Thursday, May 12, 2016

A Quick Argument Against Rumour: Additives Are Prohibited In 100% Agave Tequila Blancos According To NORMA Oficial Mexicana NOM-006-SCFI-2012, Bebidas alcohólicas-Tequila-Especificaciones

A few years back, a well respected individual in the industry that operates destination tours in Mexico for tequila and mezcal announced that additives of any sort were no longer allowed in 100% agave tequila blancos. Though the other 100% agave categories (gold, reposado, anejo and extra anejo) were supposedly still fair game for such enchantment(s). This interpretation was dependent on a particular passage in the NOM-006-SCFI-2012. That passage is "4.36.1 Tequila blanco o plata Producto transparente no necesariamente incoloro, sin abocante, obtenido de la destilación añadiendo únicamente agua de dilución y lo previsto en el numeral en los casos que proceda para ajustar la graduación comercial requerida, pudiendo tener una maduración menor de dos meses en recipientes de roble o encino." Sorry for the bad translation: 4.36.1 White or silver tequila not necessarily colorless transparent product, without abocante, obtained by distillation only adding dilution water and the provisions of paragraph where appropriate to adjust the required commercial graduation, may have less than two months maturation in oak or oak containers. Where appropriate? The inconsistency or perhaps one would say the contradiction is that the NORMA provides an option for additives, " Cuando a los Tequilas definidos en los incisos 4.36.1, 4.36.2, 4.36.3, 4.36.4 y 4.36.5 se les agregue edulcorantes, colorantes, aromatizantes y/o saborizantes permitidos por la Secretaría de Salud, con objeto de proporcionar o intensificar su color, aroma y/o sabor, pueden tener como máximo 75 g/L de azúcares o azúcares reductores totales de acuerdo a la NMX-V-006-NORMEX y 85 g/L de extracto seco a la NMX-V-017-NORMEX (véase capítulo 3, Referencias). Para lo establecido en este párrafo se debe cumplir con lo dispuesto en el literal c) del inciso 11.1 de la presente NOM. El uso de cualquiera de los abocantes a que se refiere el punto 4.1 de la presente norma no debe ser mayor del 1% en relación al peso total que tiene el Tequila antes de su envasado. El productor deberá llevar los registros correspondientes de la materia prima empleada." Translation6.1.1.1 When the Tequilas defined in paragraphs 4.36.1, 4.36.2, 4.36.3, 4.36.4 and 4.36.5 that added sweeteners, colourings, aromatic flavourings and / or artificial flavourings permitted by the Ministry of Health in order to provide or enhance its colour, aroma and / or flavor, can be up to maximum 75 g / L of sugars or total reducing sugars according to the NMX-V-006-NORMEX and 85 g / L of dry extract NMX -V-017-NORMEX (see chapter 3 References). For the provisions of this paragraph must comply with the provisions of paragraph c) of Section 11.1 of this NOM. The use of any of the abocantes to section 4.1 of this standard should not be greater than 1% relative to the total weight that the Tequila before packaging is concerned. The producer shall keep adequate records of the raw material used. What's puzzling is those additives permitted by Mexico's Ministry of Health for use are shrouded in secrecy and try to find any information on NMX-V-006-NORMEX.

One reason why I had serious doubt about this 'interpreted' new "no additives" rule for 100% agave tequila blancos was the answer(s) provided by the Mexican government to comments put forward by respected scholar, Dr. Patricia Colunga, received on the Draft Mexican Official Standard NOM-006-SCFI-2012. Then again it all comes down to interpretation of the NOM - which is in Spanish and translation varies...

Then a few months ago Casa Cuervo announced a new 100% agave tequila blanco, Maestro Dobel Humito™ Smoked Silver Tequila 44% Abv.. Interesting. Something that casts more doubt on the supposed new "no additive" rule for such tequila offerings. Casa Cuervo CEO, Juan Domingo Beckmann, said, "I’m very happy that we were the first ones to bring back tequila that tastes and is done in the same way as we think it did 100 years ago, when they used to cook the agave with mesquite wood." Then this piece, "Maestro Dobel Tequila Launches Humito, the First Smoked Silver Tequila" and "Humito is made of 100 percent agave and gets its complex smoky taste and aroma from an unique technique that utilizes Mexican mesquite wood during the artisanal process", and more doubt about the "no additive" rule's authenticity. Is big tequila riding the popularity coattails of mezcal? What next, the Agave tequilana is cooked in earthen pits similar to producers of mezcal, raicilla, bacanora etc.? Has anyone actually seen any underground, earthen pits at either of Casa Cuervo's distilleries? And no, not the unused 'demo' rock pit on display at Fábrica la Rojeña - Mundo Cuervo. Why not call it artificial mezcal? That's right it can't, but how about, "a tequila that tastes sort of like a mezcal"?  Acceptable? Is some type of 'essence of mesquite' smoke added to this 100% agave tequila.  Maybe we are wrong. Keep in mind Casa Cuervo owns the largest difusor in Mexico. There are plenty of companies that manufacture and provide natural & artificial flavourings and extracts for alcohol spirits. We hate to pick on Casa Cuervo but this was the newest most obvious example of ridiculousness. And again maybe we are wrong. If that is indeed the case. Casa Cuervo please reach out us on twitter. There are plenty of flavoured tequila products out there to muddy the waters. Consumers already have to carefully navigate through aisles of product displaying "made from" or "made with" 100% agave on the label. Yet some of these products are merely wines, liqueurs or cordials cleverly disguised as 100% 100% agave tequila - possibly (not necessarily) containing more additives and/or enhancements. Sorry. Just 'call it like one sees it'. Caveat emptor.

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