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Posts tagged ‘nom 186’

On meeting David Suro

It seems hard to believe that our paths hadn’t crossed before but I finally had the opportunity to meet David Suro, he of Tequila Restaurant in Philadelphia, the Tequila Interchange Project (TIP) and Siembra Azul Tequila. For a good picture of the man and his passion for agave, be sure to checkout the great interview The Kitchen Sisters did with him a few years back.

Suro is in town doing a series of trainings and tastings for his Siembra Azul Tequila and Siembra Metl Mezcal. A special dinner at Oakland’s Calavera on Monday, a happy hour at Loló Tuesday, and a training and talk at ABV Wednesday. A whirlwind of activity for sure.

So what’s on Suro’s mind these days? Read more

The NOM 199 surprise

There’s nothing quite like an unexpected news dump on Thanksgiving that took more than a couple of days to bubble up into the public view.

David Suro first flagged the release of heretofore unheard of NOM 199 which seems to be some sort of bastard child of the failed NOM 186. Clayton Szczech, who has done great work covering the evolution of the NOM in Mexico, has a great synopsis and preliminary thoughts of the document and implications for mezcal: Read more

Sarah Bowen interview

Sarah Bowen

Sarah Bowen

Sarah Bowen is an Associate Professor of Sociology at North Carolina State University who has long studied the impact of the tequila and mezcal industries on Mexico. Most recently she wrote a great portrait of the battles over how to define mezcal in the winter issue of Gastronomica. Those debates consumed the mezcal world in 2011 and 2012, ultimately culminating in the defeat of NOM 186 and the Mexican government’s proposal to copyright the term “agave.”

It’s well worth reading and is something of a preface to her upcoming book, “Divided Spirits: Tequila, Mezcal, and the Politics of Production,” due out this September from the University of California Press. We are really looking forward to that and will definitely post our notes on it as soon as it’s available.

Here’s an excerpt from the official description of the book:

This book tells the stories of tequila and mezcal, two of Mexico’s most iconic products, to investigate the politics of protecting local products in a global market. As people yearn to connect with the people and places that produce their food, the concept of terroir—the taste of place—has become increasingly salient.

The growing global demand for tequila and mezcal has led to fame and fortune for a handful of people, while excluding and marginalizing many others. Thess cases analyzed in this book illustrate the limitations of relying on alternative markets to protect food cultures and rural livelihoods.

Sarah has published widely in the academic world about the history and contemporary issues with how tequila and mezcal are managing their Denominacion de Origen. It’s a huge story in Mexico and part of an even bigger one as producers of traditional goods as diverse as cheese and spirits struggle to retain control over their intellectual and cultural property in an increasingly globalized marketplace.

Mezcal is currently embroiled in exactly this discussion about the proposed NOM 070 and Sarah delves into this debate  that apparently pits authentic back country distillers against industrialists. But that romanticized portrait is only part of the story, significant issues are seldom discussed like who’s really getting paid? Is that romantic story even true? Is it sustainable? Is the agave listed on the bottle even in the mezcal? And, perhaps most important she raises the big question of whether the industry has to stay static like a fly in amber or whether it can become a dynamic force.

We talked recently to delve into these questions, how she sees the mezcal industry developing in the face of NOM 070, and what role North American consumers play in the entire debate.

How did you get started studying the world of mezcal?

I have been looking at this topic since 2002. I started out looking at the shift to agave cultivation in southern Jalisco during the agave shortage in the early 2000s. I did my dissertation on the Denominación de Origen for tequila, and I have been studying mezcal for about six years. In all this time that I’ve been looking at the history of regulation of tequila and mezcal, it seems like it’s been going in one direction. Almost all of the changes made to the regulations have been expanding the markets for tequila and mezcal and increasing exports. It’s not at all in the direction of helping small farmers and producers. In the last few years, with the failure of NOM 186 and now the proposed revisions to the norm for mezcal, it feels like we are seeing a major shift in the evaluation of the tequila and mezcal industries..

 Why now? Who’s behind it?

 My article in Gastronomica is about the campaign against NOM 186 and the proposal to copyright the word “agave.” American bartenders, retailers, and consumers played a big role. In my interviews, people that had been organizing against the campaign told me that no one was really paying attention until realized that boycotts by American consumers were possible. That played an important role. The case of NOM 186 offers a lot of hope,  because there’s this movement coming out of the US and Mexico, of people who care about artisanal mezcal and are aligning themselves with small producers. This offers small producers an opportunity that, unfortunately, they wouldn’t have on their own. As Americans that care, we also have to be careful because our interests don’t necessarily align with those of the small mezcal producers. We really need to think about our role.

 How would you encourage American consumers to think about this and act?

Try to be educated about how mezcal is produced. It’s hard to do when you’re here in the US. Try to know something about how producers and farmers are being paid. This can be difficult, because not all companies want to be transparent about this. But we should support companies that are paying the workers and producers well, not just because their mezcal or their tequila tastes good. The most important thing is to start talking about the workers and producers.

