|Yours truly harvesting agave in Mexico.|
Who owns the word "agave"?
A select group of tequila and mezcal producers would if a controversial piece of legislation in Mexico wins approval.
Both tequila and mezcal -- tequila’s older, smokier cousin -- are made from agave, a breed of succulent that has been grown and distilled in Mexico for centuries.
But agave is the root material of many other indigenous Mexican spirits. That, say opponents to the proposed regulation, is the problem. If the new regulation passes, these liquors would be barred from using the word agave, or even from making their spirits within government-designated areas reserved for tequila or mezcal. Instead, they would have to call their products "agavacea aguardiente" or "distilled agavacea," the family of plants that include the agave.
As Mexican spirits have risen in popularity in recent years, the phrase "100% agave" is seen as a sign of quality. The legislation would prevent distillers outside the appellations from using that marketing device. (Although labels for bacanura, a separate mezcal-like spirit, could have the word agave.)
The legislation would not affect who would be able to call their liquor tequila or mezcal. That matter has long been dictated by Mexican law, which says only liquors made in Mexico’s official appellations of origin for tequila and mezcal can use those names. (Tequila has five appellations, mezcal seven.)
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