americano. http://www.emiliomoro.com/es/blog/item/75-barrica-roble-frances-roble-americano
Vicens A. (2015). Características del vino joven, crianza, reserva y gran reserva. http://www.grosmercat.es/blog/caracteristicas-del-vino-joven-crianza-reserva-y-gran-reserva
Olinda C. (2010). Adiós al pionero de la vitivinicultura, fallece Don José Milmo Madero. El Zócalo de Saltillo. http://www.zocalo.com.mx/seccion/articulo/adios-al-pionero-de-la-vitivinicultura-fallece-don-jose-milmo-madero
Burton T. (2008). Did you know? Oldest winery in Americas is in Parras de la Fuente, Mexico. Mexconnect. http://www.mexconnect.com/articles/1247-did-you-know-oldest-winery-in-the-americas-is-in-parras-de-la-fuente-mexico
El Universal (2010). Cuna del Vino en América. http://archivo.eluniversal.com.mx/articulos/62204.html
Chacek K. (2014). Casa Madero: El Vino más añejo de América. GQ. http://www.gq.com.mx/bon-vivant/vinos/articulos/valle-de-parras-y-la-bodega-de-casa-madero-en-coahuila/3072