Can you offer any specific guidance to consumers? Are there any brands they should follow, any specific stories?

There are some interesting brands like Mezcal Sanzekan, which is owned by a cooperative of mezcal producers, or Real Minero, which is Mexican-owned. But then there are other models too, like companies that are part Mexican, part American, or Americans that are working with small producers in respectful and fair ways. 

Part of the issue is that getting into the American market is hard to do, so Mexican producers frequently have to work with someone else to get access to the market. My main point of hope is that so much has changed in past 10 years. Just the fact that consumers are talking about all these things makes me really hopeful. When I started this research, no one was talking about terroir, there was hardly any artisanal mezcal available in the US, and no one was talking about environmental practices and sustainability. Now that’s what we talk about. I think that talking about workers and producers is the final step. There isn’t a hard and fast rule; it is hard to figure it out. But I am heartened by the fact that people are talking about mezcal in a more thoughtful way than they were even 5-10 years ago.

What do you think of the proposed Norma?

I was shocked by the proposal, because it is just a radical break from the previous norma for mezcal and the tequila norm. But the problem is that we have no idea what’s actually going to happen. If something even close to the proposal passed, it would be a major shift. As part of my book, I analyzed the regulations and the Denominaciones de Origen for tequila and mezcal. Since 1949, they have evolved in one direction: towards making mezcal and tequila less specific, less tied to particular places, with a focus on expanding markets. The original mezcal norma was almost an exact copy of the norm that regulated tequila, so the proposal is a big change. I’m intrigued to see what will happen.

Are there any other models people should think about other than European wine?

 My dissertation research compared the Denominación de Origen for tequila with a case in France: Comté cheese, which is protected by an Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC), which is France’s version of a Denominación de Origen. Comté cheese is exemplary even in France. That case showed me what a focus on tradition and terroir can do. The AOC included rules that preserved the specific characteristics of the region, but that also had positive effects on farmers. As an example, they had a rule that all of the milk used to make Comté cheese had to come from within a 25 km radius of where the cheese was being made. This helped preserve the link to terroir and the taste of the cheese, but it also helped small farmers and cheesemakers, by discouraging industrial groups form coming in, because the made it harder for them to industrialize and achieve economies of scale.

So there are examples that show the potential for what these kinds of labels can do. But it’s important not to idealize it too much. There are lots of examples of AOCs in France that are industrializing, where big companies are buying out out the small ones. So it’s not a perfect solution. You have to look in Mexico for things that will work there. To my knowledge, tequila is the first Denominación de Origen outside of Europe. Mexico is very different from Europe, so the exact same model isn’t going to work there. What is odd about Denominaciones de Origen in Mexico is that the legal definition is basically an exact copy of the French definition, but even though the idea of terroir is right there in the definition, in practice, the rules have never gone in the direction of preserving tradition or terroir. Some of the producers and retailers that I’ve talked to have proposed having smaller Denominaciones de Origens, which would be linked to a particular village or region, where there’s a sense of tradition in how mezcal has developed in that place.

Politically what examples are mezcal makers looking at? Do they just look at the tequila model?

I’ve talked to many mezcal producers who say, “Look at tequila; it’s been very successful. They built the market and improved quality.” That is true. The market for tequila tripled between 1995 and 2008. By many measures, it’s been very successful. But it has not been successful in terms of protecting the agave farmers, the environment, or the traditions that make tequila unique.

The interesting thing about mezcal now is that there’s this divide between those who want to follow the tequila model, and people who don’t want that. Mezcal still has many small producers and traditions that have developed in particular regions, and there is still a chance of preserving that. The path for tequila has basically already been chosen.

Politically, who knows? The role of the US matters. The United States has a lot of influence in Mexico. The United States agrees to protect tequila and mezcal as Mexican products, but we don’t recognize the concept Denominación de Origen as a legal concept. As an example of the influence of the US, a few years ago, a lot of people, including the president of Mexico at the time, proposed requiring that all tequila be bottled in Mexico. But they backed down due to opposition from the bottlers in the US and some of the tequila companies, many of which are owned by multinational companies.  That case demonstrated the power of the US. In Mexico, the the revisions to the laws that established the procedure for establishing quality standards (the normas) for all Mexican products in the early 1990s were part of a fundamental neoliberal shift in Mexico, focused on increasing access export markets and foreign capital.  The normas and the Denominación de Origen are not focusing on preserving tradition and terroir. They are about preserving market access.  It will be interesting to see what happens with this proposal to change the normas that regulate mezcal. Whatever happens with this proposal will tell us something about which way the wind is blowing.

What about tequila? Could it change?

I interviewed a lot of tequila producers in 2006, and I think maybe one person used the word terroir. Many farmers, and some of the tequila producers, would talk about the way the agave grown in certain regions had particular characteristics, so there was definitely an understanding of the idea of terroir. But now there is a lot more emphasis on terroir. Some companies are saying that their tequila is single estate tequila, or even from a single farm or ranch. So there has definitely been a huge increase in how much people are talking about terroir.

