New Mexico Wines: A Taste of History
When you think of New Mexico, wine may not be the first thing that comes to mind. But the fact is, New Mexico has a long history of wine production. Our warm days and cool nights make it the perfect climate for creating many popular varietals, like Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Johannisburg Riesling, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, and Zinfandel.
The first vines were brought to New Mexico in the 17th century and planted near what is today Socorro. The plants were thought to be cuttings from a Spanish variety known as “Monica.” The wine was created and distributed among the missions in the state to be used as sacramental wine.
As New Mexico grew, so did its wine industry. By the late 1800’s, NM was fifth in production in the entire US, putting out almost a million gallons annually from 3,150 acres of vineyards.
Unfortunately, this trajectory was derailed by the Rio Grande River, whose vast sediments caused the river to rise and flood frequently. Alkaline deposits and root rot would eventually destroy our thriving wine culture, bringing production to just over 1,500 gallons annually by 1910.
Luckily, we eventually learned to harness the powers of the mighty Rio Grande, and interest in wine making began to grow again in the late 1970’s. Today, New Mexico boasts 42 wineries and tasting rooms, and our state produces about 700,000 gallons annually. So the next time you’re in the mood for a drop of vino, why not skip the obvious and treat your palette to a bit of New Mexico history.