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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Art of Tequila

The Art of Tequila
by Naomi Black

Fields of blue agave span in every direction from Tequila, Mexico; flourishing in the high altitude and semi-arid climate. Growing slowly in the sun and without irrigation, the plants are ready for harvest only once every decade or so.

The job of the jimador has remained unchanged for centuries; his skill being handed down from generation to generation. In the field, the leaves are manually chopped away from the plant’s heart, or piña. The leaves are tilled into the ground as fertilizer. Each harvested piña heart may weigh 150 pounds and are loaded into trucks and hauled to the distillery.

Inside huge ovens, the piñas cook for two days at 120 degrees. The distilleries open their ovens in the evening, and throughout the town of Tequila, the smell of cooking piñas lays heavy in the air. Mornings find a delicate layer of ash on porches and verandas.

The cooked piñas are then mashed and the liquid strained from the fiber and placed in vats to ferment for as much as 56 hours. After fermentation, the juices are placed in stainless steel stills or cauldrons where they are heated to a temperature of evaporation and then condensed back into liquid. A second distillation to remove all impurities; the end product is blanco tequila.

Sugars may be added and the young tequila is placed in wooden barrels to rest. “Joven” tequila is young and may not be rested at all. “Reposado” has rested for at least two months and may be stored up to eleven months. “Anejo” is aged tequila and should be matured in oak barrels for at least a year and may be aged in these wood barrels for up to five years.

Joven and gold tequilas are 51% blue agave and are for mixing; 100% agave tequila is made to drink straight and at most should only be watered down with a bit of water or lime juice. It seems that the worst hangovers arise from mixing 100% tequila with sugary mixes or sodas, since these sugars do not mix well!

In Puerto Penasco, Manny’s Tequila Factory offers tequila testing and a great selection of tequila for the enthusiast. JJ’s Cantina also offers their private label tequila. When talking about JJ’s brand tequila, Joe Anacleto always gives credit to his friend, Manny Sanchez for his assistance and direction. For tequila history, trivia, a tequila tasting guide and pages of information, check out: www.tequilero.org This website includes this legendary and timeless tequila advice:

Gentle reader, always try to drink only the good Tequila
that you find on your way, but never allow Tequila to drink you.”


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