Your Essential Guide to Mission Wines

Mission Grapes

What Is Mission?

Mission, also known as País in Chile and Criolla Chica in Argentina, is a thick-skinned red grape variety with a long history. Mission was one of the first Vitis vinifera grape varietals exported from Spain to Mexico in the 16th Century. That said, despite its historical importance, it is seen as a lower-quality grape.

Brought by missionaries to South America, the grape was introduced to California in the 18th Century, where it thrived under the Mediterranean climate and the Californian sun. The grape is drought-resistant and very hardy, and as such, it is no surprise that it is excellent for the dry and hot climates of South America and the Southern United States.

Mission is planted extensively in Chile, where it is called País, and Peru. In Chile, it rivals Cabernet Sauvignon, the country’s most widely planted grape varietal. Argentina also has significant plantings of Criolla Chica but in no way receives the same amount of attention as Malbec from Argentinian winemakers.

The Mission characteristics highlight the fruitiness of the flavors. When sipping a Mission wine, expect to taste lots of red fruit flavors and experience an endless array of floral and herbal aromas. On top of that, the acidity is low, increasing the perception of the fruit tastes, while the color is a pale ruby-red, without intensity. It might seem to offer little flavor concentration, but Mission is very pleasant and definitely an easy sipper.

What Color Is Mission?

Mission is a thin-skinned black grape variety that comes in very large bunches with blueish-purple fruit. It is from the Vitis vinifera species, which is the standard Eurasian grape variety. Most grapes used in winemaking are family members of the Vitis vinifera. In fact, without this species, wine could not exist. On top of that, up until ‘véraison’ and berry ripening, Mission grapes are hard and thick to the touch. The ‘véraison’ period signals the point at which the grapes begin to ripen.

Between ‘véraison’ and harvest, grapes grow and fill with water. During ripening, grape sugar levels rise, and the acid levels drop. Mission color pigments and flavor components accumulate. Warm and sunny conditions are ideal, while mild water stress inhibits soot growth, encouraging grape ripening. It is then that the grape’s skin changes color, with Mission showing an assortment of hues ranging from blue to an elegant and soft purple. Which is a pretty and beautiful appearance.

What Does Mission Mean?

The grape is named Mission because it was taken across the Atlantic by missionaries who were on a voyage to expand Christianity. The name also derives from the grape’s employment as a sacramental wine used in the Eucharist.

As to the Chilean name of the grape, País, it translates into countryside. The word is Spanish and comes from the Latin ‘pagus’, and it has the same root as the English ‘pagan’, a person holding religious beliefs different than those of the mainstream world religions. For example, the Inca and the Ancient Roman, and Greeks are considered pagans.

How to Pronounce Mission?

The pronunciation of Mission is not challenging at all. It is just a common everyday word. There are two syllables in the word, and the emphasis falls on the first syllable. Here is what it looks like phonetically:


As to the País name, it is slightly harder to pronounce. But if you desire to break into wine-tasting circles and impress people with your in-depth wine knowledge, you have to know how to pronounce the grape correctly. By searching online, you can find many helpful audio and video examples on how to pronounce País. Basically, there are two syllables in the word, and the emphasis falls on the first one. Phonetically, it looks like this:


Where Does Mission Come From?

Mission is planted mainly in South America and the southern United States. It was one of the first Vitis vinifera grape varieties exported to the New World in the 16th Century. In their effort to expand Christianity, Spanish missionaries took Mission seeds with them across the Atlantic. When they arrived in Mexico, they planted them and started cultivating Mission vines, using the grapes to produce sacramental wine.

For almost a century, Mission remained in Mexico until it migrated to Texas and New Mexico sometime in 1620. Junipero Serra, a Franciscan monk, is credited with introducing Mission to California in 1769, where it flourished in the hot Mediterranean climate. Over time, other Vitis vinifera grape varieties arrived in California, with Mission losing ground to the competition. As sweet table wines gained prominence, winemakers started to remove Mission vines, favoring other varietals. Today, only a small number of Mission plantings remain in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara.

