TequilaNeat - Marketing and Volume vs. Quality

Because good tequila should be served "neat:"   No ice, no salt, no lime.

Large bottles at Cava de Oro

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There are a number of "boutique" tequila distilleries which produce a fraction of the volume of the large, mechanized companies. This is much like the wine industry in California. Ask anyone where wine comes from in California, and you'll hear "Napa Valley." In fact, only 4% of California wines are made in Napa. But these are generally the ones which take the most care in quality production. The same is so with tequila. The better tequilas generally cost more as their processes are more painstaking and a much lower volume is produced.

Ask many people what they think is a good tequila, and they'll often say "Patron." But Patron is to tequila what Gallo is to wine. They produce such massive quantities that their manufacturing processes can't accommodate the artesanal craft processes of the smaller, boutique distilleries. At least Patron produces 100% agave tequila, but I've been told that due to their massive volumes they're forced to buy agave plants wherever they can, even plants that aren't top-quality. It's all ground up together and fermented. In the quantities they produce, the individual iffy agave plants are about as noticeable as a sneeze in a hurricane, but the overall quality degrades because of it. It's Patron's relentless marketing and presence in stores that makes people think it's really good. Still, when compared to the even more common Cuervo "Gold" Especial mixto (often the only other tequila that people know), it IS good. So the industry does owe a debt of gratitude to Patron- It's gotten people to start looking at 100% agave tequilas instead of the mixtos like Cuervo Gold. Think of it as a "gateway" from the cheap stuff of youth to the better products appreciated by a sophisticated adult palate.

Marketing can be taken to the extreme- There's one particular brand I can think of that is a perfect example. It's a 100% agave tequila, and many people think it's REALLY good. Why not? It's expensive, and has an imposing bottle. I spoke with their distribution reps at a tasting at a bar in San Francisco, and they told me their production secrets. It seems the brand is more of a marketing machine than a tequila producer. They created the bottles before they even thought about how they wanted to make the tequila! They made the bottle to attract people. It's tall, flashy, detailed, and it stands out on a shelf. Once that was done, they then decided what the flavor should be. Their decision was wholly based upon what they thought would maximize sales to the U.S. market, not what makes a good tequila. They then engineered the process and ingredients to specifically produce the overly-sweet taste that U.S. Americans seem to like. Lastly they added a high price tag, to give the impression that it's a high-quality tequila. It's all a big charade, as far as I'm concerned.
Now, I suppose they ARE running a business, and that implies that they do want to make a profit. But to me, this feels like a comparision of Hershey's chocolate with good European chocolate. You know what sells, and what's quality. They're rarely the same thing.

Oh, and by the way, a disclaimer- My comments about all the brands are simply my own personal opinions. I do not necessarily have verified information as to a given brand's production methods. I neither sell nor market brands, nor do I receive any financial compensation for expressing my opinions, whether pro or con for any particular product.

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