I think that some companies are doing interesting things, but I also think that some companies rely on a rhetoric of terroir, while continuing to source their agave from different regions. This may happen even more during periods of shortage. For the big companies especially, their strategy involves sourcing agave from all over the DO region, to get the best best price and supply. And of course, some companies have been accused of illegally buying agave from Oaxaca during periods of shortage. So in terms of really preserving a link to terroir and helping farmers and communities, for the biggest tequila companies, their talk about terroir and place is just rhetoric, because if they were really talking about it, it would really make them less flexible and put farmers at an advantage. We need to be talking more about the role of farmers in the tequila industry. But even when we’re talking about single estate tequilas, we’re not talking about how farmers are paid and treated. There are a lot of risks associated with cultivating agave for farmers, because it takes so long to mature. The prices fluctuate, and there is a lot of uncertainty. There needs to be more talk about the role of farmers and agricultural workers, and how they are being compensated.

Iván Saldaña brings Montelobos to the United States

Late last year Susan and I had the pleasure of meeting Iván Saldaña, the primary force behind Montelobos mezcal for the label’s formal domestic launch. Susan got to catch up with him again this spring at a tasting in LA and just this week his book on mezcal, “Anatomy of mezcal,” was released in time for Tales of the Cocktail so it’s high time that we got this post out there for everyone.

Ivan is a fascinating character, an organic chemist by training who spent significant time in England working on that front. He says that he was “obsessed with balance and complexity” in creating this mezcal in collaboration with palenquero Don Abel. But his definition of terms is a bit different than what you’d normally expect. He describes balance as “capturing as many different notes that the plants can produce” and complexity as capturing nuance from fermentation including the traditional smoke notes, chemical flavors, and the group of herbal, vegetal, and floral elements that appear in many mezcals.

Since he’s a chemist Iván brings a novel vocabulary to the presentation of his mezcal. He described the prominent role that terpins and fats play in bringing out flavor, that is the chemical components of flavor. Generally conversations about mezcal are dominated by the subjective and slippery terminology of sensation; hot, smoky, fruity etc. Iván’s vocabulary and view of what’s going on in a mezcal brings out a whole different world.

Their NOM, O156X, is very prominently placed on the label. Hopefully this is a sign that the mezcal world is taking production more seriously. It’s not that we want to make mezcal in the model of tequila but let’s be realistic, for the foreseeable future most mezcal is going to be repackaged under brand names so the knowledgeable consumer is either going to have to know their shit or have a NOM to tell them who is producing their mezcal.


Iván likes the petrol and nail polish notes in Montelobos, we found similar notes without them being overwhelming. In our conversations with him he recognized that those chemical notes can be difficult if not overwhelming so he and Don Abel try to minimize them in order to deliver a thoroughly balanced bottle.

They aimed at a higher alcohol level because the higher the alcohol means less smoke and increased flavor. Of course, it’s difficult to sell a bottle that’s too alcoholic so they arrived at the current alcohol level 43.2% as a balance to get the flavors they were after. We had a wide ranging conversation about food pairings; Iván is partial to drinking Montelobos with seafood, sushi, Asian food in general, chocolate, but especially with passion fruit. The latter is one of Iván’s favorite pairings. Read on for one of his favorite pairing recipes.

Making it

Montelobos is the result of a 5 day underground cook. The fire is mostly fed by oak while the agave is sourced from different farms in the Tlocalula district. They get their organic certification by parcel but it’s not estate grown like most mezcal. Don Abel partners with others in the community to find the agave that works for their project.

They modeled their approach on tequila’s hacienda structure, the hacienda provides everything for the region. Mezcal has been primarily made for self consumption. Iván talked quite a bit about how the hacienda structure created classic economic efficiencies by owning the land, means of production and housing a stable labor force. With jimadores in full and constant employment, haciendas could afford to maintain their agave fields much more aggressively and define their crops’ outcome more precisely.

But mezcal has largely been a family run deal, a 15 year process analogous to the classic Mexican quinceñera where mezcal is traditionally consumed. We had a long discussion with Ivan about the diverse production methods used in mezcal in comparison with tequila. He told us that this “fosters a culture of diversity which mirrors the biological diversity of the land.”

When Ivan met him, Don Abel already planted agaves and had a long experience as a farmer. His horse is named Rambo and he pulls the tahona, the traditional agave milling method. Ivan condensed the attraction and importance of the tahona method in a joke, he told us that “Rambo is the second most important source of energy after the wood we use to cook the piñas.” The connections to pre-industrial traditions don’t stop there, Don Abel is a Zapotec speaker and was largely responsible for threading the eye of organic certification by working closely with the local collective to make sure that everything turned out well.

