When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Not the real thing
Not the real thing
David Santa Cruz

MEXICO CITY - Alfredo, an Argentine in his 30s who lives in Madrid, swears he will never drink tequila again. His Mexican friends tell him that what he had was not the real tequila, their homeland's national drink. Still, he insists, with the look of someone who has stared the devil straight in the eyes, that the label clearly said that he was drinking tequila.

Alfredo is not alone. There are many people who feel queasy just hearing people talk about the Mexican liquor. Tequila evokes images of armed machismos drinking from the bottle and firing guns in the air, or American students losing all of their inhibitions thanks to a few brief but lethal shots.

Today makers of this liquor from the juice of the agave plant are trying to open up the world markets to their product, and position tequila as a premium alcoholic beverage, much like cognac, vodka and whisky. But there is a problem.

According to a national survey on the consumption of distilled alcohol in Mexico, the nation drinks around 30 million cases of the stuff annually. However, the distilled alcohol industry reports having sold only 16 million cases in the same time period. That means that 40 to 45% of the distilled alcoholic beverages sold in Mexico have some kind of irregularity.

According to Cristobal Mariscal, vice president of the National Chamber of the Tequila Industry, the producers are faced with “problems of unfair competition from the so-called tequilados or agave liquors that trick the consumer by evoking tequila.”

In spite of those problems, the numbers are solid. In 2011, 284 million liters of tequila were sold in total. The export market continues to rise, with 131.5 million liters of tequila exported, representing a total value of around $665 million.

Raw materials

Tequila is produced from the Tequilana Weber Blue variety of Agave, a cactus that is similar to aloe. The roots of the agave are sliced, baked and then the juice is extracted. The juice is then distilled and mixed with water for a final alcohol content between 32 and 38 proof.

The resulting drink is known as mescal, and has different names and properties depending on the region where it is produced. The most famous mescal comes from the town of Tequila, in the state of Jalisco. Other famous types of mescal are sotol, mezcal and bacanora, a unique variety that was illegal for 77 years between 1915 and 1992.

According to market research done by Euromonitor, the global sales of tequila grew 2 percent in 2011. Although it is not even close to the meteoric rise of vodka on the global market or the whisky boom in India, tequila is making solid progress towards the premium sector.

In 2008 the United States bought 46 percent of the global production, more even than Mexico, which consumed 40 percent of the world’s tequila. The rest of the market, though, is very fragmented.

According to Euromonitor, the industry’s main strategy has been to appeal to the feminine market and try to position tequila as a luxury product, far from the idea of a powerful drink to get drunk on quickly. Pernod Ricard, owner of the tequila brand Olmeca, has decided to make Russia one of his principal markets and sends 20% of its inventory there.

Producers of mezcal and bacanora have adopted similar strategies, according to Pavel Dennis, president of the Regulatory Council of Bacanora. However, industry estimates indicate that in order to conquer the BRIC market, the industry would have to double the amount of agave grown (around 80,000 hectares). That’s not easy in a country with as little water as Mexico.

Real Tequila

There are 818 recognized brands of tequila in Mexico, and in the rest of the world you can find another 143 brands. Bottles are labeled so that customers can verify that it is authentic tequila and not alcohol made from sugar cane and then mixed with artificial flavors and colorants. For true tequila, the label should indicate the type of tequila (white, rested or aged), and should say that the tequila is 100 percent agave, and should have the letters CRT-NOM, for the Tequila Regulation Council and the Official Mexican Standard, which regulate tequila production.

The NOM designation is required of all 100 percent agave tequilas, and indicates that the government’s standards have been met, but it does not guarantee quality. That is because there are two types of tequila allowed under NOM rules - the 100 percent agave kind, and “mixtos,” which must contain at least 51 percent agave sugars, but up to 49 percent of the alcohol can come from distillation of different sugars.

Keep reading... Show less
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Stories from the best international journalists.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
Already a subscriber? Log in

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Ideas

Artificial Satellite Pollution, Perils For Biodiversity In Space And On Earth

Exploiting space resources and littering it with satellite and other anthropogenic objects is endangering the ecosystem of space, which also damages the earth and its creatures below.

Image of the small satellite NanoRacks-Remove Debris satellite deployed into space by the ISS

Thomas Lewton

Outer space isn’t what most people would think of as an ecosystem. Its barren and frigid void isn’t exactly akin to the verdant canopies of a rainforest or to the iridescent shoals that swim among coral cities. But if we are to become better stewards of the increasingly frenzied band of orbital space above our atmosphere, a shift to thinking of it as an ecosystem — as part of an interconnected system of living things interacting with their physical environment — may be just what we need.

Last month, in the journal Nature Astronomy, a collective of 11 astrophysicists and space scientists proposed we do just that, citing the proliferation of anthropogenic space objects. Thousands of satellites currently orbit the Earth, with commercial internet providers such as SpaceX’s Starlink launching new ones at a dizzying pace. Based on proposals for projects in the future, the authors note, the number could reach more than a hundred thousand within the decade. Artificial satellites, long a vital part of the space ecosystem, have arguably become an invasive species.

Keep reading... Show less

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Stories from the best international journalists.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
Already a subscriber? Log in
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS

Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

Watch Video Show less
MOST READ