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Tequila, the fastest growing spirit and wine have a common ground.
So we discovered on our recent visit to the city of Guadalajara. We toured Mexico’s second oldest tequila distillery founded in 1870, Casa Herradura. From the significance of terroir, to the “art” of harvesting, the relevance of natural yeast and the use of oak barrels, the parallels were great. Just as there is a ritual with wine appreciation including nosing, swirling and slurping, so too is there one with this often misunderstood spirit. We learned of other similarities including basic rules of food pairings. As well as the importance and impact of practicing organic methods and being 100% natural. Certainly a trend we are seeing today in our world of wine.
We’d like to share a few of our discoveries starting off with the appellation system or regulations pertaining to “place”.
Just as our wineries must follow the regulations of our VQA, so must tequila producers follow rules set out by their governing body the CRT or Tequila Regulatory Council. Origin of the grapes, specificity of, and minimal natural sugar levels of grapes at harvest are dictated by VQA as are the origin of the agave plant for tequila, predominantly produced in the state of Jalisco. However permissible in five regions including areas in four other states the type of agave, it must be blue and the ripeness of the plant at harvest. As with wine, the relevance of terroir is key with a variety of soils and altitudes ranging from 6600 feet above sea level producing fruity, citrusy and floral notes while lowland, closer to the sea agave offering peppery spicy notes.
With more and more vineyards moving toward organic and biodynamic farming we are seeing the results in better fruit and ultimately better wines.
Casa Herradura also subscribes to this philosophy and practice, being the sole 100% natural distillery in Mexico. The proof was in the vat, sort of speak as we toured the facility, learning that the fermentation was spontaneous, wild yeast with no addition of specific yeast to kick-start or accelerate the process. The various open vats showed the agave juice at different levels of fermentation, with pure juice in the first, a partial transformation in the second, still sweet but with some alcohol, and the final, which we sampled, perfectly dry and still. The factory is meticulously maintained so as to allow for this natural process to take place in the vats. The process continues post fermentation, with Herradura distilling the remaining agave juice twice, cutting the heads and tails during both distillations to leave only the purest tequila for aging.
Stocked exclusively with 200 litre American white oak barrels.
The parallels between barrel use with wine and this complex spirit is once again very evident. Oak chips, larger oak barrels, as available in the wine industry are also utilized in the production of tequila, although not here at Casa Herradura. The small barrels, of varying levels of “toast” are selected to flavour and add complexity just as they are with respect to wine. The duration of oak aging is also a factor, transforming the potential and the flavour.
The highlight of the tasting we enjoyed on the beautiful grounds of the Herradura Hacienda was tequila that had been aged for forty-nine months!
It was the Seleccion Suprema, very dark copper in colour with an intense aroma of brown spice and floral notes, with a creamy and soft finish. It retails in the vicinity of $400.00 per bottle. But what the heck, we heard just recently that three bottles of Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1869 went for an unprecedented $232,692 per bottle. Breaking a new record for the world’s most expensive wine ever sold at an auction.
We could go on and on, as we so enjoyed our wonderful journey of discovery with this often-misunderstood spirit. We remarked over and over again, “just like with wine” and felt compelled to share. We’ve only just scratched the surface, as there are many other parallels, so please read on and enjoy.
Importance of stemware
Riedel, The Wine Glass Company, the founder of the “functional” wine glass. This company has an extensive array of stemware to suit every wine and innumerable specific grape varieties. A glass for all wine lovers needs, has seen fit to introduce a glass specifically designed to showcase tequila.
An elegant slender glass with a tall stem, meant to lift fine Tequila to the level it deserves, to allow it the appreciation and respect of which it is worthy.
Ritual for appreciation
As with wine, nosing, swirling and encompassing the span of the palate is key.
For maximum appreciation of tequila, place your nose in the middle of the glass, and smell. Taste and swirl the tequila to reach all corners of the palate. This allows each area to register the flavour and texture. After swallowing, allow a moment to register the finish.
Just as there are basic rules for food and wine pairings, so there are for food and tequila.
We asked our Ambassador Ruben Aceves for his thoughts on this. Here is what he said, “Tequila can be paired with any food, the basic idea is just like wine”
Starters and light food with Blanco, the more basic, crisp authentic tequila with subtle cooked agave taste. As with wine, no need to over power a simple, light appetizer with too assertive a flavour and mouthfeel.Main courses with Reposado, meaning “rested” in Spanish, aged for a minimum of 2 months. Could be fish, chicken, seafood or beef. Possibly an Anejo, aged minimum one year in barrels not to exceed 600 litres.Desserts definitely paired with Alejo.
We would like to thank Ruben Aceves, International Director for Brand Development Brown Forman Tequila Herradura México. Reposado is currently available across Canada.
HERRADURA REPOSADO TEQUILA LCBO 452615 | 750 mL bottle Price: $ 79.95 Spirits, Tequila 40.0% Alcohol/Vol. Made in: Mexico By: Tequila Herradura S.A. De C.V. Tasting Note Medium amber colour; very peppery nose, spice flavour, wood aged for a relatively mellow finish, interesting finish. Serving Suggestion Try neat or in favourite cocktail.