Where Does Mission Come From
Santa Barbara, California, United States

That said, Mission wine is blended with brandy to create Angelica, a sweet fortified wine. In fact, it is super sweet when young, but after it ages, it becomes luscious and fulfilling. There have been examples of Angelica wines that drink well even after maturing in the bottle for over 100 years. As expected, such wines command very high prices.

Mission plantings exist in Chile, Peru, and Argentina, too. Having the name País in Chile, Mission is planted in such large amounts that it rivals Cabernet Sauvignon. But, unlike Cabernet Sauvignon, Mission is not exported, but intended for local consumption. Despite being used to produce table wine, Mission has attracted the interest of Chilean winemakers, producing high-end wines. Also, it is one of the most favored grape varietals of the natural wine movement, or, in other words, sustainable and organic agriculture.

In Peru, Pais is used in the production of ‘Pisco’, a yellowish-to-amber colored brandy made by distilling fermented grape juice into a high-proof spirit. It was developed in the 16th Century by Spanish settlers as a different choice to ‘orujo’, a pomace brandy imported from Spain.

Mission seems to be related to ‘Listán Prieto’, an old grape variety which is now considered almost extinct, as it has disappeared from Castilla-La Mancha, its homeland. Only a few hectares of the grape have survived, but outside mainland Spain, in the Canary Islands. There, it is confused with ‘Listán Negro’, a much more common varietal. ‘Listán Negro’ was also connected to Mission, as enologists started looking into the grape’s genealogical tree. Mission, however, is considered a distinctive grape variety due to its notable mutation.

What Kind of Wine Is Mission?

Mission is produced to be a bright and fruity red wine that is versatile and pairs with many Mediterranean dishes. It is easy-on-the-palate and can be sipped poolside on a hot summer day. It is also a great wine choice at friendly gatherings, where you need a light and straightforward red wine without fuss or unnecessary elaborateness. Serve it at room temperature for maximum enjoyment.

Is Mission Dry or Sweet?

Mission wine is bone-dry without residual sugar. Even aged, when the flavors become jammy, it is still dry. Wine enthusiasts might only taste a bit of sweetness in a Mission wine if the wine has a relatively high alcohol profile. Alcohol tends to feel warm, even sweet, in the mouth, but it should not be confused with sweetness from residual sugar. Besides, the flavors in wines are based on the wine maker’s skill and the inclination of the vineyards. To sum it up, Mission wines can range from a bulk-style to a more complex one, but without sweetness.

What Does Mission Taste Like?

Mission tasting notes highlight the vividness and the fruitiness of the flavors. Mission wines are incredibly fruity and seductive. The taste of Mission carries notes of unripe red fruits, such as cherry, strawberry, and raspberry. Also, the palate displays herbal touches of sage and anise, as well as grapey hints. In addition, Mission’s aroma exhibits floral fragrances that join currant and plum notes to create a seductive aromatic bouquet. Blackberry and black-cherry hints are common, too, and emerge as soon as the bottle is uncorked. Finally, the flavor profile of Mission is characterized by a crisp medium-to-low acidity and polished, fine-grained, medium-high tannins.

How to Serve Mission?

Mission can be served young within six months from the date of bottling or after long-term storage. A maturation period of 1-3 years is recommended to increase the wine’s body and structure. Additionally, pour the wine into larger-sized red wine glasses. Although, you could opt for Burgundy glasses to better communicate the wine’s aromas to fellow wine fans.

Mission might be fruit-forward, but it should not be served chilled. On the contrary, presenting it at room temperature as a classic medium-to-full-bodied red wine is more appropriate. The best temperature to serve Mission is at 55–60°F (12-15°C). By serving it in this temperature range, you help its delicate red fruit aromas elevate.

Can Mission Bottle-Age?

Mission benefits from bottle-aging. After maturation, the wine should have increased its flavor concentration and developed aromas and flavors of game meat, leather, tobacco, wet leaves, marmalade, and dried fruits. That said, do not let the wine mature over a period of 3 years. Otherwise, the cherry aromas might fade, leaving behind an uninteresting beverage.

