In 2009 136.4 million liters of tequila, made from 924.7 thousands tons of agave, were exported from Mexico, and those numbers are increasing every year. The U.S. is the largest importer of tequila, followed by Germany and Spain. How do you know what you're drinking is the real thing?
Just like Champagne or Cognac, Tequila is protected by state of appellation. Jalisco is one of only five Mexican states that are allowed by law to produce tequila, and takes the majority of the industry, as it serves as home to 95% of the world's agave plantations. The entire industry is regulated by the Consejo Regulador del Tequila, which tests samples from the more than 1200 labels from 150 distilleries produced in Mexico to ensure that quality standards are met across the country. And, because agave can grow virtually anywhere, international offices track down falsely labeled tequila bottles in places as far as India or New Zealand. CRT teams pressure local governments to take the offending spirits off of the market. International groups also work to make sure that authentic tequilas that are exported remain of consistent quality.
Overall, there are two types of tequila, both made from the White Tequiliana Weber Blue agave plant. For premium tequila, spirits are made from 100% agave. The rest, which is still considered tequila, just a lesser quality, is made 51% from the sugar of agave. Among these two, there's young tequila (gold/silver), reposado (rested) which is aged two months or more, and añejo which is aged in oak for more than a year. The rare extra añejo tequilas are aged for more than three years. Mexico's Minister of Health regulates any sweeteners, flavors, or colors that may be added to a blend.
So before you think sampling tequila 24/7 might be one of the world's greatest jobs, let's take a peak behind the scenes of the 15-year-old Consejo Regulador del Tequila, a watchdog group housed in a gorgeous modern building in Guadalajara, with walls filled with fine examples of agave art. The Mexican government's Ministry of Economy sets the standards for tequila across the industry, and the CRT ensures that these standards are met for its 150 members.
Gallery: Behind the Scenes of the CRT