New Mexico is a landlocked desert state in the southwest United States that is not traditionally thought of as a major player in the wine industry.
Some of the most important and recognizable agricultural products in this state are chili peppers, and the state is most famous for its signature New Mexico green hatch chili.
While wine grapes are not the most important crop grown in New Mexico, the state has improved wine production dramatically over the past few decades – both in terms of quantity and quality.
The Most Important Wines of New Mexico
The wines of New Mexico are diverse, you can find red, white, and sparkling wines all coming from the region.
One of the largest obstacles that winemakers in the state of New Mexico face is the harsh growing conditions associated with the hot desert ecosystem. There is very little natural rainfall in the area, and the area lacks cool winds, bodies of water, and other climate mitigating factors.
The high temperatures in New Mexico lead to a very short growing season, as grapes will become overripe and become sun damaged if left on the vine as long as in more popular winegrowing regions with more moderate climates.
This short growing season does not give the wine grapes enough time on the vine to develop sufficient levels of phenolic ripeness to be considered of high quality in many cases. Winegrowers do their best to mitigate this effect, but it is inevitable due to the climate.
Wine grapes with low levels of phenolic ripeness that are produced in very hot areas often have high levels of sugar, which lead to very sweet wines. Acidity levels are often lacking in these cases, leading to very sweet wines that are neither refined nor balanced.
Sparkling wine is often produced using a blend of different wine grapes, which is referred to as a cuvée in the historic French region of Champagne. Winemakers work hard to balance the finished product during this blending process, which often helps cover up subpar grapes.
Winemakers in New Mexico have embraced sparkling blends, and have used the blending process as an opportunity to add much-needed acidity to local wines. The result is often a sweet, refined sparkling wine that is on par with the worldwide standard.
There are a number of different styles of sparkling wine produced in New Mexico today, and some of the most highly regarded are produced using a combination of the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. This is the same blend used in the famous region of Champagne.
Sparkling Rosé has also become increasingly popular in New Mexico over the past decade, and some of the best and most highly regarded bottles produced locally use the Pinot Noir grape. New Mexico sparkling wines offer a fantastic value and are often priced under $25 per bottle.
Gruet ‘Sauvage’ Sparkling Rosé is one of the most popular and searched-for bottles of wine produced in the state of New Mexico today. It was recently awarded a gold medal at the 2021 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.
This is one of the most unique bottles of sparkling Rosé being produced in the American southwest today, and the aromas and flavors have been described as being reminiscent of berries and cream. This is one of the most exciting wines to come out of New Mexico recently.
Gruet Brut is the most popular bottle of sparkling wine from New Mexico that is produced in the traditional style. The blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes is the same blend used in the world-famous Chardonnay region, which is the international benchmark for quality.
This extremely popular sparkling wine is made using a blend of grapes from different vintages to achieve the proper balance. The same producer also makes a variety of other sparkling wine styles, including single vintage and Blanc de Blanc varieties.
Pinot Noir is one of the most popular red wine grapes in the entire world, and it is used to make delicate red wines that are complex and generally high in acidity. New Mexico has become proficient in Pinot Noir production, most notably over the past two decades.
While other red wine grape varietals are better suited for warm weather cultivation, Pinot Noir has quickly become one of the most important wine grapes in New Mexico. It is most often used to make single varietal bottles of sparkling wine.
While the Pinot Noir grape is one of the most used grapes in sparkling wine blends, the single varietal bottles of wine produced using this grape are known to be noteworthy. The result can either be white, rose, sparkling or any combination of the three.
Jacqueline Leonne Methode Champenoise Rose is one of the most popular bottles of sparkling wine produced in New Mexico using the Pinot Noir grape. It is highly regarded by critics and wine enthusiasts alike and has drawn great amounts of positive attention to New Mexico wines.
Gruet Cuvee Gilbert Gruet Pinot Noir is a very popular bottle of still red wine that is made using the delicate Pinot Noir grape. The producer blends wine grapes from a number of different vintages to achieve the proper balance of sweetness, acidity, and body.
