Tequila! (Single-estate Tequila at that)
Tequila! Pee-WeeHerman dancing on a counter top in white platform shoes to the beat of the song, “Tequila”. Upside-down Margaritas and that irritating whistle they’d blow while maniacally shaking your head. Bringing my own blender to dorm parties. Oh, yeah. Memories of growing up in California and going to university in San Diego, just 40 minutes from the Mexican border and Tijuana–haven for underage US drinkers.
Tequila, like me, would like to shake off those sordid memories and move on, grow up, become a bit more—civilized. Wandering through the recent consumer event, Bibulous, I was drawn like a moth to the fine tequila stand. I took a trip to Monterey, Mexico a few years ago and visited a tequila museum where I was introduced to some quality tequila so I was curious to see what the Mexicans had brought to the shores of Ol’ Blighty (and no Jose Cuervo Gold in sight!).
The Mexican government has devoted considerable time and money to promoting tequila around the world and part of that initiative is the Tequila Roadshow which rolled into Vinopolis as part of Bibulous a few weeks ago. The Tequila Roadshow is highlighting premium tequila featuring 8 world class brands, all composed of 100% agave; Cuervo Platino, Clase Azul, Tequila Ocho, Campo Azul, Herradura, Olmeca Atos, Tres Generaciones and Casa de Don Agustin.
I walked up and said, “Give me something interesting”. Tom Estes, European Tequila Ambassador and the fellow manning the stand, was happy to oblige. At first he suggested, reposado (aged less than a year in oak), than anejo (aged minimum of 1 year, max 3 years in oak), ho-hum. I said interesting. And then he said, “Wanna try some single-estate tequila?” Now you’re talking, Tom. Ocho Tequila is the first one to feature a vintage and each are from a single estate which signifies the exact year of harvest and the location of the agave plants. The idea behind single estate tequilas is to highlight the relationship between terroir and the finished product. Ocho Tequilas are made in small quantities and in the traditional, artisanal way of days gone by.
Both tequilas I sampled were crystal clear but swirling around the glass, fat viscous legs were soon apparent. Tom explained to me that the tequilas had not been cold filtered which retained many of the essential oils and esters thereby giving the tequilas a more textured mouthfeel and aromatic character.
The first tequila was the 2008 Ocho Tequila from the Las Pomez Ranchos field. I’m accustomed to sniffing and spitting wine, not tequila so here goes. First impressions: spicy, lemony nose, slightly sharpish, peppery but not alcholic, smelling really fresh! Now the real test. Sip, swirl and spit. A rich, almost oily mouthfeel. Hmmm, peppery but not fiery, citrusy, hints of lime and orange, very interesting. Tom was coaching me along but I did detect something other than firewater. The Las Pomez Ranchos fields are located in the highlands of Jalisco while the Cerrito San Agustin is from a different elevation and different soils.
Onto the next clear tequila which was the 2009 Ocho Blanco El Cerrito San Agustin and comparing to see if a difference could be detected because of terroir. A much softer, floral nose, smoother on the palate but also saltier with an olive brine character. I never really thought of tequila as having varying characteristics but just this basic taste test was enough to convince of the concept of tequila terroir. The difference between the two was noticeable.
I had to take my leave of the tequila stand as I was late for a winetasting but it was a palate opening experience. Tequila and I have come a long way from those upside down margaritas. Although I’m sure you can still get them down Mexico way.