Mexican producers will try to undo tequila’s reputation as simply a reveler’s party shot by promoting the spirit’s traditional and artisanal roots at the largest wine trade fair in the world this week.
It’s an ambitious campaign launched in partnership with the Mexican government that requires a PR overhaul for a spirit used more to induce a quick buzz than for awakening the palate among mainstream consumers.
But at Vinexpo in Bordeaux this week, the government of Mexico has partnered with a select group of distillers to try and undo decades’ worth of damage and and educate the industry and consumers on the merits of premium tequila and mezcal.
“We must create awareness of premium tequila in Europe,” said Carlos Hernández Pérez, an export manager with distiller La Cofradia. “Tequila is getting a bad image. People drink it as shots. But 100% agave tequila should be discovered as a sipping spirit to delight the palate.”
According to Vinexpo numbers, it’s estimated that about 170 tequila and mezcal distillers in Mexico produced 25 million cases last year. Over the next four years, sales of tequila are expected to reach 28 million cases.
Tequila is distilled from Mexico’s blue agave plant to produce two qualities: premium, 100% agave spirit, and Mixto, which is blended with up to 51% other spirits.
The blended tequila accounts for 90% of sales. Europe accounts for 10% of the world’s premium tequila market.
Mezcal, meanwhile, is made from different varieties of agave using handcrafted, artisanal methods which date back as far as 200 years ago – a concept that appeals to consumers looking for premium spirits with a story to tell.
“People want authenticity,” said Mario Mendoza, of family-owned distillery Mezcal Sin Piedad. “Mezcal is 100% agave and has a distinctive, smoky aroma and full taste. Chefs and mixologists are discovering it. Mezcal is the coming thing.”
Vinexpo runs June 16-20 in Bordeaux.