They use a small, 1,000 liter vat, for fermentation and a copper still. Iván said that he defers completely to Don Abel as a master artisan to constantly adjust the distillation process for all the varied factors like humidity and the type and quality wood.

Other Products?

We asked Iván whether he’s thinking about other products, perhaps a silvestre, reposado, añejo or a traditional flavored mezcal. In late 2012 he told us that, “It took a long time to make this. It was a materialization of a desire and we finally reached that goal.” He has just launched a new product – Ancho Reyes, a chile ancho liquor that Susan had a chance to try in May (and loved.) It is a sweet and spicy liquor inspired by a 1920’s recipe from Puebla de Zaragoza. Note that this is not a flavored mezcal, but a spirit distilled from sugar cane.

Politics of mezcal

Our conversation ranged far and wide but concluded with a long back and forth about the debate over NOM 186 and the definition of mezcal. For the uninitiated NOM 186 is the collection of laws that defines who can call a mezcal a mezcal and what has to go into it. It’s a very contentious set of regulations because it will create winners (at this stage the larger corporate entities) and losers (if current proposal holds, most of the smaller artisanal producers).

Our first question was whether mezcal should be one grand umbrella of a name or whether it should embrace a Denominacion de Origen concept that has worked well in the world of wine and in some European spirits. Iván thinks the size of the business must be larger in order to justify that and that it’s not the major issue right now. He pointed out that the bigger issues and the most basic like how to get a product to market, how to create an identity in the market, and then maintain it. We’ve heard the same concern from many a mezcal maker and consumer. There’s a limited market for mezcal fueled by brands and demand. Even scotch is highly limited and other spirits encounter the same issues at the more mass market end of the market. Witness the explosion of in sales of Maker’s Mark bourbon after it said it was going to water down its bourbon in order to meet demand earlier this year.

Iván’s big solution to the dynamics of the mezcal market is surprisingly grounded in the realities of Mexico and most markets. He thinks that to create a stable, productive, and equitable market you have to create a system that’s fairly distributed to the palenque, you have to build a path to the market that others can use. As an example he noted that “the joint venture with Don Abel is exclusive to mezcal. We won’t make it elsewhere. My main job is to help Don Abel manage and create a sustainable business with marketing, planting regularly.”

That’s not to say that Iván ignores the bigger picture. He really thinks that artisanal mezcal needs to be defined in order to save it. Iván’s business partner Moises Guindi joined us for part of this conversation and noted that “there’s no definition of location or type that a customer can identify and enjoy.” And that’s where the idea of a Denominacion de Origen could come into play. A DO could help consumers get a better read on what they’re tasting and that’s what Iván’s book is all about, it’s his attempt to dig deeper on this subject. That is, to help give mezcal a greater identity within a tiny market space. Iván told us that “you have to have education together and find new consciousness. Look at Scotch or Champagne. They have an education and production alliance while competing for shelf space. Tequila has a lack of unification as an industry.”

While at the tasting Iván told the assembled audience about his favorite recipe for cooking with mezcal, a whole fish poached in mezcal. He recommends using a whole salmon or firm white fleshed fish. The directions are simple:

Cover the fish with mezcal and cook a low temperature. Ivan notes that the boiling point of mezcal is lower than water so keep a very close eye on it. Once it’s fully poached serve warm.

We haven’t had an opportunity to try this one out yet because it’s rather expensive but we’re hunting for a summer dinner to share the results with friends. Lest you think this is too far fetched check out New York’s Empellon Cocina which serves an excellent salmon cured with mezcal. Yet, another showcase for mezcal’s versatility.


Oaxacan agave being sent to Jalisco

Since our last post about rumors of agave being shipped north we’ve heard from another source confirming that 3-4 trucks per day are moving agave north to Jalisco. Since then it’s become a more widely reported phenomenon with this piece and this one as well. Per our earlier post there have  rumors about this for quite some time so, on her recent trip to Oaxaca, Susan asked a number of people in the industry about this issue. No one was surprised. When asked why this isn’t a shock they routinely answer that ‘of course this has always happened.’ This is yet another reason why many in the mezcal business have no respect for COMERCAM and it raises even more questions about NOM 186. This would be a huge scandal in the wine world and pretty much anywhere else with an existing denomination system. We’ve seen the initial outcry among journalists in Mexico, now let’s see if it sinks into the industry and bureaucracy.


In defense of tequila

Patricia Colunga has a provocative opinion piece in today’s La Jornada on tequila, NOM-186, and the battle over denominación de origen for agave distillates in Mexico.

Update: Here’s a quick translation of Patricia’s piece by Elliot Heilman:



Patricia Colunga GM1

Translation by: Elliot Heilman

Tequila – our national drink, pride of Mexico worldwide. If a foreigner asks us about it, the majority of Mexicans could tell him or her that it is a traditional, high-quality liquor from the region of Tequila in the state of Jalisco, where the famous blue agave is cultivated….but…is it really so simple?

