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Guanajuato’s Vineyards: A Comeback 400 Years in the Making

Cuna de Tierra

Vendima 2018 Cuna de Tierra

VENDIMIA

Cuna de Tierra

Camino D Vinos

TRES RAÍCES

By Jesús Aguado

Guanajuato’s grape harvest season is upon us, and thus so too are the grape harvest festivals being offered by vineyards throughout the Bajío, a boon to area wine lovers and a economic booster for the state.

According to figures shared by the Secretariat of Tourism’s Teresa Matamoros and President of the Tourism Council Laura Torres, the state of Guanajuato produces 1,200 tons of grapes per year that come from 32 vineyards and close to 400 hectares of vineyards. This makes the state fourth in wine production in the country.

It wasn’t always this way, however. In the last two decades, the state has been reclaiming and directing hectares and hectares of arable land that until recently hadn’t been vineyards since the nineteenth century, when they were burned en masse during the Mexican War of Independence.

Wine and the Mexican War of Independence

Although winemaking’s recent history in Guanajuato only dates back to the early 2000s, the current Valle de la Independencia, which encompasses the northeastern part of the state, had fertile and prosperous vineyards during colonial era, thanks to soil that was perfect for grape cultivation. Miguel Hidalgo, the Catholic priest known for igniting México’s independence war, is said to have taught residents of the region how to harvest grapes and produce wine when the Church first assigned him to his parish in Dolores.

However, years later, on orders from the Spanish government, these prosperous vineyards were burned during the fight for independence, as were those of any criollos who participated in the uprising against Spain. The Spanish government believed the vineyards provided key economic support to the independence movement.

Wine production would go into a long dormancy after that, until a decade ago, when Cuna de Tierra winery established a new legacy of winemaking in the state. Cuna de Tierra is credited with putting vineyards back on the map in Guanajuato. They planted their first vineyard in the 1990s. Owners Juan Manchón and Ignacio Vega established Bodegas Vega Manchón and began producing wine in 2005. Their Pago de Vega and Cuna de Tierra Bicentenario vintages got their business off to an impressive start: these wines were produced for exclusive sale at México’s luxury shopping mall, Palacio de Hierro. Winemaking in the Bajío had truly arrived.

Nearly a decade ago, Cuna de Tierra also created the Vendimia harvest festival, inviting wine lovers to a weekend of tastings, cellar tours, music, and more. The vineyard has expanded its festival offerings steadily, and over time, other competitors have established their own festivals, creating a sort of “wine route” that attracts visitors from all over the region.

To mark this season where the wine flows freely in Guanajuato, here is a guide to some of the major wine festivals being held at vineyards around the Bajío.

Cuna de Tierra’s Fiesta de la Vendimia

In its ninth year, Cuna de Tierra’s harvest festival will include wine tasting, grape stomping, workshops, wine cellar tours, live music, and plenty of food and drinks. It will take place on the road to Dolores Hidalgo-San Luis de la Paz on August 31 from 1pm on. A table for 10 is 24,000 pesos. For more information call 415 152 6060

The Festival of Toyán

A place with a magical feel, Vinícola Toyán (Toyán Vineyards) features strategically placed statues of fairies, elves, and other figures everywhere that watch over the vineyard and its visitors. It regularly opens its doors to its wine production rooms, but the festival is a great opportunity to learn everything you ever wanted to know about its winemaking. Wine here matures in French and Canadian oak barrels sitting14 meters underground.

This year’s harvest will be celebrated on September 10. It will be different from previous years. It features not only an LGBT+ theme but will also install a temporary casino. Much more than a wine event, the annual harvest festival Toyán puts on features music and activities. In past years, it has singers like Natalia Lafourcade and Mon Laferte, Susana Zavaleta and La Rumorosa have taken the stage. This year, soprano Morganna Love will be the central performer.

Love spoke with Atención and mentioned that “the event will be different from what has been done before because those of us who belong to the sexual diversity community will be able to enjoy an afternoon full of experiences in a secure environment, free, full of festivity and joy.”

According to Martha Molina, director at Toyán, activities at the festival will include an ancestral ceremony to bless the seeds, live music with Yossi Gutierrez, wine tasting, and the casino.

The festival takes place 2–11 pm. Tickets are 1,200 pesos. Call 415 152 7200. Vinícola Toyán is on the road to Querétaro, Kilometer 8.5

Tres Raíces Festival

Viñedo Tres Raíces’s festival will take place on September 14. It will include stomping of grapes, cultural events, music, and food. The band Matute will perform in both English and Spanish. Tickets 2,400 pesos.

Tres Raíces is located in Tequisquiapan, along the road San Miguel–Dolores highway. Matamoros said that it lies along one of the most fascinating wine routes in Guanajuato. Its 43 hectares are dedicated to the production of Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. The vineyard’s landscaping is designed to appear like leaves, branches, grapes, and even the drops of wine such as those depicted on the traditional talavera route of Dolores Hidalgo.

The wine routes

Not to be missed if you’re going to take advantage of the grape harvest season is Guanajuato’s wine routes. Here’s a breakdown of the five major routes:

•Leon: Viñedo El Lobo/Vinícola Octágono.

•Guanajuato: Caminos De Vinos

•Salvatierra: Dos Jacales

•Carretera San Miguel de Allende–Dolores Hidalgo, in Los Arcángeles. Includes the following vineyards: Cuna de Tierra, Bernat, Santísima Trinidad, Tres Raíces, and the Los Senderos.

•Carretera San Miguel de Allende–Querétaro: Includes the following vineyards: Toyán, San Lucas, Dos Búhos, San José La Vista, Puente Josefa Viñedo, and Viñedos los Senderos.

 

In order to increase winemaking tourism in the Bajío, the Secretariat of Tourism is creating maps of these wine routes, soon to be available in tourist offices in every city in the state, said Matamoros.

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“The production of wine in Guanajuato goes back more than 400 years, since it started with the first settlements in the seventeenth century. The priest Miguel Hidalgo taught this in Dolores Hidalgo two centuries ago,” said Matamoros.

However, she added that it’s only been in the last few years these lands have gone back to their original function as vineyards, “with amazing results, with vineyards and wine cellars that are making an impact not only in México but around the world with high-quality products that carry in their aromas and flavors the best of this land and its history.”

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The Guanajuato-based Asociación Uva y Vino (The Grape and Wine Association), founded in 2012, works with 30 producers in Dolores Hidalgo, San Miguel de Allende, the city of Guanajuato, San Felipe, San Francisco del Rincón, and Comonfort.

Currently in Guanajuato, 300,000 bottles of wine are produced annually, making the state the fourth-highest producer in México after Baja California, Querétaro and Chihuahua

 

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