The below article was written by Rion Toal who has been on the ground in Oaxaca for the past several years working with the Maestros del Mezcal AC. He is also the importer of Mezcales CUISH, NETA and soon, Amormata.
For the past three years, in forums and meetings in the Camara de Diputados in Mexico CIty, a group spearheaded by Abel Alcantara the president of Maestros del Mezcal A.C. and including various Mexican senators and congressmen and women such as Maribel Aguilar of Durango and Maricarmen Cabrera of Guerrero, mezcal advocates like Berenice Acuña from Frente Mayahuel, Felix Hernandez of Mezcales Cuish and traditional mezcal producers such as Reina Sanchez of Oaxaca and Pedro Quiroz Basurto of Guerrero and Doctors Emiliando Hernandez and Roberto Mancilla have been working on a proposition for a law to manage all aspects of traditional mezcal and maguey production in Mexico. The law was presented to the public in April and will be presented to the Senate in September and Congress in November and other branches of local and state governments over the course of the next two years.
Should it be passed the “Ley de Desarollo Sustentable de Maguey-Mezcal” will supersede the CRM and put in place new standards for the regulation of traditional mezcal. Mezcal is much more than a commercial product, it is an indispensable representation of Mexican culture, history and natural resources. Traditional Mezcal production involves federally regulated resources such as timber and water and takes place in some of the poorest, most marginalized indigenous communities in the country. It impacts not only the environment, but also the social well being of the communities where it is made. Taking this into account this law will take a comprehensive approach to promoting and protecting traditional mezcal. Where the CRM is an elected group of private individuals that has served mostly to promote mezcal commercially and enforce international health standards often by promoting non-traditional production methods and styles, this law looks to put the regulation of traditional mezcal into the hands of elected state and local regulatory bodies, who in conjunction with government agencies such as SADER (Secretary of Agriculture and Rural Development) will enforce standards based on local-historical production methods and regional biodiversity.
Considering the errors in the current NOM, this law aims to create proper regional designations of origin that will adhere more to the European standard, taking into account the “gusto-historico”, or socio-historic-taste, traditional production methods and historically prevalent and endemic agave species. More specific designations of origin will better reflect the awesome diversity of mezcal produced in Mexico, while serving to protect and promote local customs, names and resources, and curb the interstate traffic of non-native agave species and misleading titles of non-native mezcal varieties. Standards for ABV and lot-size will be implemented for traditional mezcal, standards aimed at protecting a cultural patrimony, not solely at exploiting its economic potential.
Below are listed 16 points of importance that this law aims to implement; among others: establishing national, state, and regional regulatory commissions, establishing a standard for dealing with mezcal bi-products and waste, creating a national registry of all species, sub-species and phenotypes of agave used to make mezcal, and establishing The National Institute for Scientific and Technological Investigation of Maguey-Mezcal:
- Regulate medium and small producers of traditional mezcal.
- Protect the social patrimony of mezcal to strengthen the national identity.
- Establish a standard system for dealing with mezcal-bi-products / waste.
- Institutionalize, as maximum authorities, National, State, and Regional Regulatory Commissions.
- Create a National Registry of all species, sub-Species and phenotypes of maguey used to make mezcal.
- Create a National Registry of all Traditional Mezcal producers.
- Establish a certification system for traditional mezcal.
- Propose a Denomination of Origin system based on micro-regions, and the “gusto historico” (socio-historic-taste), type of maguey and methods of production used in each region.
- Establish a system by which Regional Regulatory Committees will coordinate with the National Regulatory Committees to grant Denominations of Origin.
- Propose a uniform contract to regulate the price of maguey by region.
- Establish a system to organize producers of maguey and mezcal.
- Propose benefits for mezcal and maguey producers.
- Establish The National Institute for Scientific and Technological Investigation of Maguey-Mezcal.
- Create a system for sustainability and economic development in rural-traditional-mezcal-making-communities.
- Create a Counsel of Participatory Citizens comprised of youth, women, specialists and members of indigenous communities that will impact the public politics of the maguey-mezcal sector.
- Create a Resolution Committee that will resolve conflicts that originate in the maguey-mezcal sector.
There is a rough version of the law available for download on our website www.maestrosdelmezcal.com. You will notice that some parts were taken directly from the NOM-070 and are yet to be revised. It is our intention to fully revise the greater part of this section. This law is a proposal to regulate and define traditional mezcal, the terms artisanal / ancestral should be disregarded. When we have a more developed and refined version of the law we will try to offer an English translation, as we know a lot of the traditional mezcal consumed in the current market is consumed outside of Mexico. We are still working on the finer points and there is still plenty of time to work on the specifics and the exact wording of the law, for this reason we invite the general public to comment, opine and offer any criticism or concern regarding this proposed law.