Perhaps you do not know, but the prestigious name “Tequila,” according to its Appellation of Origin (DO) [a title which should protect it from imitators], can be legally used for drinks that imitate the original and traditional Tequila, which has been produced exclusively from blue agave since 1964. These imitated or adulterated drinks represent 55% of the legal production of the Tequila industry and 66.3% of all exports (statistics taken from the Regulatory Council for Tequila from 2012). These liquors are distilled with just 51% blue agave sugar, using up to 49% “other sugars.”

But you are not the only one who may not realize this. The majority of people do not know, nor can they know, because the producers and bottlers of “Tequila” are not legally obligated to put such information on their labels (nor, of course, do they do so voluntarily) – neither the percentage of sugars used apart from blue agave, nor even where they got these other sugars from (even though we believe it is from cane sugar, the cheapest).

Only when it is produced exclusively from blue agave may a liquor be called “Tequila 100% Agave,” but here we also have another problem concerning information and prestige. Since there are around 200 species of plants from the genus Agave, of which at least 38 are used in Mexico to make various other drinks (mezcal), using the label “Tequila 100% Agave” on such products may lead the consumer to think (incorrectly) that Tequila is made from the sugars of any such species of Agave. This is not in accordance with the Appellation of Origin, whose distinctive sign means that only sugars from the blue agave are used in the distillation.

But the consumer may also be lead to incorrectly assume that in the commercial denomination “Tequila 100% Agave,” the word “Agave” is synonymous with Agave tequilana Weber var. azul – an assumption that is completely false and is detrimental to the liquors distilled from the other 38 species of Agave, which are produced over 26 states in the Mexican Republic.

And how many of us know that the same Appellation of Origin leaves room for this drink, the pride of Mexico, to be even more adulterated when exported? How? By allowing the must to be exported in bulk outside of Mexico where the Tequila Regulatory Council, who make sure that such must is not adulterated, do not have any legal ability to prevent any adulteration.

The Law of Industrial Property makes the Mexican State the holder of the Appellation of Origins. This is to say that the Appellation of Origin belongs to the Mexican State and, therefore, to all of us. It is time to defend ourselves, time to raise our voices so that things will be as they should be, an appellation of origin that guarantees consumers that the liquors they buy with this name are crafted as they have traditionally been, e.g. made only from blue agave – an appellation of origin that stops protected counterfeit liquors, deceivingly labeled and often adulterated even more when shipped abroad – all of which has discredited the good name of Tequila, a name cultivated by artisans for over 200 years and which has been, since 1964, associated solely with a high-quality liquor, made 100% from the blue agave sugars.

Today we have an excellent chance to begin such a defense. One can find in the public record (consulta pública) (until August 14th) the official Mexican regulations project PROY-NOM-006- SCFI-2012, which as specified in the “General Declaration for the Protection of the Tequila Appellation of Origin” is the regulation that defines the characteristics and material allowed in the production of the production protected by the Appellation of Origin.

The proposed changes we have for NOM-006, which will defend the original and traditional Tequila, are:

1) That “Tequila” be defined as a liquor produced from the distillation of musts extracted from Agave tequilana Weber var. azul, to which no other sugars are added, and that “Tequila” no longer allow for musts that are enriched up to 49% with other sugars.

Can you imagine the prestigious name “Cognac” being used for a liquor that use 49% “other sugars” and only 51% sugars from grapes? Of course not! The Cognac Appellation of Origin does not allow this and Cognac is only made 100% from grape sugars.

2) That the obligatory commercial denomination for the liquor distilled solely from blue agave be “Tequila 100% Blue Agave” and not “Tequila 100% Agave” as it is now.

Can you imagine a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon wine labeled only as “100% grape”? No way!

3) That the Appellation of Origin cease to protect those supposed “tequilas” that are distilled from 49% “other sugars,” that the bulk exportation of these “tequilas” be prohibited, and that their labeling regulations include an obligatory declaration of the percentage of “other sugars” used in production, as well as the source of these “other sugars.”

Can you imagine the prestigious name “Champagne” being used for a drink that could be exported in bulk and bottled in the United States or in China, outside the regions protected by the Appellation of Origin? Of course not! Because its Appellation of Origin prohibits it.

It is time to defend the Appellation of Origin. Tequila is a drink that belongs to all Mexicans. We cannot allow this name to continue being used to cheat and con the consumer, thereby discrediting our country.

1 Professor and Researcher at the Yucatan Center for Scientific Study (CICY)

Who wins in the agave labeling battles?

Alberto Barranco’s column in El Universal looks at the vast market opportunity in China as the prime mover behind the maneuvers to restrict how agave distillates are labeled.

Viva mezcal!

Here’s a nice clip from an upcoming documentary on traditional agaves in Mexico. It’s a good background on the topic and importance of agave diversity in Mexico. There’s a great presentation of the issues and debate over the Denominación de Origen for mezcal, what was left out, why it’s still an issue and the current debate over NOM 186. It’s subtitled with a nice translation.

