In 1983, the Gruet family was traveling through the Southwestern part of the United States, and while in New Mexico met a group of European winemakers who had successfully planted vineyards In Engle, near the town of Truth or Consequence, 170 miles south of Albuquerque. The land was inexpensive and the opportunity golden. In 1984, Gilbert Gruet, whose Champagne house, Gruet et Fils had produced fine Champagne in Bethon, France, since 1952, made the decision to plant an experimental vineyard, exclusively planted to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes. His children, winemaker Laurent and daughter Nathalie, then relocated to the great state of New Mexico to begin their American wine making adventure.
New Mexico represents some of the most exciting and successful high-elevation vineyards in the country—many of their best are above 4,000 feet.
New Mexico’s modern wine industry is based on traditional European varieties and claims over 30 successful wineries throughout the state. In fact, New Mexico and Texas were the first US states to produce wine from the Vitis vinifera species, beginning around 1626. They made wine with the Mission grape, which was also prolific among California missionaries.
Today New Mexico produces good reds, whites and can attest to the value of high elevation vineyards, especially with the success of its sparkling wines. In fact the New Mexico sparkling wine producer, Gruet, boasts some of the strongest nationwide distribution among smaller-producing states.
A term typically reserved for Champagne and Sparkling Wines, non-vintage or simply “NV” on a label indicates a blend of finished wines from different vintages (years of harvest). To make non-vintage Champagne, typically the current year’s harvest (in other words, the current vintage) forms the base of the blend. Finished wines from previous years, called “vins de reserve” are blended in at approximately 10-50% of the total volume in order to achieve the flavor, complexity, body and acidity for the desired house style. A tiny proportion of Champagnes are made from a single vintage.
There are also some very large production still wines that may not claim one particular vintage. This would be at the discretion of the winemaker’s goals for character of the final wine.