New Mexico’s Deep Winemaking History

Postcard from New Mexico
Illustration by Kavel Rafferty

While one may not expect crisp, acidic wines to come from the southern border of the U.S., New Mexico offers surprisingly refreshing bottles to pair with its signature Hatch chiles. Wine isn’t new to the state either—the first vines were planted in 1629.

In recent years, however, quality has been on the rise across the state, from around Las Cruces in the south, all the way to the northern border of Colorado, and areas surrounding Santa Fe and Albuquerque.

Grapes here benefit from some of the highest elevations in the country, sometimes above 6,000 feet. “Even the southern part of the state is still high altitude for the wine world, so our entire state offers up grapes that are thicker skinned due to that,” says Michele Padberg, owner/director of marketing and publicity at Vivác Winery.

New Mexico Wine Facts

Almost 1 million cases produced annually
Approximate Vineyard Acres: 1,200
Elevation Range: 400–6,700 feet
Wineries: 45

This elevation, in combination with sandy soils that provide excellent drainage, keeps wines crisp and lively, while still offering up excellent concentration. The surrounding desert environment has benefits, too.

“The hot days and cool nights keep the integrity of the natural acidity which gives the final wines balance and structure,” says Padberg. “The dry climate keeps things like rot out of the equation as well as most pests.”

New Mexico AVAs

Middle Rio Grande Valley

Mimbres Valley

Mesilla Valley (shared with Texas)

Of course, altitude also comes with challenges: Devastating freezes can hit hard both in late spring and at the end of the growing season.

Sparkling wine house Gruet has drawn attention to the region in recent years, as it continues expanding to meet demand for the Champagne-style wines. But bubbles are only the tip of the iceberg.

Wineries to Look for

Amaro Winery, Black Mesa Winery

Gruet Winery, Luna Rossa Winery and Noisy Water Winery

Wineries here produce a variety of spectacular still wines from racy Riesling to structured Cabernet. A singular style has yet to emerge, but many winemakers are dabbling in Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Syrah.

As with many under-the-radar regions, few wines leave New Mexico. Its industry has experienced a boost from a local wine association celebrating a “Viva Vino” campaign. The organization’s annual wine festivals throughout the state make it well worth a visit.

Published on April 29, 2019
Topics: Wine and Ratings
About the Author
Fiona Adams
Assistant Tasting Director

Reviews wines from Other U.S. Fiona Adams’ excitement for wine was sparked at a young age by her father. Working in a handful of New York City wine shops and a stint in Long Island wine country, she developed her wine knowledge, eventually earning her Level 2 WSET certification. Joining Wine Enthusiast in 2014, Fiona hopes to share her passion for natural wines. Email: fadams@wineenthusiast.net



SUBSCRIBE TO
NEWSLETTERS
The latest wine reviews, trends and recipes plus special offers on wine storage and accessories