Tequila Talk: What’s with the Worm?

In a recent episode of the hit show ‘An Idiot Abroad’, Ricky Gervais’ new project featuring his friend Karl Pilkington (the idiot) traveling the 7 wonders of the world, Karl is forced to eat the worm resting at the bottom of a bottle of ‘Tequila’.

Let’s take this time, however, to make a few points clear. First off, Tequila has zero tradition of including a worm in the bottle. That practice is reserved for Mezcal, Tequila’s cousin. Distilled from the Maguey plant, rather than the Blue Weber Agave, Mezcal sometimes include small insect. But it is not a worm–it’s (usually) the moth larvae hypopta agavis. The ‘worms’ are also known as hilocuiles, chinicuiles, tecoles or gusanos rojos (because of their red colors), and impart a distinctive hue and flavor to the drink.

You are probably thinking, “ok, but why are they in my Tequila…I mean Mezcal?” Take a closer look at the latin name, hypopta agavis (emphasis on agavis), and we find our answer. These organisms begin their lives when their mother plants her eggs in the heart of the maguey plant. They then eat their way out, feeding on the leaves, or pincas, until they form a cocoon, emerge as butterflies and flutter away.

Getting hungry? The mature caterpillars are considered a delicacy in parts of Mexico, and are used in local cuisines. You might also see them deep fried with some salsa picante, wrapped in a tortilla. A 100 gram serving packs almost 700 calories.

Eric Rubin’s Journal: Tequila Interchange Project

Should foreign ownership of Tequila brands be allowed? Some argue no, but Eric Rubin disagrees with this view. In his most recent blog, Eric shares his thoughts on his trip to Mexico with the Tequila Interchange Project…

Ok, so I recently took part in the 2nd trip of the Tequila Interchange Project.

For those of you not familiar with the Project, I’ll let their mission statement do the talking:

“We’re a network of professionals engaged in promoting the education of the culture of Tequila in their local communities and abroad. We strive to create a highway of knowledge between teachers, workers, and connoisseurs of the culture of tequila, from the agave fields in Mexico to the cocktail bars across the USA. We are a network of connections and partnerships. We are both professor and pupil. We are the bridge of communication towards the future of tradition for tequila culture.”

I was fortunate to be selected and had a blast with my fellow team members. I admit that the radical leftist views of Latin American professors took me a little surprise, proposing no foreign ownership of Tequila brands! – but their knowledge, passion, and connection to the region were all very impressive.

The education and conversational aspect of the trip is what I found the most interesting, but I did feel that some of the goals expressed – while rooted in good intentions – could be problematic if not impossible to implement, and may be unfair to the large producers; not to mention small producers that are just starting to forge their own path…

“Frieday” Fact: Agave = Massive Biomass

Looking for a new fuel source? While most know that the Agave plant is good at lighting a fire in your belly you might not know that soon it also might be lighting up your lamp or starting your car.

Next stop for the versatile Agave?

According to researchers the versatile Agave plant is an excellent producer of biomass and potentially bio-fuel. Biomass magazine reports that one hectare can produce 5,000 gallons of distilled ethanol. It’s also “reliable, abundant, cheap, easy to handle.”

So the Agave plant is not only good for your soul but may be good for the planet as well. Something to think about when your sipping your next shot of Reposado.

Who’s says what’s the best?

I’ve been doing a round up of the medals, awards and accolades for a PR piece (catch it later this month!) and thought it would neat to share a listing of some of the top competitions that taste, rank and differentiate the over 20,000 beverage brands that we all love. It’s certainly not an all inclusive list but it’s a nice resource.

Who’s the best? These sites can “help” you decide. Yet, ultimately, the best is what “you” like.

For 10+ years the Beverage Testing Institute, has been ranking beers, wines and spirits. You can catch their latest reviews at:

http://www.tastings.com/LatestReviews.html

For Tequila-specific reviews go to:

http://www.tastings.com/search_spirits.lasso?se=k&kw=2010TequilaAnejo&sb=All&sf=ScoreForSort&dt=All
http://www.tastings.com/search_spirits.lasso?se=k&kw=2010TequilaReposado&sb=All&sf=ScoreForSort&dt=All
http://www.tastings.com/search_spirits.lasso?se=k&kw=2010TequilaSilver&sb=All&sf=ScoreForSort&dt=All

TheFiftyBest.com opines on all things “fine living”. The online pub ranks everything from beer to Tequila as well as topics outside the beverage category. Here’s their latest Tequila ranking:

http://www.thefiftybest.com/spirits/best_tequila/

The International Wine and Spirit Competition, started in 1969 and is an international competition where winners are determined by a combination of blind tasting and chemical and product analysis. Here’s a searchable directory of spirit rankings:

http://www.iwsc.net/search/spirit/

The San Francisco World Spirits Competition prides itself on being the first international spirits competition held annually in the US. f
For a lit of their latest spirits results go to:

http://www.sfspiritscomp.com/pdfs/2010SpiritsResultsbyClass.pdf

The Spirits of Mexico Competition judges (naturally) Tequilas and Mezcals and other Mexican beverages. For a list of their latest results go to: http://www.polishedpalate.com/docs/SOM2010_Competition_Results.pdf

The Ultimate Spirits Challenge, is a blind tasting lead by F. Paul Pacult of the New York Times and Spirit Journal author. Here’s a link to the award winners:

http://www.ultimate-beverage.com/uscresults2010/#tequila

The Ultimate Cocktail Challenge is Paul Pacult’s companion cocktail competition. For the latest go to:

http://www.ultimate-beverage.com/cocktail-competition/cocktail-tasting-results/#category3

The World Beverage Competition is the largest combined international competition which boasts industry judges hailing from 6 continents. Here’s a link to their home page which lists beer, wine, spirit and beverage winners: http://www.beveragecompetition.com/home.htm.

If I missed any of note please let me know and I’ll post your comment with a link to the site.

Salud!

The art of making Tequila

One of the great things about my recent trip to the Tequila Valley was that I got to see a lot of distilleries and learn first hand how each distillery adds their personal stamp to their batches.

All Tequilas start with the basic ingredients- agaves, water, yeast- and must be produced in one of five states in Mexico – Jalisco, Guanajuato, Michoacán, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas. The master distiller adds his/her own processes and techniques to arrive at a very distinct flavor. Some distilleries are mammoth like Herradura. Others like Cofradia are contracted by many to produce a variety of brands.

El Llano (meaning “the Plains”) is a small, boutique distillery that was founded in 1900 by one of Mexico’s foremost Tequila families. Eduardo Orendain is a fifth generation Tequila master. His pride and passion show in every word he utters. He was a complete joy to talk with and meet. While down there we recorded Tres Agaves’ Eric Rubin as he took us on a tour of the “fabrica” and highlighted why some might fine Tequila flows from El Llano’s stills.

Note: The “tour” progressed to the tasting room and, er, we “forgot” to get footage. Next time I’ll add more from the cellars and tasting rooms.