Mexican wine region 'destroyed' due to surge in tourists

Distraught vineyard owners in Valle De Guadalupe blame Instagram for ‘destroying’ the famed Mexican wine region after surge in tourists led to opening of NIGHTCLUB and demand for water shot up

  • Valle De Guadalupe has become a popular tourist spot thanks to social media – and the fact that it is just two hours from California
  • But the increased demand is placing strain on the region’s water supply, potentially spelling disaster for its grapes
  • Vintners have called on the government to do more to conserve the area as a string of bars, restaurants and concert venues continue to pop up 

Vineyard owners in a famous Mexican wine region have slammed Instagram influencers and tourists for ‘destroying’ the land.

Winemakers in Valle De Guadalupe – about two hours from the California border – say the surge in demand on the region’s water supply is putting a strain on their vines and devastating the quality of their soil.

The rural hamlet has exploded in popularity with tourists in recent years, in part thanks to social media. 

It now has ten times the number of restaurants it did in 2001 and is even home to thumping nightclubs that disrupt the picturesque setting, vintners say.

‘We are a farming community. Nature has its own rhythm,’ Natalia Badan, owner of Vinicola Mogor Badan, told the Los Angeles Times. ‘This urban nightlife is not compatible with agriculture. It’s disconnected from its environment. It breaks something.’

Vineyard owners in Mexico’s Valle De Guadalupe are warning wine production in the area could dry up due to a flood of tourists placing excess demands on its water supply

The stunning region in Mexico has gone from housing 50 wineries to being responsible for producing 70 percent of the country’s wine in a matter of years

Vintners have already had to take drastic action to drought proof their operations, including collecting their own rainwater and replanting vines more adept in dry conditions

The vintner has already begun taking action to try and conserve water in the wake of the spiraling demand including restricting the number of people who can dine at the vineyard’s restaurant and building her own irrigation system.

But Badan still has had to buy water to irrigate her land and purchase 30 percent more grapes than usual from neighboring vineyards to meet her production targets.

Other vintners report having to pay $150 a day to ship water in to sustain their crops. 

‘We don’t have the capacity to receive millions of tourists,’ she added. ‘Our vineyards need calm. They need time. They need space.’

Valle de Guadalupe is famed for the unique quality of its soil, which has an element of salinity. 

In contrast to many Californian wine regions, Valle de Guadalupe only has one water source, the Guadalupe Aquifer, a body of porous sediment which holds groundwater.

The level of the Aquifer rises and falls depending on the level of rainfall, but the growing urbanization of the area has meant that demand on its resources has surged.

As more is drawn from the reserve, the water left behind becomes saltier which can spell disaster for vines if the levels increase too much.

Unlike Californian wine regions, Valle de Guadalupe only has one water sourc,  the Guadalupe Aquifer, a body of porous sediment which holds groundwater that rises and falls in sync with rainfall

In recent years more water has been sucked out of the Guadalupe Aquifer than put in, resulting in increased salinity in the soil which could spell disaster for crops

Since 1995, more water has been sucked out than is going in, according to Thomas Kretzschmar, a hydrogeologist at the Center for Scientific Research and Higher Education in Ensenada.

‘Water is the principal issue in the valley,’ he said. ‘If they develop more and more, they will use more and more water and we’re going to have more and more problems. … They will run out of water.’

Just over a decade ago, Valle De Guadalupe was a quaint region composed of around 50 wineries. Today it is responsible for 70 percent of Mexican wine.

An influx of tourists has seen corresponding bars, restaurants and even a massive concert venue spring up in the once tranquil spot.

Companies operating in the area also include a newly opened company called Off Road Tours VG, which offers ATV and helicopter excursions, often in partnership with vineyards.

‘Still not sure if this past weekend was a dream or if I really was experiencing the beautiful wine paradise of Valle De Guadalupe,’ writes one influencer on a post promoting the region.

 ‘I hope you got a glimpse of this sanctuary from my IG stories and I can’t wait to share how to book your own stay. Stay tuned for all the info you’ll need plus a discount code.’

In October 2021, more than 300 people staged a protest against the construction of a temporary amphitheater that could hold up to 25,000 people for shows.

Demonstrators from the group For a True Valley argued the area did not have the infrastructure to support so many people.

The authorities eventually shut down the product and suspended mass events that go on all hours of the night.

The flood of tourists has also seen a slew of bars, restaurants and tour companies crop up in the area which are exacerbating the water scarcity

More than 300 people protested after plans were unveiled for a concern venue with capacity for 25,000 amid concerns the area does not have the infrastructure

Tourists have been flocking to Valle De Guadalupe in part due to social media posts which show off the region’s stunning vistas and top quality wine

A separate campaign group called Rescue the Valley also wrote to officials urging them to conserve the area and begging not to become ‘another Tulúm,’ in reference to the overly commercialized Mexican seaside resort.

‘They are destroying the goose that lays the golden eggs and they don’t even know it,’ ecologist Espejel told the LA times. ‘When they destroy the landscape, nobody will want to come here.’

Other winemakers have begun switching the grape varieties they grow to ones more resistant to drought. 

Aldo Quesada, 35, is slowly replacing half of his water intensive Cabernet vines with drier Misión grapes and has already replanted 500 vines.

But Ivette Vaillard, 67, who owns Vinícola Tres Mujeres,  doesn’t have the finances to build a large reservoir or the time to replace her Cabernet vines, since it can take up to 10 years for vines to yield enough grapes for wine.

Part of the problem comes from illegally sunk wells and the authorities’ relatively lax approach to clamping down. 

‘The mayor, Armando Ayala Robles, has promoted a series of actions with the objective of regularizing the establishments that are located in the area and that for years operated without corresponding permits,’ Ensenada mayoral spokesperson Nicté Madrigal said.

More than 300 fines have been issued and 63 businesses have been closed or had the sale of alcohol banned between October 2019 and June 2019, she added. 

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