Viva Mezcal ® (Fragmento) / Viva Mezcal ® (Fragment) from pedro jimenez gurria on Vimeo.

NOM 186 update

There’s a new petition in the NOM 186 debate that we highly recommend you review here.

There is also a new release in Spanish from one of the main groups opposing NOM 186 that we recommend reading.  We have reproduced it in full below but the synopsis is that some small changes have been made to NOM 186 but the main issues remain unaddressed.  The big one is that the people writing NOM 186 didn’t consult the people that will be impacted by it.  That is, the producers of agave distillates outside of the currently defined Denominación de Origen for Tequila, Mezcal and Bacanora didn’t get any say in the matter.  If the current version of NOM 186 passes these producers would face significant limitations, chiefly that the alcohol content in their distillates would have to be below 25-35% and that they would have to label their products as “Aguardiente de Agave” rather than “mezcal” or whatever name they’d traditionally used.  The other main point of dispute is that the proposed definitions and classifications of the Denominación de Origen aren’t clear and don’t give the consumer the information needed to make a choice about what he or she is drinking.

While the general idea of building up the Denominación de Origen structure for Mexican distillates may be a good idea (it’s worked wonders in other countries) it requires a transparent process that fully involves all the participants and one that preserves Mexico’s artisanal distilling traditions instead of simply mandating a new process that could do them irreparable harm.



Julio 04 de 2012


Lic. Alfonso Carballo Pérez

Director General

Comisión Federal de Mejora Regulatoria


Oposición y Propuestas al PROY-NOM-186-SCFI-2012, 




Fecha de apertura: 25/05/2012

Expediente 03/2038/250512



Estimado Lic. Carballo:


Por la presente, los abajo firmantes manifestamos a Ud. NUESTRA OPOSICIÓN Y NUESTRAS PROPUESTAS AL PROY-NOM-186-SCFI-2012, BEBIDAS ALCOHÓLICAS, BEBIDAS ALCOHÓLICAS ELABORADAS A PARTIR DE AGAVE, ESPECIFICACIONES, MÉTODOS DE PRUEBA E INFORMACIÓN COMERCIAL remitido por la Secretaría de Economía y que forma parte del Expediente No. 03/2038/250512 con fecha de apertura: 25/05/2012 .


Antes de exponer las razones de nuestra oposición, queremos señalar que coincidimos totalmente con el objetivo fundamental de la NOM-186, de asegurar que los consumidores tengan información veraz y comprobable respecto de las bebidas alcohólicas elaboradas a partir de Agave que adquieran, acotando la comercialización engañosa de productos elaborados con insumos diferentes a dicha materia prima.


Es en el ánimo de que la NOM-186 cumpla con este objetivo, y a la vez permita la libre competencia de los productores de estas bebidas, especialmente los mezcaleros artesanales que las producen de manera tradicional desde hace cientos de años, que hacemos los siguientes señalamientos:


Nuestras objeciones y propuestas son:


OBJECIÓN PRIMORDIAL. Para formular el PROY-NOM-186-SCFI-2012, la Secretaría de Economía, de nuevo, NO CONSULTÓ a los productores de bebidas alcohólicas elaboradas con agave sin Denominación de Origen, que son a quienes les aplicará esta regulación.


La Secretaría de Economía no atendió el señalamiento que con fecha 05 de enero de 2012 le hiciera la COFEMER en el Dictamen Final (no total) al PROY-NOM-186-SCFI-2011 (que es el antecedente del proyecto PROY-NOM-186-SCFI-2011):


 “ SE informó en la pregunta 19 de la MIR que se formó un grupo de trabajo/comité técnico para la elaboración conjunta del anteproyecto con la Cámara Nacional de la Industria tequilera, el Consejo Mexicano de la Calidad del Mezcal, A.C., así como con Productores de la Denominación de Origen Bacanora. Llama la atención que, al no aplicarle el Anteproyecto al Tequila, al Mezcal ni al Bacanora, la SE haya elegido a dichos actores para elaborar de forma conjunta con ellos el Anteproyecto. En este sentido, se invita a dicha Secretaría a consultar, igualmente, a los productores de bebidas alcohólicas elaboradas con agave que sí les aplicará la regulación propuesta.” Pág 18 de 20 Sección VII Consulta pública


Como consta en las listas de asistencia anexas (Anexo 1), en esta ocasión solo reunió a representantes de la Cámara Nacional de la Industria Tequilera (Juan Casados, Francisco J. Soltero, Eduardo Orendain, Luis Yerenas, Judith Meza Espejel, Miguel Aguilar Romo, Luis Fernando Vázquez Olivera) y del Consejo Regulador del Tequila (Floriberto Miguel Cruz, Angélica Virginia Valle Virgen, Ismael Vicente Ramírez).


