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Monte Xanic, the new generation of wine in Baja

Hans Backhoff continues the legend started by his father 25 years ago

Some 20 years ago, the wine industry in Mexico was going through one of its toughest crises. The aperture to free trade had left over 20 wine companies virtually unprotected against imported wines, mostly French and Spanish ones. Only the strongest survived — four or five, in all. It was during those times that Monte Xanic was born, looking to introduce premium, high quality wine to the public. Back then, Monte Xanic was the drink with which NAFTA was celebrated; it was also the beverage of choice for the visits of John Paul II as well as Benedict XVI to Mexico. Now it is one the best known Mexican high-quality wine producers in Mexico and in the world.

“When we began, we started with the idea of making things in a different way. The problem was that we knew we could make good wine but we didn’t know if we could sell it,” noted Hans Backhoff.   But they did.  Backhoff noted that their Monte Xanic strategy “worked and we hit it off:  Mexico adopted our wine as its iconic high-status wine. Now, 25 years later, everybody is involved in this new market and the region has over 120 wineries. It’s a movement made not by Monte Xanic alone, but by the entire region. And as a region that is what we are focused on: conquering the world.”

Hans Backhoff, born in 1977, is from the newest generation of producers from the Guadalupe Valley. He’s an enologist, biochemist and has a master’s degree in administration and marketing. He is the current CEO of Monte Xanic, a company started by his father 25 years ago. When he returned to Mexico after completing his studies in France (his thesis was performed in Château Lafite Rothschild, perhaps the most prestigious wine producer in the world), he looked for a job not in Monte Xanic –his own company- but in the rival wineries, where he was turned down for being considered a “spy.” Perhaps all the better for Monte Xanic…  Backhoff is confident in his expertise and talents, and brings them to bear for his family’s business.

Mexico’s wine industry is still in the beginning stages, even though it dates back to 1800. During recent years, however, there has been a transformation in the way society understands wine, a change occurring mainly among young people. “We are living exciting times, the per capita consumption is still very small… half a liter is nothing. What’s interesting is that that half liter has tripled in 10 years and the market is growing two numbers each year,” notes Backhoff.  Now, wine has become a popular topic, something to talk about in a wider sector of the public.

 

There are many other things changing in the wine industry besides the cultural aspects of it. Evidently, there are technological innovations in grapevine cultivation, but there are also other phenomena inconceivable until very recently.

“Two weeks ago we had a tasting through Twitter and we involved 7,000 people; it is the biggest tasting event ever held in Mexico and Latin America. It was open to public, anyone who wanted to join in, could; the only thing they had to do was buy the three wines to be tasted, they could do so in groups or by themselves. We went to Paris, Netherlands, Argentina, USA… in Mexico we were in Ensenada, Mérida, Cancún, Monterrey, Guadalajara, DF… and at every location people would group and film themselves using their computers,” said Backhoff.   “It was really cool, something that had never been done before, we unveiled something very important in the industry, we will see more stuff like that. The important thing is that we were able to communicate everything we wanted to 7,000 people in less than two hours. It was impressive. There are political movements and a ton of things being done through social media, just imagine if the same is done for an industry so low in resources.”

On August 5, Monte Xanic hosted its traditional Concierto del Crepúsculo to celebrate the wine harvest festival. In previous years it was Baja California’s Orchestra the one livening up the concert, but this year Hans stepped forward bringing Raven String Quartet, a very talented all-female band that plays from classical music to contemporary pop. “It is part of the generational transformation we are witnessing. Wine has always been an elitist product, a luxury… but it isn’t like that. We are interested in popularizing it, in having people know it’s not only for the older folks, it’s for the young people too.”

 

“Our concert was for people to learn. Our generation will talk to our children and say, ‘I remember back when there were about 100 wineries in the Valley,’ but that is going to change.  Not only here but throughout the region including Tijuana. It’s part of a bigger movement that is growing every day and we are living it.”

This article was submitted by San Diego Red with additional editorial contributions by Baja.com.

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