Tequila is a very unique and exceptional drink like no other in the world. It is the fascinating product of two different cultures. For centuries, the pre-Hispanic peoples of Mexico used to drink the fermented juice of the Agave plant for religious and curative purposes. They did not know fermentation. It was until the Spanish came to Mexico that the fermented juice of the Agave plant was put into distillation. That is how tequila was born in the XVIII century. It is the authentic product of two cultures.
Tequila is made of one specific type of the agave plant: the Agave Tequilana Weber, blue variety. There are many different varieties of the agave plant in Mexico. But tequila is made only from the BLUE AGAVE. Only one variety. Other varieties are used to produce other regional drinks such as mescal, stool, etc.
It takes eight to twelve years for a blue agave to reach full maturity. This could mean that an Anejo tequila is likely to have been through 16 years to be produced. Once the plant is cut and harvested it's gone for ever. You have to plant a new one again to harvest again in eight to twelve years time.
Types of Tequila
There are two basic categories of tequila: tequila and tequila 100% Agave. To make tequila you have to harvest the agave plants, cut the sharp leaves, and take the core or pina into ovens for cooking. Once cooked, you squeeze the juice from the plant, ferment it and then take it through distillation. And then bottle it or send it for ageing.
The law that stipulates how tequila should be made allows the producer to use 51 percent of Agave sugars and up to 49 percent of sugars of other sources to produce tequila. However, a 100% Agave tequila must contain only juices from the agave plant. The reason for this, the taste of the agave plant is so unique and strong that it requires either mixing it with other juices or ageing it to make its taste mellow.
Then, each one of this two basic categories can be in silver, gold, reposado or anejo. Usually a silver tequila, either tequila or 100% Agave tequila, goes directly from distillation to the bottle. The Gold tequila contains artificial caramel coloring to soften the taste of the silver tequila. The Reposado type has to be kept in oak barrels for a minimum of two months to get a woody taste, according to the law. Then, the law says that the Anejo is to be kept in oak barrels for a minimum of one year.
Any tequila aged for a long period of time, will tend to loose the flavor of the agave. If you age it for five or more years, you will be tasting wood. No agave flavor will be found. And you might well drink a bourbon or any other similar product. That is why producers have to find a good balance for their Anejo tequilas.
The Appellation of Origin "Tequila"
In 1974, the Mexican Government issued a Declaration for the Protection of the Appellation of Origin Tequila (DOT), stating that because of its geographical origin, reputation and essential specific qualities, "Tequila" was to be considered a geographical indication of Mexico.
This meant that Mexico would claim the exclusive use of the word "Tequila" in the entire world, and that only alcoholic beverages made with Agave Azul Plant (Agave Tequilana Weber Blue Variety), grown in the officially demarcated area within Mexico, and under the rules of the Official Norm of Tequila, could be labeled as "Tequila".
As a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property and other International Treaties (NAFTA, Europe Trade Agreement, etc.), Mexico has secured the protection of Tequila as an exclusive product of Mexico. "Tequila" belongs to Mexico and only to Mexico.
The Mexican Government is the actual owner of the name "Tequila". Everyone who wishes to engage en the production of tequila must obtain a permit or license from the Mexican Government through the Mexican Institute of Industrial Property (IMPI).
The officially demarcated area for the production of tequila, as stipulated in the Declaration for the Protection of the Appellation of Origin Tequila (DOT), include the entire State of Jalisco, and other specific areas within other four States: Nayarit, Tamaulipas, Michoacan and Guanajuato. According to the law, only on these areas "Tequila" can be produced. Only these areas possess the right climate and soil characteristics for the development of the Agave Azul plant.
The Official Norm of Tequila
The Official Norm of Tequila or Norma Oficial Mexicana (NOM) is the law that establishes how tequila is to be made, bottled and label. It is known as the "NOM-006-SCFI-1994 Alcoholic Beverages-Tequila-Specifications" . This law was enacted in August 13, 1997 to replace the previous existing one.
The NOM establishes the official standard of identity for tequila, tequila 100% Agave and all the four different types of tequila: silver, gold, reposado and aged. It establishes the physical and chemical specifications of tequila and well as the characteristics of the Agave intended to be used in the production of tequila. It also covers the rules governing its bottling and labeling.
Every bottle of tequila should carry on its label a NOM number. The NOM, which stands for Official Mexican Norm, is the number assigned by the government of Mexico to each one of the producers and identifies who actually produced that bottle of tequila. If there is no NOM on the label, you should be careful because that might not be an authentic tequila.
The Tequila Regulatory Council or CRT
The Tequila Regulatory Council or Consejo Regulador del Tequila (CRT) is the organization that has been accredited by the Mexican Government to oversee and certify that the production, bottling and labeling of tequila is being conducted according to the Official Norm of Tequila.
It was founded in 1994, under the initiative of the Chamber of Tequila Makers, as a private, non-profit organization to verify and certify the process of tequila making. It is integrated by the tequila producers, the agave growers, the bottlers and marketers, and the representatives of the Mexican Government.
Structurally, the CRT is organized in five different branches: verification, certification, agricultural, quality control and administrative. In order to ensure the integrity of tequila and the compliance with the Official Norm of Tequila, the CRT employs a team of well trained professionals who permanently conduct on-site inspections to verify each step of the production of tequila in the factories.
For further information on the CRT to may contact the following units: