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Blanco tequilas are more robust and their flavours can withstand cooking and still retain their taste. All of the books listed in the resource chapter have a variety of recipes using tequila that will please you. In my experience, tequila works best in dishes where it contributes to, rather than competes with, other ingredients. Included in this are fish, shrimp and pasta meals where subtle flavours are the nature of the dish.
Updated June 27, 2007
Mezcal's Denomination of Origin
Like tequila, since 1995 mezcal has a Denomination of Origin, an international recognition that only products made in a specified area of Mexico can be called 'mezcal.' The DO - Denominacion di Origen (DO) Comercom, is also called the Quality Control Certification for DO Mezcal.
The appellation of origin Mezcal was applied for in 1994 from the Secretariat of Trade and Industrial Promotion (SECOFI) by the National Chamber of Industry of Mezcal. The Declaration of Protection for Mezcal was published in the Official Federation Gazette on November 28, 1994, delimiting the geographical area in which mezcal can be produced. The Declaration of Protection for Mezcal has not been amended, although an application for amendment to extend the geographical area was published in 1998.
Mezcal's DO is similar to tequila's, but with some important differences. First is that mezcal must be bottled in Mexico, and cannot be exported in bulk.
The DO declaration also outlined several steps to quantify and standardize mezcal production, including creating a database of agave plantations, registering every parcel of plantation land, registering all wild agave by municipality, record how each mezcalero produces his mezcal, record which agaves are used, and label every bottle as being a single agave mezcal or made from a blend of agaves.
The law to standardize mezcal was passed on October 9, 2003, and producers were given a year to comply. However, on the anniversary compliance was extended another four months. The law was finalized on Feb. 10, 2005. Since then, all mezcal must be certified in order to be sold or shipped.
There are two categories for mezcal:
All mezcal must be bottled at the source in Mexico - there are no bulk sales such as we see with mixto tequila. Also note that the minimum percentage of agave sugars in mixto mezcal (80%) is considerably higher than the minimum in mixto tequila (51%).
100% agave mezcal can have no other ingredients; no additives and no other sugars used in production.
Mezcal can now legally have added fruit, as in flavoured tequila, but is called a 'crema' regardless of whether it has dairy products in it.
All new mezcal must be double-distilled. It can be triple-distilled, at the producer's discretion.
Mezcal has seen a slow but steady rise in export sales. Between 1996 and 2004, sales to the USA rose 81%, to about $1.8 million, small, of course, compared to the $222.6 million of tequila sales in the US in 2004.
An annual, week-long Mezcal Fair is held in Oaxaca, starting on the third Monday in July and ending on the fourth. This festival coincides with the annual and ancient celebration, the Guelaguetza, which attracts folklore groups from all over the State and offers colorful exhibitions of native music and dance. Mezcal producers set up booths for visitors to sample their wares. However, the fair was cancelled in 2006 because of unrest in the state. The teachers who were boycotting the fair set up their own "Alternative Guelaguetza" on July 24th in the stadium of the Institute of Technology in Oaxaca. Media reports more than 24,000 attended.
The teachers plan to boycott the 2007 Guelaguetza, but the state government has not made any notice it will be cancelled.