A quick online search of the word Tequila brings up over 50 songs written about that magical elixir from Mexico, with most referencing forgotten nights, impromptu “hook-ups” and one insisting that Tequila induces a woman’s clothing to simply “fall off”. Others discuss the practice and execution of tequila in a shot glass followed by exercises involving salt and sour citrus. Surely there has to be more to this 2,000 year-old beverage than drunken nights and next-morning headaches !
On a recent trip to Mexico I decided to take a deeper dive into Tequila and to get to know and understand this “Mexican water” that seemingly turns non-Mexicans into mush. One of the first things I learned is that the “/salt/lime/shot” approach is referred to as “Tequila Cruda”, and, party resorts aside, is a practice generally frowned upon by the Mexican people. Tequila should be given the same time and respect that is often awarded to spirits and wine - afterall, no matter which style of Tequila you savour, its journey to your glass took a minimum of eight years.
Yes – 8 years.
Tequila does indeed date back over 2 centuries and is produced from the Blue weber Agave Plant, which is a giant spiky-looking monster plant that grows to maturity in the desert in eight years. Each plant is a “one-time” use plants, as it is the core or ‘heart’ of the plant that is cut out and used for Tequila production. Once the cores are removed, they are then steam-cooked to get them ready for fermentation, involving either wild or cultured yeasts. Distillation of Tequila is carried via pot-stilled method (ie how some whiskies are made) and are generally distilled twice in order to expel unwanted impurities, flavous as well as to bring the alcohol value up to desired strength. From here, the Tequila can be bottled, or aged for a period of time, all depending on the style that the producer wishes to produce.
With regards to styles, there are 5 types, all related to how long they have been aged. What is important with these is not the brand but what each style represents:
Blanco/Sliver/Plata – these are clear spirits that range from no ageing at all, to up to 60 days “resting” in stainless steel tanks before bottling. Unaged tequila will showcase the raw taste of the agave plant with noticeable vegetal and earthy tones. Plata tequila tend to be mainly used for mixed drinks and cocktails.
Joven/Gold – usually headache in a bottle as they are only roughly 51% Agave. Most often these are unaged tequilas that have had additives such as faux colouring, syrup, glycerin and oak extract to name a few – it is these additives that have been causing Gringo’s much regret over the last several decades. In fairness, there are a few decent bottles out there, however, if you must indulge, play it safe by incorporating them into string flavoured cocktails (but better yet, just avoid – your brain and liver will thank you).
Reposado – these are “rested” tequilas that have been aged in wood casks from a minimum of 2 months up to 9 months. Barrel ageing affects tequila that same way as wine and spirits, with minute exposure to oxygen changing he complexity as well as the flavours of the oak imparting unique qualities. 2 to 9 months in oak softens the Tequila, adds a light straw-like colour as well as some mellow oaky notes. These are the mid-tier of Tequila’s and work very well in mixed drinks, juice blends Reposado and grapefruit juice is a personal fave) – they are also smooth enough to be sipped on their own
Anejo – indicates an “old” or “aged” Tequila. For this style, French oak or used bourbon barrels are used, with the ageing process lasting a minimum of 1 year. Most are aged between 18 to 36 months are produce a darker coloured spirit with vigour and complexity. Some of the best Anejo’s are aged up to 4 years in barrel – this seems to be the limit though before the fundamental flavour characteristics of the Tequila spirit diminish. These are smooth, complex and rich – very similar to high end whiskies. Slight chilled, they are best sipped with time and respect.
Extra-Anejo – this is a relatively new style that is experimenting with ageing tequila more than 4 years in wood barrels. The earthy, vegetal notes tend to disappear with stringer butterscotch, caramel and oak infused flavours dominating. As with Anejo Tequila’s, these are sippers (no shots with these)!
