Tequila is the national drink of Mexico. It originated in the town of Tequila, Jalisco more than two hundred years ago. Tequila takes its name from the town and the volcano that overlooks the vast blue agave fields where this plant has been harvested for centuries.
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© Iñigo Fernández
The Tequila Region
Tequila is produced exclusively in Mexico from blue agaves in the Tequila Region following the Official Mexican Standard. Its production is regulated by the Tequila Regulatory Council “CRT” based in Guadalajara, Jalisco.
The “Denomination of Origin” defines the area in which the blue agave is grown. It includes all of Jalisco, 8 municipalities in Nayarit, 7 in Guanajuato, 30 in Michoacán and 11 in Tamaulipas. The denomination does not specify "terroirs"; however, common use defines two general ones in Jalisco: Los Valles (Valleys), west of Guadalajara, and Los Altos (Highlands) to the northeast.
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Tequila World Heritage Site
USESCO –The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization included the Agave Landscape and Ancient Industrial Facilities of Tequila as a World Heritage Site.
© Ignacio Guevara, mexicodesconocido.com
"The site is part of an expansive landscape of blue agave, shaped by the culture of the plant used since the 18th century to produce tequila spirit and for at least 2,000 years to make fermented drinks. The area encloses a living, working landscape of blue agave fields and the urban settlements of Tequila, Arenal, and Amatitán. Today, the agave culture is seen as part of national identity of Mexico."
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Tequila 100% Agave
The only ingredients used to produce 100% agave tequila are blue agave juices from plants harvested in the region, water and yeast, and it must be bottled in the Tequila Region. Labels on these products must explicitly mention 100% Agave and show the Council’s CRT monogram.
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How Tequila is Made
The whole process is regulated by strict standards by the Tequila Regulatory Council in Guadalajara, Jalisco. Distillers must comply with the certification and verification of compliance with Mexican Official Standards.
The process begins when a blue agave plant is ripe, usually 8 to 12 years after it is planted. Leaves and roots are chopped off from its core by a “jimador” who assesses the agave's ripeness. The jimador’s task is a crucial one because he has to select those plants that will produce the most sugars. Once he decides that the plant is fully mature, he wields a special long knife known as a “coa” to clear the core.
The hearts or piñas (Spanish for pineapple) are hauled to the distillery where they are cut in half with an ax. Some distillers remove the inner core "cogollo." The chopped agaves are put to roast either in traditional brick ovens known as “hornos”, or in modern autoclaves. The cooked hearts are shredded and pressed to extract the sap that is placed in large vats where fermentation takes place with the addition of yeast.
Some distilleries use the traditional method to crush the piñas with a stone wheel at a grinding mill called “tahona”. In the traditional method, the ground hearts from the tahona are dumped into the fermentation vats for additional flavor.
Juices ferment for two to three days and are then twice distilled. The first distillation produces a low-grade alcohol and the second a fiery colorless liquid that is used to produce different types of tequila: Blanco if it goes directly to bottling, Reposado or Añejo if it is aged in vats or casks. Read Tequila Types.
Prior to bottling, water may be added to comply with the required alcohol content per volume that, by law, should fall between 70 and 110 proof, corresponding to 35 to 55 percent of volume. The final product is a unique and complex liquor that is great for sipping and mixing.
Tequila is the spirit of Mexico.
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