PROPUESTA PRIMORDIAL. Que la Secretaría de Economía haga una convocatoria abierta a los productores de bebidas alcohólicas elaboradas con Agave sin Denominación de Origen para discutir y elaborar con ellos la norma que los regulará, formando, en acuerdo con ellos, un grupo de trabajo/comité técnico para la elaboración conjunta del anteproyecto.


Es indispensable que de manera conjunta se revisen todos los aspectos de este proyecto, a fin de tomar las mejores decisiones que protejan al consumidor, pero que también permitan la libre competencia de los productores, y de manera muy especial, que no lleven a la desaparición de los mezcaleros artesanales tradicionales, quienes realizan una actividad que es el sustento económico de miles de familias en todo el país, a la vez que generan y protegen la diversidad agro-biológica y cultural del país, de la cual no solo dependen ellos, sino todos los mexicanos.


Sin detrimento de los análisis y propuestas que se hagan en las reuniones que se proponen, tenemos, por lo pronto, otras objeciones y propuestas:


OBJECIÓN 2. Consideramos que las Denominaciones Comerciales que se proponen en este proyecto, sus definiciones, y clasificación, no proporcionarán una información veraz, clara y suficiente al consumidor, que refleje el espectro disponible de las bebidas alcohólicas elaboradas de Agave (mezcales) y le permita comparar objetivamente su calidad y así tomar una decisión informada de compra, comparando calidad y precio.


PROPUESTA 2. Para dar información veraz, clara y suficiente, proponemos:


a) Una denominación comercial “Destilado 100% de Agave”, que le permita distinguir claramente al consumidor, por su denominación comercial, a las bebidas de alta calidad. 


Debido a que la Denominación de Origen Mezcal (DOM) está mal hecha, ya que no incluyó a todas las especies y a todas las áreas geográficas que en realidad están dentro de la centenaria tradición mezcalera de México, todos los mezcales excluidos de ella no pueden llamarse “Mezcal” de manera comercial, aunque lo sean. Es entonces importante que el consumidor pueda reconocerlas  con un nombre adecuado a su calidad. Proponemos el nombre comercial  “Destilado 100% de Agave”, porque describe el proceso con el que se obtienen y recalca la pureza en cuanto a la materia prima con que se produce. Llamarlos “Aguardientes” llevaría a confusión al consumidor, ya que ese término se ha usado frecuentemente en México para referirse a las bebidas destiladas de caña. La definición que proponemos es:


“3.8  Destilado 100% de Agave:


Bebida alcohólica obtenida por destilación y rectificación parcial de mostos fermentados, derivados de la molienda de las cabezas sanas y maduras de Agave previamente hidrolizadas o cocidas, y sometidos a fermentación alcohólica espontánea o con aditivos orgánicos que pertenezcan a la tradición local, pero no con productos industriales. 


En su formulación solo se pueden utilizar azúcares provenientes de los jugos de Agave y pueden tener una gradación alcohólica entre el 35% y el 55% Alc. Vol.


El destilado 100% de Agave es un líquido que, de acuerdo a su tipo, es incoloro, amarillento o verdoso. Es susceptible de ser adicionado de algún sabor o ingrediente permitido por la Secretaría de Salud.


De cualquier manera debe respetarse lo establecido en la NOM-142 SSA1-1995 vigente, respecto de que no está permitida la rectificación total en la destilación con el fin de mantener los compuestos que contribuirán a las características sensoriales finales”.


Es importante hacer énfasis que en la definición hemos añadido que los mostos deben derivarse de “la molienda de las cabezas sanas y maduras de Agave previamente hidrolizadas o cocidas, y sometidos a fermentación alcohólica espontánea o con aditivos orgánicos que pertenezcan a la tradición local, pero no con productos industriales”, de manera análoga a la definición de Mezcal dentro de la DOM.



b) Una denominación comercial “Aguardientes mixtos de Agave” que le permita distinguir claramente al consumidor, a las bebidas que en su formulación tienen otros azúcares distintos a los del Agave.


Las bebidas destiladas de Agave que no se encuentran dentro de la tradición artesanal tradicional (mezcales), suelen elaborarse añadiendo azúcar de caña para enriquecer los mostos. Es importante que el consumidor pueda reconocer, por la claridad de su denominación comercial, que estas bebidas contienen otros azúcares distintos a los del Agave, y distinguirlos claramente de las bebidas de mayor calidad (también debería poder hacerlo con los tequilas mixtos). Proponemos la siguiente definición:


“3.3  Aguardiente mixto de agave.


Bebida alcohólica obtenida por destilación y rectificación parcial de mostos fermentados, derivados de la molienda de las cabezas sanas y maduras de agave previamente hidrolizadas o cocidas, y sometidos a fermentación alcohólica. 


En su formulación se permite utilizar otros azúcares para enriquecer los mostos de agave. Los otros azúcares no podrán rebasar el 49% de los azúcares reductores totales, expresados en unidades de masa. Su gradación alcohólica puede ser  entre el 25% y el 55% Alc. Vol.