The many styles mean there is a lot of versatility in enjoying Tequila – from mixed drinks, to high end cocktails, through to refreshing juice blends and contemplative sippers. With the Summer months soon to be upon us, I encourage you all to experiment (respectfully) with the different styles – no doubt you’ll find one (if not more) that will have a permanent home in your liquor cabinet.
3 key take-a-way’s are:1) Always look for the words “100% Agave” on the bottle; 2) Respect and enjoy the taste, and; 3) Do not ever attempt a “Suicide” shot – some young gents from Wales described this as snorting the salt, shooting the Tequila and then sqeezing lime in your eye socket …………….. they may have been doing shots of Gold Tequila before they spoke to me ………………
For more information on Tequila or to book your own Guided Tasting please contact Somm4All today – firstname.lastname@example.org.
After a seemingly endless Winter we have arrived at Spring and the promise of flowers budding, grass growing and soon-to-be Summer days. Open your windows, breathe in the fresh air and rejoice with a bottle of liquid Spring-time in glass, Rosé!
Quick question before you indulge - is the liquid in your glass light-salmon in colour? Or is it pink? Perhaps it is slightly orange?
Are you wondering how and/or why they can all still be labeled Rosé but look very different in colour?
Despair not – Somm4All has some answers for you
Are labels on wine bottles just “Sticking It” to you?
You are out and about and want to grab a bottle of wine for dinner and are trying to figure out which one is right for you. Looking around at the rows and rows of choices, you think, “I’ll start reading the wine labels – that will help steer me in the right direction!” – but how much help do they really provide?
In today’s world, the wine bottle is essentially a blank canvass for Marketing – yes, "Marketing", not necessarily “factual” information. Depending on where you live, there are certain legal requirements that must be on the wine bottle, such as alcohol percentage, country of origin, volume of liquid – however, with regards to the actual descriptions of the wines, those are left to the imagination of creative people. Their goal is to have their product stand out amongst the vast array of other bottles so, to do so, intricate artwork, photo’s, etc. are developed for a visual effect, while enticing verbiage is scrawled along the flipside of the bottle. Vague descriptors are often used, i.e. “blossoming bouquet of floral aromatics”, or “good depth of fruit”, etc. etc. Based on that language, do you really know what to expect from that bottle? Do you feel confident buying it?
To be fair, not all producers get caught up in the marketing game – truthfully, most quality producers do provide some information that is useful – things like “12 months in French oak”, or even greater details such as “ripe cherry, dried fruit, with notes of chocolate and vanilla and firm, ripe tannin”. These details do indeed go a long way into giving the consumer an idea of what to expect – but, despite their best intentions, they can also create a new problem for the buyer – deciphering what some of the “industry” words (such as tannin) mean. For those folks who are savvy enthusiasts, or who have studied or work in the trade, this type of “wine-speak” makes perfect sense. For the novice to average wine drinker however, industry jargon can overwhelm and confuse – so much for that label being helpful.
Perhaps the best thing is to look for wines that have little stickers on them that celebrate awards won and/or high scores given by seasoned professional writers/critics. A gold winner that received 91 points must be great, right? Not so fast. I mentioned earlier that wine bottles are a marketer’s canvas to “sell” the wine – but that canvas is not restricted to only the front and back labels. Little stickers placed along the neck of the bottle use additional real estate to try and sway potential buyers – some are even colour coded to match the level of award they won – very clever. Winning an award alone though does not directly relate to the level of quality as a lot of information is absent. Will the average consumer take the time to research the event listed to see what the criteria for the judging was? Who were the judges? Etc. etc.…… the marketing folks are betting that no, people won’t have the time (or the interest level) to do an in-depth analysis.
