The Tequila region of Mexico gets a UNESCO World Heritage designation and starts gearing up for more visitors.
This blog has been quiet for a while as I have been off the computer chair and on the road in Tequila country. There really is a town called Tequila, where a few distilleries such as Sauza, Don Eduardo, and Jose Cuervo are located. (The pic to the left is a Cuervo worker chopping up agave hearts before roasting.) But the whole region is agave territory and I’m holed up in Guadalajara—Mexico’s second-largest city. Most of the iconic images of the country come from this area: mariachi bands, charro Mexican cowboys, big sombreros, cacti dotting the hills. And the national drink—tequila.
Last year, the U.S. passed Mexico as the leading consumer of tequila. Plenty of the cheaper stuff has always been downed by shooter-slamming 20-somethings and patrons of restaurant chains who are sucking them down from the frozen margarita machine. The main reason for the swell in demand, however, has been the rising demand for quality 100% agave tequila.
After drinking more than my fair share over the past couple of days, I can say for sure that you really do get what you pay for. Most of the spirit’s negative connotations come from memories of college parties and shots downed with a wince. The difference between that stuff and aged “anejo” tequila is like the difference between Miller High Life and Samuel Smith or Rogue beer. Between Gallo white zinfandel and Opus 1. Rot gut vodka and Grey Goose.
Watch for this area of Jalisco to become a hot spot in the glossy travel media about three or four years from now. Some of the elements are already in place: distilleries to visit, beautiful landscapes, pretty town squares, interesting local crafts, and the newly escavated Guachimontones archeological zone (pictured here). Of course the glossies won’t come calling until a fancy schmancy hotel is open nearby, so that’s in the works. Plans are moving to the development phase for one with a spa, golf course, and all the rest. Meanwhile, there’s plenty to pick from in Guadalajara (about an hour away) and some budget places closer to the land of agave fields.
If you’re ever down this way, check it out before the hordes arrive next decade. The making of tequila is a fascinating process and this is a spirit with a strong sense of place.