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Tasting tequila terroir

OldnewochoTwo of the tequilas I wrote about in my June story in Wine & Spirits about tequila terroir are just now available in the United States. Ocho, which is imported by Altamar Brands (Kubler absinthe, Right gin), was given a packaging facelift from the modern look it has in Europe where it was first launched to one emphasizing the terroir- "Single Estate" is right on the bottle and "terroir" and "vintage" all over the press release. The bottles are labeled with the name of the estate and year of harvest of the agave. (Click for a larger image.)

New_Ocho_ReposadoThe other brand is Maestro Dobel, which they're calling "diamond tequila" I guess because it's clear. That product is a blend of blanco, reposado, and anejo tequilas that is then filtered to give the final clear color. I think the slogan should be, "Looks like a blanco, tastes like a repo." They also label the bottle with the estate, bottle number, ranch and blender of the product.

Maestro-Dobel-side "Vintage" is an odd word to use for tequila, as the agave harvested in one year may not have been planted in the same year. Agave grows for 6-12 years usually, depending on location and how soon the distiller wants to harvest it to achieve a certain flavor profile. Fields are planted at the same time, but fields aren't miles wide (the ones I've seen, anyway) and look more like plots- there are many of them visible from one spot. Industrial tequila harvesters may take every plant in a field, whereas the boutique brands will select individual plants to harvest over the course of a three years before scrapping the rest and replanting. There was a frost in the Highlands one year, and that one year's weather caused variations in several years' harvests, according to a couple of distillers I spoke with.

One person in Europe and one in the US told me they each preferred the 2008 versions of Ocho to the 2007 line. (You can find Ocho at Zare at Fly Trap, and I'm pretty sure they'll have it at Tres Agaves as well as Tommy's Mexican.)

In any case, consumers of tequila have heard about Highland and Lowland differences in tequila for a while, though only the Highland brands have been promoting their terroir. In these new products, they're going a little deeper- telling us the estate, the year of harvest, and a few people who helped put the final product together. I like where all this is going.

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