Sunday, July 16, 2006

Tequila 101


Tequila is a liquor produced from the Blue Agave Tequilana Weber plant, grown in the state of Jalisco. The plants cannot be harvested quickly as they take between 6 and 10 years to mature.

When the plants mature, they can weigh from 50-100 pounds. The agave is harvested, the heart steamed until it produces a starchy sugar juice, which is then pumped into fermenting tanks. The juice is then mixed with yeast which converts the liquid into alcohol.

The town of Tequila leads the production of the liquor due to the abundance of the Blue Agave, which cover nearly 40,000 hectares. The town of Atotonilco, or Los Altos, produces a better quality and higher grade of the agave plant due to the soil and elevation in the area.


Don't confuse tequila with mezcal, another liquor produced from the agave plants. Tequila undergoes additional distillation and never has a worm in the bottle.


Tequila producers are being squeezed by a shortage of the Blue Agave plant. A 1997 fungus plague destroyed many of the plants. In addition, exports shot up 600 percent between 1995 and 1999 while production rose 300 percent. You can still find tequila, but it is becoming more and more expensive and often diluted. If you want a quality tequila, make sure the label reads "100% Agave."


The Mexican government has specific requirements for what makes tequila and how varieties are designated. In order to receive the NOM (Mexican Government Standard), tequilas must be made from natural ingredients. According to Mexican law, every bottle must contain distilled juices from at least 51 percent of the Blue Agave, or it cannot carry the tequila name.

Here's your key to tequila!

Silver (Blanco): Bottled soon after the distillation process

Gold: A white tequila colored with caramel

Reposado (Aged): Aged in oak barrels for at least six months. This "resting" mellows the tequila and produces a smooth drink.

AƱejo (Aged even more!): Aged in oak barrels for more than one year

Heaven, Earth, Tequila: Un Viaje Al Corazon de Mexico