To mature the wine, seal it with a cork and store it in an environment with room temperatures that do not fluctuate (fifty to sixty degrees Fahrenheit or ten to fifteen Celsius) and a portion of humidity.

Direct sunlight or artificial light should be kept at bay, as they may cause irreversible damage. Intense exposure to light rearranges the chemical makeup of wine. For example changes in oxygen and temperature can cause wine faults. That means that the wine ages prematurely, and its aromas, flavors, and even color change for the worse. The resulting wine is known as light-struck.

Odors also must be avoided, as they might find their way inside the bottle. If they do, they usually instill unwelcome aromas and flavors, like intense animal sweat or vinegar.

How Long Should Mission Breathe?

A little bit of aeration would definitely benefit Mission. Therefore, feel free to decant it. A ship’s decanter is ideal and helps the wine exhibit its beautiful appearance. But if you don’t have a wine decanter around, do not fret. You can use any other vessel available instead. Afterwards, you can hide the fact that you had no decanter by putting Mission back into its original bottle. Strive to let the wine breathe for at least an hour before serving to maximize its exposure to the oxygen, thus, increasing its flavor intensity.

What Food to Pair with Mission?

Mission food pairing is simple because this wine has such an extensive and food-friendly profile. That said, when serving Mission wine, you want to go Mediterranean. Paella, fideuà, churros, gazpacho, moussaka, lasagna, risotto, or polenta, are some of the sample dishes that match divinely with Mission wine.

Also complement the wine with a fatty, oily fish, such as salmon or tuna, goose or chicken, and seasonal vegetables. Spread a bit of olive oil on the veggies and put them on the grill. Let them cook until they become slightly blackened. Then, remove them, and serve them along with pan-fried salmon and a Chilean Mission wine.

Full-bodied Pais wines make delightful combinations with high-protein courses, such as beef, venison, or wild boar. Deep-fried pork, for example, or beef enchiladas are thoroughly recommended pairing options. As a final thought, try the wine with patatas bravas (Potato wedges with a spicy tomato sauce), excellent for casual nights, as you watch your favorite sitcom.

What Food to Pair With Mission
Traditional Spanish Seafood Paella

Mission Cheese Pairing

This red wine is fantastic with soft and semi-hard cheeses made from cow’s or sheep’s milk. Some of the finest cheese choices to combine with Mission wine are Fontina, Gouda, Colby, Azeitao, Brie, Roncal, Serena. Additionally, you could use the cheese as part of creamy pasta or a summery salad. Using them in a pizza or slicing them and serving on a wooden cheeseboard, like Spanish tapas or Greek mezze, is another popular option. Also try a glass with Mahon, Havarti, Gloucester, or Camembert for extra enjoyment.

How Much Alcohol Does Mission Have?

Mission alcohol content in the range of 11.5 to 13.5% ABV. That is a typical alcohol concentration for dry red wines. Alcohol levels indicate that Mission wines vary in quality and style. As a general rule, those with the higher alcohol will have more concentrated flavors and will be from California or Spain. Mission wines with lower alcohol levels will have been cultivated in Chile or Peru, probably at high altitudes, where the climate is more moderate and cooler. However, before purchasing the bottle, check the label to be more precise. As always, remember to enjoy the responsibility, avoiding excessive consumption.

How Many Calories Are There in Mission?

What increases calories in wines is alcohol and sugar! Even dry wines may have residual sugar. Therefore, Mission is a suitable dietary choice because it does not have high alcohol or sugar levels. The carbs in Mission range from 1 to 4 per glass, while the calories are 119 to 127. Consequently, wine fans on a diet can safely choose a Mission wine for their daily wine choice.


Even though Mission wine is made in bulk, it does not mean that wine enthusiasts should not make an endeavor to taste it and welcome its cherry and grapey flavors. And, if they ever visit Chile, they might even get to taste a high-end Mission, where local winemakers produce high-tannin, full-bodied reds from old País vines. By sipping Mission, you may be thrown by the herbal notes or the muted, pale ruby red color in the glass. But, in every case, the foundations of the wine are reliable and dynamic, guaranteeing a pleasant, albeit bold drinking experience.

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