That leaves us with the scores being given by critics and professionals – if Robert Parker (a renowned American wine critic/reviewer) gives this bottle a score of 91 points, then who ever buys it will love it – correct? Sorry, once again, not necessarily. While there are many talented and knowledgeable people across the globe that write and critique wine, just because one, or many, give it high praise does not absolutely mean you will enjoy it. You see, wine, like food, is very subjective. I write reviews for my own website as well as contribute to another one – and while I try to be as objective as possible, I cannot guarantee that a wine I rate high is one you will enjoy. The two biggest reasons why are; 1) Reviews are largely based on the technical aspects of a wine and how it relates to its variety, geography, year of production, etc., and 2) People’s tastes and taste-buds are different. I am a proud Montrealer – born and raised, and one of the most revered food items of Montreal, world wide, is a smoked meat sandwich. Complete with mustard and a pickle. Schwartz’s Delicatessen has long been touted as THE best place for this. Personally, I detest mustard and stay far away from pickles. 1 million people can proclaim a smoked meat sandwich with mustard and side pickle as heavenly but for me, it would be hell on a plate and no matter who or how many praised this combination, I would absolutely despise it.
So, if you can’t rely on labels, stickers or scores, how can you choose a wine? If you are in a specialty store (or province/state run location) you can ask the owner or product consultant for recommendations. Be prepared to be asked a few questions, such as how much you want to spend, what kinds of wines have liked drinking before, how adventurous are you, and what, if anything, will you have with the wine. With that info they should be able to at least point you in the right direction, but that’s not a guarantee. You can also try a few bottles scored high by a particular reviewer. You may find that your taste buds and theirs line up and thus can act as a quasi guide going forward. The downside is that you may not share the same tastes, and you will have wasted both some time and money.
Keeping track of what you have tasted and liked and what you have not may work, however it requires a lot of note-taking. In your own words, you write down what appealed to you (or didn’t) – in doing so you may find an affinity for a certain grape, region, country etc., but how diligent will you really be in documenting what your drink ?
Your best option would be to hire a professional to walk you through some basics. Yes, shameless plug for Somm4All as we do indeed offer this service, but the small investment to learn basic parameters (with Somm4All or, depending where you live, another Sommelier) will pay off in the long run as you will have knowledge and confidence to shop wisely, and most importantly, to enjoy what you buy!
Somm4All can be contacted by visiting www.somm4all.com and clicking on the “Contact Us” page
Let’s Uncork Something Great Together!
Our intent is to post weekly blog updates (sometimes more often) on a range of subjects that relate to the realm of Wine/Beer/ Spirits/Saké. At times our focus will be on local products/industry trends, however we’ll also cover topics on both a National and International level – it’s a big world out there!
One of the key goals of Somm4All is to cut through the “static” and the “noise” relating to the adult beverage market – we’ll continue to do that here in our blog posts. Whether it is helping to demystify the marketing jargon that is used on product labels, or to provide context to why particular regions are best suited to produce certain product styles, we promise to do so with easy to understand language. We do not subscribe to the practice of using complex, industry-created descriptors that, in our opinion, only serve to add pretention to a product and ultimately confuse the general populace. We want to make it easy for you to understand and thus make your own informed decisions on whether you may enjoy a certain product, or for you to learn something new. No pretense – no BS.
We’ll also share and discuss trending topics in the industry, such as the importance (or perhaps lack thereof) of food and wine pairings, the reasons for product price ranges, and even what it means to be a Sommelier. At all times we’ll do our best to remain objective on the subject matter and to ensure information shared is as accurate as possible - we will also draw upon our personal experience and formal education to debunk certain myths and/or provide different insights. We believe informed consumers make informed decisions.
Occasionally we’ll highlight a certain region or product style and take a deeper dive into what its key attributes are, what to look for on a label and what you can expect from the product. These posts will help you better understand why you may like a particular product from a certain region, and also allow you to discover new favourites (and even some hidden gems ;) ).
To stay up-to-date with the latest updates, reviews and interviews from Somm4All we invite you to follow us on social media - Somm4All is available on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Youtube - icons for each account are located in the top right corner of this page with direct links to our respective pages.
Thank you for taking the time to join us here as we embark on this new journey.
LET'S UNCORK SOMETHING GREAT TOGETHER!