Chardonnay is the most popular white wine grape in the entire world, and the state of New Mexico has become well adapted to handling the powerhouse wine grape. This is another example of a gape that can shine either in a blend or on its own in single varietal bottles.
When Chardonnay is used to produce single varietal bottles of sparkling wine, the result is called “Blanc de Blanc.” This style has become very popular across the state of New Mexico, as well as still wines made using the Chardonnay grape.
Milagro Vineyards Chardonnay is a single varietal still wine that represents the best parts of New Mexico winemaking for under $30 per bottle. Contrary to the typical California Chardonnay style, this wine is refined and tame with little evidence of oak aging.
St. Clair Winery Chardonnay is an affordable bottle of still Chardonnay that over-delivers in terms of quality for the price point. At under $20 per bottle, it offers incredible quality and balance for such an affordable bottle of wine.
Red Wine Blends
The blending of grapes is a common practice employed by winemakers in the state of New Mexico, and red wine blends have become one of the most popular styles of wine in the United States today. There are a number of different wine grapes used to make these blends.
New Mexico is an especially good candidate for wine grape blending due to the growing conditions and weather in the region. Blending grapes allows winemakers to add acidity and achieve balance not possible using one New Mexico wine grape.
Caduceus Cellars Anubis is a very popular blend from New Mexico that is made using a combination of the Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc grapes. This bold red wine is highly tannic, making it a great candidate for pairing with fatty foods like cheese and steak.
Luna Rossa Winery Nini is a red blend that is made using a number of different popular Italian wine grapes. The thick-skinned Dolcetto grape is blended with the acidic Nebbiolo grape to achieve a delicate balance of acidic and complex flavors.
Other Red Wine Grapes
There are a number of other red wine grapes that thrive in New Mexico’s desert climate, no one wine grape seems to dominate the landscape. Some of the most successful grapes in this area are thick-skinned, making them well suited to endure the harsh weather and sunlight.
Syrah, Zinfandel, and Cabernet Sauvignon all thrive in New Mexico when cultivated correctly, and the wines they produce are generally sweet and fairly tannic. While these wine grapes are most often used in blends, single varietal styles are also fairly popular.
Caduceus Cellars Merkin Vineyards Tarzan Red is a popular and highly regarded bottle of red wine made using the Tempranillo grape. The wine is balanced and rich, and the thick-skinned Tempranillo grape produces a wine with grippy tannins and an extended length of finish.
Black Mesa Winery Cabernet Sauvignon is a high-end bottle of red wine that draws one of the highest price tags of any New Mexico wine. This Cabernet Sauvignon is aged in high-quality oak barrels to create a complex and multidimensional wine with a smooth finish.
Other White Wine Grapes
There are a number of white wine grapes besides Chardonnay that thrive in the state of New Mexico, with the two most widespread and most successful varietals being Viognier and Riesling. These wines are known for elevated sweetness and fairly low levels of acidity.
There are also other smaller and less famous wine grapes like Malvasia and Muscat that are becoming popular in the state, and an increasing percentage of white wine grapes are being used to produce bottles of still wine.
St. Clair Winery Malvasia Bianca is a modern take on an ancient wine grape that is hard to find in many parts of the world today. This wine is a favorite among Sommeliers for its complex and unique tasting notes, as well as its “food friendly” qualities for food and wine pairing.
Casa Rondena Winery Viognier is a very popular bottle of still white wine that is produced in New Mexico’s prestigious Middle Rio Grande Valley region.
It has been awarded an 86-point score from wine enthusiasts and is available at a number of the state’s top restaurants.
Wines of New Mexico – Conclusion
New Mexico has gained great amounts of respect in the wine industry over the past few decades, as the state has built a solid wine industry in a climate that is extremely demanding.
Winemakers from the state of New Mexico are some of the hardest working and most creative in the world, and the wines they make continue to defy all expectations.
Also, check out our list of other wine regions to help deepen your knowledge of wine.