El destilado 100% de Agave es un líquido que, de acuerdo a su tipo, es incoloro, amarillento o verdoso. El Destilado de Agave es susceptible de ser adicionado de algún sabor o ingrediente permitido por la Secretaría de Salud.


De cualquier manera debe respetarse lo establecido en la NOM-142 SSA1-1995 vigente, respecto de que no está permitida la rectificación total en la destilación con el fin de mantener los compuestos que contribuirán a las características sensoriales finales.”


c) Una clasificación de cuatro tipos para ambas denominaciones comerciales en el punto 5, para reflejar los tipos que actualmente existen en estas bebidas alcohólicas:


Blanco. Producto incoloro a ligeramente verdoso.


Reposado. Producto que se deja reposando entre 2 y 12 meses en recipientes de vidrio o en madera para su estabilización.


Añejo. Producto que se deja reposando entre un año y menos de 4 años en recipientes de vidrio o  en madera para su estabilización.


Extra- añejo. Producto que se deja reposando más de cuatro años  en recipientes de vidrio o en madera para su estabilización.



Las cuatro clases de bebidas serían susceptibles de ser abocadas y de que se les adicione algún sabor o ingrediente permitido por la Secretaría de Salud. De manera obligatoria deberán incluir, en estos casos, la lista de ingredientes con las que fueron abocadas y adicionadas.


OBJECIÓN 3. Consideramos que el etiquetado complementario que propone el proyecto no proporcionará una información veraz, clara y suficiente al consumidor que le permita comparar objetivamente las características de las bebidas y así tomar una decisión informada de compra, comparando, características, calidad y precio.


PROPUESTA 2. Para dar una información veraz, clara y suficiente, proponemos que  el punto

11.2 Marcado y etiquetado complementario para “Aguardiente mixto de Agave” y “Destilado 100% de Agave” indique que:


Todos los tipos y categorías de “Aguardientes mixtos de Agave” y “Destilados 100% de Agave” deberán incluir la siguiente información en la etiqueta, como parte de su Denominación Comercial:


a) Especie o especies de Agave de las que proviene la materia prima usada.

La identificación botánica de las especies será realizada por personal de los herbarios públicos nacionales.


b) Lugar de crecimiento de las plantas de las que proviene la materia prima (municipios y estados).


c) Materia prima de donde provienen los azúcares, cuando no son de Agave (no pudiendo ser más del 49%).


d) Lista de aditivos, coadyuvantes, colorantes, saborizantes y cualquier ingrediente con el que hayan sido abocados o adicionados.


e) Lugar de envasado (municipio y estado).



Por todo lo anterior, solicitamos, de la manera más atenta, que no se apruebe el PROY-NOM-186-SCFI-2012, BEBIDAS ALCOHÓLICAS, BEBIDAS ALCOHÓLICAS ELABORADAS A PARTIR DE AGAVE, ESPECIFICACIONES, MÉTODOS DE PRUEBA E INFORMACIÓN COMERCIAL propuesta por la Secretaría de Economía, y se le solicite que haga una convocatoria abierta a los productores de bebidas alcohólicas elaboradas con Agave sin Denominación de Origen para discutir y elaborar con ellos la norma que los regulará, formando, en acuerdo con ellos, un grupo de trabajo/comité técnico para la elaboración conjunta del anteproyecto.


Muy atentamente,




Dra. Patricia Colunga GM. Profesora-Investigadora Titular C. Centro de Investigación Científica de Yucatán. Investigadora Nacional SNI 2. Miembro de la Academia Mexicana de Ciencias. Miembro de la Red de Agaváceas (SINAREFI-SAGARPA).


Biól. Catarina Illsley G. Grupo de Estudios Ambientales GEA. Kleinhans Fellowship por trabajo con agaves.


Alejandro Calvillo. Director. El Poder del Consumidor AC. Miembro de Consumers International.


David Suro-Piñera. Presidente. Tequila Interchange Project






Dra. Claudia Paulina Machuca Chávez. Investigadora de El Colegio de Michoacán


Dr. Daniel Zizumbo Villarreal. Profesor-Investigador Titular C. Centro de Investigación Científica de Yucatán. Investigadora Nacional SNI 2. Miembro de la Academia Mexicana de Ciencias


Dr. José de Jesús Hernández López. Profesor-Investigador. CIESAS Occidente


Dr. Esteban Barragán López. Investigador de El Colegio de Michoacán


Dr. Rogelio Luna Zamora, Profesor-Investigador T. C, Departamento de Sociología, Universidad de Guadalajara, Sistema Nacional de Investigadores, Nivel I.

Live stream of agave forum

If you’re engaged with the debate over NOM-186 and the politics of agave distillates in Mexico then take a look at the live stream of the Foro Nacional de Destilados de Agave meeting in DF.  We’re late on this one but video of the meeting has been archived so you can catch up.