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Call To Action – Stop Nom 186 and save the Agave world!

Submitted by Tim Brice on January 24, 2012 – 7:22 pmNo Comment

The world of agave based spirits is facing a suddenly unsure future.  There is a fight brewing that threatens to severely damage the quality, variety and history of these native Mexican spirits while also prohibiting countless families from being able to make a living crafting the artisan spirits their families have made for generations.  Not only are these small village artisans facing the very real end of their way of life, they are facing it at the whim and will of major foreign spirits brand-holders.  Along with the everyone at MixPourSip.com, I ask you to learn more and to then sign the petition referenced below.

maguey 300x225 Call To Action   Stop Nom 186 and save the Agave world!

The noble Maguey

 

For centuries, the world’s powers have looked upon Central and South America as a font of resources, a spring that over-flows with stuff to be taken from there and brought over here for our enjoyment and enrichment.  From gold to silver to potatoes to people to land to canals to culture to food to music and to so much more, the ledgers show mostly withdrawals and shamelessly few deposits.  Time has recorded the destruction of ancient cultures and the slavery of native peoples in silver, gold and mercury mines.  Contemporary eyes have seen (and still see) villages turned to war zones because Americans and Europeans like to snort the by-product of their native plants as well as reefs that have witnessed millennia that are now dead or dying due to the damaging effects of cruise ships and oil platforms.  The demands of our leisure have taken a toll on this paradise of varied landscapes and diverse peoples.  And we are trying to do it again.

 

Over the last few years, Mezcal has seen an increase in international popularity.  The craft cocktail revival of the last decade has brought us a cadre of hard working bartenders who seek out exceptional quality and variety through which to ply their trade.  Among modern mixologists, Mezcal holds a place of high esteem as a spirit of un-matched singular character.  Mezcal brands such as Alipus and Del Maguey have called attention to the art and traditions of local villages through the bottling of single origin Mezcals.  The popularity of these brands, among others, have brought international attention and appreciation to the efforts and art of small villages throughout agave growing regions.  With this appreciation have come dramatic increases in sales that many large corporately held Tequila brands see as a threat to their share of attention at the bar.

 

Masked as a way to “protect consumers” from mis-labeled agave based spirits, a handful of large foreign companies who own well known agave spirit brands have lobbied the Mexican government to write, offer and possibly soon to enact changes in how agave based spirits could be labeled both in and out of Mexico.   The new laws are meant to brand the word “agave” by the Mexican Institute of Industrial Property (IMPI) along with adding what, in effect, are AOC laws within the world of agave based spirits.

mezcal farmer Call To Action   Stop Nom 186 and save the Agave world!

Harvesting Agave

 

 

In the opinion of the non-profit advocacy group, The Tequila Interchange Project, the effects of the new laws would be to:

* brand the word ‘agave’ for the exclusive use of producers within the Tequila, Mezcal, and Bacanora appellations and limit its use to spirits made using only the six genus of agave allowed within these areas

* effectively prohibit from market spirits made from 33 other species of agave outside the appellations

* force producers outside the appellations to label their products ‘agavacea aguardiente’ or ‘distilled agavacea’ – agavacea is a much broader term that encompasses several hundred species

* prohibit producers from displaying the percentage of agavacea in their products in labelling, i.e prevent them from displaying ’100% agave sugars’

* limit abv outside of the appellations to between 25% and 35% – currently artisanal mezcals are produced between 45% and 55%

 

On an even more frightening and human level, David Suro, president of Siembra Azul Tequila and founder of TIP warns of profound social and economic knock-on effects within communities of artisanal producers.

 

“Most of the states where tequila and mezcal is produced already have the largest percentage of migration [to the United States]. If these plans go through there will be even less economic incentive to remain. They will eliminate the means for producers to make a living. Economic migration is the only alternative and with US anti-immigrant laws they will be left in limbo.”

 

Over 2,000 of the World’s finest bartenders have signed a petition urging the Mexican government to reconsider these pending actions.  Mixologists of the highest order are trying to use their influence to gain support against these measures.  They are among some of the most widely known bartenders slinging drinks today and include Bobby Heugel from Anvil in Houston, Jim Meehan from PDT in New York and Jeff Morgenthaler from Clyde Common in Portland.  A trait common to nearly all modern mixologists is the respect they hold for the people and the traditions that evolve to create the spirits that they use as the tools of their trade.  A trait which should also flow to you and I, the consumers and benefactors of that trade.

 

Even the U.K.’s prolific cocktail writer  Simon Difford  has taken a strong stance.  Just today, the web version of Difford’s CLASS Magazine published the following one paragraph editorial:

 

“Rarely have we seen such a blatant example of bullying and anti-competitive behaviour as the Mexican authorities’ plans to brand the word ‘agave’ and initiate a new norma for agave spirit production. [emphasis theirs]

The moves stifle the opportunity for yet-undiscovered categories of Mexican agave spirit outside of the existing appellations to make it on to the world stage, and so prevents their communities from benefiting too.

And they threaten to destroy centuries-old traditions which have the potential to expand the size of the agave category and to widen its flavour profile.

Tequila has suffered in the past from poor quality variants made using non-agave sugars and has done much to improve its international perception through its creation of a defined appellation based around the blue agave. But the industrialised tequila industry’s quarrel should not be with artisanal agave spirit producers who make 100 per cent agave spirits using wild species and wild yeasts.

These unnecessary moves tarnish the face of big business tequila brands and their quest to be seen on an equal footing as other more established spirit categories. The plans are analogous to the Cognac, Armagnac and Calvados industries getting together to effectively outlaw other French brandies. We wouldn’t condone that and neither do we condone this.

We would encourage readers to cast their vote and sign the petition:

www.tequilainterchangeproject.com/stop-nom-186

We have been much lobbied this week by those opposed to the Mexican authorities’ plans. We welcome the opportunity to speak to those who favour the plans and will continue to report the issues in the weeks to come.” [emphasis theirs]

 

From the historical perspective, this is just another example of anonymous people of means from wealthy countries taking advantage of locals from the America’s for commercial gain with no regard to the long term effects of their actions.  While it may seem silly at first glance to make such a fuss over any ingredient in a Margarita, a longer look shows you the faces of real people whose very way of life, one learned through generations of toil, is seriously at stake.

 

Whichever side of the brass you stride, you must take the lead of the aforementioned 2,000 bartenders and get involved.  At the minimum, click on one of the many links to the TIP petition on this page and add your name to that petition.  Please also then forward this article to as many of your drinking and bar-tending friends and ask them to do the same.  You may also contact the nearest Mexican Consulate and share your opinions with them as well.  It is our opinion that those of us who enjoy the results of the labor of these artisans, and others like them around the world, should be aware of the effects our drinking dollars and pounds have.  Now the threat of loosing some of those dollars and pounds are causing some booze behemoths to fidget uncomfortably and, thus, would like to change laws so they can rest easy.  It is a story almost as old as history itself.  Make your voice heard.

 

Thank you for listening.


article clipper Call To Action   Stop Nom 186 and save the Agave world!
 

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