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New tequilas pour forth to meet rising popularity 

Distillers are on a production binge - The Dallas Morning News

October 12, 2007 - By LAURENCE ILIFF - The Dallas Morning News - liliff@dallasnews.com
Source: http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/bus/stories/DN-tequila_12bus.ART0.State.Edition1.35b9347.html

MEXICO CITY – Lifelong Texan Neal Alan Williamson got into the tequila business mostly by accident.

After he was hired to help some distillers in Jalisco state find distribution channels in Asia, he quickly fell in love with the complex spirit.

One distiller gave him the opportunity to develop and market his own brand, and the next thing he knew, he was "in with both feet."

His brand, Tequilame, is set to arrive in Dallas this month. 

As tequila takes its place alongside fine cognacs in global markets, its popularity is skyrocketing, especially at the high end. And new players are coming into a once-staid industry, including two Texans, a Philadelphia restaurant owner and Sammy Hagar, the former singer of Van Halen.

Huge liquor firms – such as Brown-Foreman of Louisville, Ky., and Beam Global Spirits and Wine of Illinois – now control most of the top 10 tequila producers.

Big producers are opening global markets at a rapid pace. Last year, tequila production was at its highest ever at an estimated 220 million liters, compared with 190 million in 1999, according to official figures. A liter is 1.05 quarts.

The rapid growth has some traditional producers worried about the quality of tequila – particularly given the wild production cycles for blue agave, the raw material for the drink.

Some producers are giving in to the temptation to make tequila from 51 percent agave sugars and 49 percent other sugars, the minimum required to use the name tequila. The blended tequilas are called mixtos and have traditionally been used for margaritas.

"Short term, I see many gains," said Fernando González, who makes Siete Leguas tequila and was the first producer of the tequila Patrón, which is highly regarded in the U.S. "But over time, we may face many problems, particularly image problems, because customers may get turned off by some of the bad quality of the products they are tasting."

Big distillers insist they are creating traditional, high-quality tequilas, especially at the premium level. For example, there is a new "extra añejo" designation for top-of-the-line tequilas that must be aged at least three years.

And the growth in the premium market means that far more tequila is made from 100 percent agave now than a decade ago, according to industry figures.

"Americans have an unprecedented number of tequila choices, particularly super premium," said Ana Jovancicevic, a spokeswoman for the Distilled Spirits Council. "The challenge is finding the right one to fit their tastes."

Mr. Williamson, a product designer and marketer, doesn't want to take shots at competitors. But he acknowledges that while some new producers are committed to an industry that goes back centuries, others are looking for a quick buck.

"Some brands are more connected to something that brings it back to its origin and culture, and some brands have nothing to do with that," said Mr. Williamson, whose company is based in San Antonio. "I wouldn't drink a mixto if you gave it to me for free."

Tequilame, which could be interpreted as "hit me with tequila," now has an extra añejo and soon will release an unaged white tequila, both made from 100 percent agave.

Read the complete article from Dallas Morning News -
http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/bus/stories/DN-tequila_12bus.ART0.State.Edition1.35b9347.html  



Last Revision - 02 December 2009 - jat
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