MEXICO CITY – More than 100 wineries are in operation in nearly a dozen Mexican states and wine consumption has increased in recent years, but the sector is being held back by a lack of popular acceptance of the beverage and insufficient investment in rural areas.
“In 2000, we had (annual) per-capita consumption of 300 milliliters (10.3 ounces). Today it’s 750 milliliters. Still very low compared to countries where the wine culture is more established,” said Daniel Milmo, president of the Mexican Wine Council, which represents 42 members that account for 95 percent of domestic production.
Mexico currently boasts around 1,000 domestic wine labels and annual production of 19.4 million liters, four times the amount at the start of the 21st century.
Consumption has grown between 8 percent and 12 percent annually in recent years, according to Milmo, who said the market could double in size over the next seven years.
But a series of obstacles are holding back wine production and consumption in Mexico, where the beverage is still uncommon at restaurants and dinner tables and most of the bottles that are consumed are imported from Spain, Chile and Argentina.
“There’s still a lack of large installed capacity and people interested in investing more in the countryside,” said Milmo, who also is co-director of Casa Madero, one of Mexico’s biggest wineries.
Home to just 32,000 hectares (79,000 acres) of vineyards – Spain has nearly 950,000 hectares –, Mexico imports 68.1 million liters (18 million gallons) of wine annually and exports just 1.2 million liters, mostly to the United States.
One of the reasons is a lack of government support, he said, adding that a law similar to ones supporting producers in Spain and Chile needs to be passed to promote Mexico’s wine sector.
Indeed, the president of the Mexican Wine Academy, Luis Fernando Otero, is currently working with lawmakers on such a bill.
The lack of strong demand in Mexico has more to do with the lack of a wine tradition than the quality of the harvested grapes.
“We have nearly 90 different varieties of wine-producing grapes. Although we’re very new to this issue and a lot of tests continue to be conducted,” said Otero, whose organization strives to orient consumers and raise awareness about wine in Mexico.