Natalia López Mota and Branko Pjanic / Photo courtesy Cava Garambullo
A new wave of Mexican wine is on the rise in Guanajuato, a state in the central highlands. While the area is internationally known for tourism hub San Miguel de Allende, just outside the city lies the country’s fourth-largest and fastest-growing wine-producing state—not to mention one of its youngest, with 30 wineries and modern viticulture practices dating to the early 2000s.
Consultant oenologist Natalia López Mota and her Balkan partner, Branko Pjanic, are part of the crew in Guanajuato. The couple began making wine in Mexico in 2012, and today produce their own unfiltered blends under the Cava Garambullo label. They ferment mostly organic grapes with natural yeast and minimal intervention.
“Cava Garambullo is exciting; they’re trendsetters,” says Sandra Fernandez, a sommelier in Mexico City. “They’re raising awareness [for natural wine], and Guanajuato is definitely at the front of this movement.”
While Guanajuato has a smattering of large luxury lifestyle estates like Tres Raíces and Viñedos San Lucas, it’s also home to several smaller-scale natural and organic wineries. These vintners eschew industrial yeasts, synthetic chemicals, pesticides and herbicides for eco-sensitive farming methods.
Red wines like Malbec, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo and Cabernet Franc account for roughly 70% of Guanajuato’s production. White varieties include Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, Chenin Blanc and Viognier.
Lighter wines with lower alcohol levels are emerging, too, thanks to the state’s climate. The average elevation is 6,500 feet above sea level, with cold winters, hot summers and a wide diurnal temperature range.
“This style of wine is very much sought after by top Mexican chefs who love to use them for food pairings,” says Fernandez. “Menus are getting lighter and more vegan-oriented, top chefs are only using organic produce, and these wines work very well with their philosophy.”