Last August, Mexico’s Institute of Industrial Property or IMPI, announced that it had accepted applications for Aguascalientes, Estado de Mexico, and Morelos to be included in the mezcal denomination (officially called the Denominacion de Origen or DO for short). This prompted the government of Oaxaca to protest on grounds that these states did not have the cultural history or tradition to be included. They filed a petition with the court and, on Monday the court announced it has sided with the state of Oaxaca, therefore denying the three states entry into the DO.
This decision now sets a precedent for any other state looking for inclusion in the DO – it must prove “ancestrality, tradition, geographical and physical conditions”. The intention behind a ruling like this is to protect the cultural integrity of mezcal so that there is some protection from states and regions looking to jump on the mezcal bandwagon and benefit from the boom. It also comes at a time when increased demand for mezcal is pushing producers to make more and more mezcal, straining resources and production processes.
This decision adds more fuel to the fire of debate and conversation about the meaning of mezcal and the structure of the DO. Critically, it doesn’t offer any guidance on what constitutes a tradition of producing mezcal. There are clearly mezcal producing traditions in those three states so the legal decision seems focused on deciding who has the power to make that decision. It appears that the regulatory body for mezcal (the CRM or Consejo Regulador del Mezcal) flexed its muscles and grabbed that power back from the federal government.