Good Old Fashioned Mexican Common Sense
Janice Fuhrman reports via Decanter that a proposal to create an appellation system for Mexico’s major wine production regions has not been embraced by the very folks the system would effect: the winemakers.
What’s interesting about the story is that it suggests the proposal would actually create regulations for HOW wine can be made under the appellation system, an approach that takes its cues from European appellation system, rather than from the nearby American appellation system that merely attempts to identify the unique characteristics of a defined area.
I’ve had a variety of Mexican wines over the years and have been very pleasantly surprised nearly every time. My surprise at the quality is probably an indication of my own prejudice than anything else. However, I do know this:
If the Mexicans want to severely hinder the development of their wine industry then they should definitely adopt a European approach to Appellations.
Unlike the American system, the European approach to appellation maintenance stresses regulating which grapes may be used if the bottling is allowed to carry the name of the appellation. In addition, appellation rules often determine exactly how the wine can be made. This is an incredibly conservative approach meant to protect very old observations and experiences with grapegrowing in a region. Does anyone really believe that only Chardonnay and Pinot noir can produce great wine in Burgundy? Is it really possible that great tasting wine from Bordeaux can only be produced by using Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Merlot?
On the other hand, were the Mexicans to adopt a form of the American AVA system where a region is simply recognized for it’s unique climatic, geographic and (perhaps) soil properties and where wines made from grapes grown entirely within the boundaries of the appellation can carry the name of the appellation, then the Mexican wineries would have something else and something to interesting to hang their hat upon.
However, would recommend that if the American approach is considered that some special care be taken:
–Keep the size of the appellations as small as possible to preserve the integrity of the idea that specific climate and soil characteristics make a difference in a wine
–Avoid the temptation to create larger appellations that encompass smaller appellations and thereby strip both the large and small appellations of any meaning.
–Create rules that demand 100% of the grapes in a wine come from a specific appellation in order to use the appellation on their label.
–Hire Wark Communications to spread the word of the uniqueness and potential of these new Mexican appellations (this part is not absolutely necessary to be part of the rules and regulations of a Mexican appellation system.)
I’m not too worried that the Mexicans will jump in feet first to a European model for appellations. Their winemakers appear to understand its liabilities:
"We are still in the first steps of our wine industry,’ said Hugo
D’Acosta, leader of the Guadalupe Valley Vintners Association and
winemaker for top labels including Casa de Piedra and Paralelo. ‘You
should not say how wine should be made when we are still exploring. If
DOs were instituted, we would lose freedoms at this most important time
of our wine industry."