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Viticulture in San Miguel de Allende

By Karla Ortiz

Many people choose San Miguel as a place to live and many others come for a short visit or make it a stopover. It‘s certainly a destination where people come from all over the world. The people who come here may have traveled a lot or maybe not much at all.

Recently San Miguel has positioned itself as a wine locality because of the vineyards that have opened in and near the city.

In an interview with the wine expert Natalia López, who has nine years of research in the field of wine, she commented that San Miguel has a community with a refined taste in terms of gastronomy and wines. She stated that “they are very demanding and they like the good things in life. They are quite meticulous in their choices.”


How does the climate affect grapes?

In Mexico there is a great diversity of vines, and among the most popular ones that we can find are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Nebbiolo, Zinfandel, Syrah, Malbec, Merlot, Chardonnay, and Sheeran Blanc. There are wineries in the country that grow varieties that are a little more difficult, for example, Aglianico, an Italian variety that, according to Natalia, is cultivated in only one winery in San Miguel. “There is no comparison between Aglianico that is planted here and the one we find in Italy, although it’s interesting how the grape adapts to this climate.”


She commented that the taste and voluptuousness of a wine is measured according to the area and the amount of sun hours that the vine receives. “When the weather is cold or if it rains a lot, the skin becomes thick and the level of tannic acid increases. That can make the wine more bitter, but if the grapes get a lot of sun the opposite is true.”


For Natalia, San Miguel has a favorable climate and, at the same time, an unfavorable climate. The city has a “semi-continental” climate. The winters are cold and the summers are hot and that gives the vine what it needs to be able to have a reproductive cycle. “The vines need cold hours to rest and to maintain a stable metabolism. If the vine doesn’t rest enough, it will not produce, and that becomes obvious over the years.” She mentioned that another of the influencing factors is rain, which prevents the ripening of the fruit. Natalia believes that viticulture is very similar to domestication. The plant is pruned; the leaves are handled; the plant is fed and watered year after year. “The more years the plant has been trained by the vine grower, the more the plant understands what it has to produce at the end of several cycles.” The vines reach a stability after 7 to 10 years after being planted and that stability may last up to 30 years. But they do have a mortality rate depending on the harvesting demands. Some vines will even last 50 to 80 years, according to Natalia.


“People have to understand that you can’t plant in a particular city just because there are other vineyards there. Each plot of land is different and offers different nutrients.” The perfect soil for a vine is one that is poor in nutrients compared to what corn needs. “To grow grapes there must be a level of low organic matter and a high level of drainage of approximately 60 to 80cm, so that it can take root. There are areas in San Miguel that are good for growing vines. The problem is to find them. “


Wine in the city

The wineries established in San Miguel are directed to a definite market. For example, Querétaro works for one large business and therefore produces much less than they do here in San Miguel. In our city the production is “cleaner,” “from the countryside.” Its distribution is to the same local stores in the city. The organic market is not just for food because now organic wine is coming from the vineyards of San Miguel. “People choose to live here for the quality of life and the fact that we have the Mercado SANO and other organic choices that the city offers. The proximity to the countryside and the opportunity to consume produce from the countryside entices us to reflect on the type of wine we want to drink and which wine we will bring to the table,” noted Natalia.


She mentioned that the American community that is living or visiting here has been one of the groups that she has been pleased to provide with tastings. “It is very interesting because they have an international reference to the world of wine.”

The diversity of the people in San Miguel gives our city a huge cultural diversity relating to gastronomy and drinks. Natalia believes that unfortunately there is a very poor selection of wine here for the consumer.

“Wine bars and restaurants all sell more or less the same wine. There is no diversity. From my point of view, for the type of consumers we have, it would be very interesting to have more choice. It’s an area that could expand a lot if you understood  the market.” Natalia did us the favor of revealing what an enologist (wine expert) drinks. She describes herself as a wine collector. “For me the most important thing is to know who made it.” She enjoys natural and organic wines from Mexico, and she  buys wine from distributors in local stores. She also buys wine produced abroad. She explained that it’s important to taste the wine from the local wineries, because many more wines have been produced this past year.


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