NOTE: I edited this piece slightly because a sharp eyed commenter noted that diffusors are explicitly allowed, a fact that I flat out missed while reading and translating the NOM. I’m going to be writing more about that in the coming days but for now I’m just updating this post with the relevant information.
— Max Garrone
Ever so quietly NOM 70 was passed into Mexican law on February 23nd. This after years of debate and discussion – a process that was unusual for its inclusiveness and for how the voices of the people impacted by the law are included in it. Now that we have a law it’s time to figure out what it means. Here’s the full text.
We’ve had a variation of the conversation below with Lou ever since we met him. While in so many other areas of the world appellations have worked to the advantage of most people involved in creating traditional agricultural products, the world of agave spirits in Mexico has left people and traditions behind. Read more
In early November I was fortunate enough to attend a Sagrantino de Montefalco tasting at Perbacco. Sagrantino is the grape, Montefalco the region within Umbria in Central Italy. This small appellation doesn’t get much exposure outside of the wine world. Not much is made, the price point reflects that, and the structure of these wines cries out for the cured meats, wild boar, and pastas particular to Umbria. That shouldn’t deter you from trying it because Sagrantinos are truly fantastic and unique. But this is a mezcal blog so what do they have to do with mezcal? Read more
Yesterday it was announced that a watered down version of NOM 199 passed: Except instead of mandating that any mezcal not produced within an already defined appellation and certified by the CRM be called “Komil,” it says that these spirits must now be called “Aguardiente de Agave.” To understand who will need to use this terminology see our previous post on the impact of the original proposal; all you need to do is replace “Komil” with “Aguardiente.”
This is being pitched as a triumph for everyone but Read more
(This is the last week to register your public comments about NOM 199. You can read all of our coverage here but we have also asked for comment from a few people in the mezcal world. Here are comments from Rachel Glueck and Noel Morales who have created Amor del Diablo mezcal )
It’s clear that NOM-199 is made to keep market control in the hands of those already established. It’s a completely non-sensical proposal that is antithetical to what mezcal truly is, and a slap in the face to the real producers of mezcal. Mezcal is booming because of its authenticity and diversity, because it is directly linked to centuries-old traditions. The consumer craves that connection, and mezcal is one of the only spirits in the world that offers that.
Mezcal is not an industry; mezcal is a tradition. This Occidental idea of “industry” will ruin everything. It’s very important for the communities – the communities don’t buy whiskey for the ceremonies, they buy mezcal. If you destroy this, you destroy many things – including your industry. Read more
(This is the last week to register your public comments about NOM 199. You can read all of our coverage here but we have also asked for comment from a few people in the mezcal world. Here’s the first in a series from John McEvoy who blogs as Mezcal PhD.)
I am not sure if you have heard what certain power brokers are trying to pull off in Mexico, but it is an affront to the deep tradition of mezcal and all it stands for historically.
There is a blasphemous proposal, called NOM 199, where they are effectively trying to eliminate the use of the term “agave” for spirits that are produced outside the mezcal and tequila DOs. Today, these traditional producers outside of the denomination of origin regions, can call their product “Destilado de Agave”, and can tell us what type of agave was used and label it accordingly. This is not perfect for the producers because they cannot call it mezcal, but at least they can tell us what is in the bottle. Read more
We here at Mezcalistas think NOM 199 is terrible. It will hurt the small people in the mezcal world while also undermining Mexico’s cultural heritage. And for what? As best we can tell this hands more power to larger corporate interests. Read more
Part three in my series of articles exploring the possible outcomes of NOM 199.
The big question is how can such a small, and woefully underfunded group of mezcaleros and afficionados fight NOM 199 aside from signing petitions and hoping for the best? Well, for a couple of organizations the answer is through Mexico’s own constitution which has been amended over time to explicitly spell out a mandate to support the human and economic rights of the indigenous community. Read more
Let’s imagine, Philip K. Dick style, that NOM 199 is now law and bottles of komil line the shelves of your local liquor store. The next big question for you, the faithful consumer of what were previously called agave distillates or mezcals, is “What exactly is in a bottle of komil?” Read more
We are Susan Coss and Max Garrone. We like mezcal and think you should to. We are committed to telling the story of mezcal within the context of its history and cultural connection. We also think education should be fun and delicious. And we are deeply committed to supporting the craft of production and the people who work tirelessly to bring us mezcal.
We write Mezcalistas, consult, and organize mezcal events. We have small, monthly, tastings called Spirited Conversations which bring key figures from the mezcal world face-to-face with aficionados and influencers. We also organize large mezcal tastings called Mexico in a Bottle, which is the largest mezcal event in the United States. Mexico in a Bottle currently appears in San Francisco, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Denver. It will expand to additional cities soon.
Susan Coss is a long time marketing and communications strategist in the world of sustainable food and beverages. She was most recently the Director of Marketing and PR for CUESA, the organization that runs the world famous Ferry Plaza Farmers market in San Francisco. She is also a co-founder and former director of the Eat Real Festival, that drew more than 250,000 people in its first three years. She has spent time in Oaxaca since 2003 and has established food and beverage relationships all over California, Mexico and Washington, DC. She has a degree in Agricultural Economics from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
Max Garrone has been a journalist and editor who covered events as diverse as presidential elections and the meaning of David Lynch’s movies for publications like Salon.com and SFGate.com. He is currently a content strategist and digital media consultant.
To chat or find the answer to your niggling mezcal question just email us!