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Oaxaca’s Mezcal Regulatory Council wins protection to defend designation of origin against Sinaloa Mezcal

They seek to prevent the Mexican Institute of Industrial Property from extending the denomination of origin of mezcal to Sinaloa.

The president of the Mezcal Regulatory Council, Abelino Cohetero, said that a collective protection was won to suspend the IMPI decision to extend the appellation of origin of mezcal to Sinaloa.

In Oaxaca, the Mexican Mezcal Regulatory Council reported that a collective amparo was won before a court to suspend the resolution of the Mexican Institute of Industrial Property (IMPI),  expand the denomination of origin of mezcal by extending basing permits to states that never have produced the drink.

The president of the Mexican Mezcal Regulatory Council, Abelino Cohetero, regretted that irregularly they want to extend the appellation of origin to four municipalities in Sinaloa, which only sell agave distillates.

I make it clear that currently the appellation of origin is held by nine states in the southeast of Mexico, which comply with the processes to produce and market mezcal, and not agave distillate like the one that wants to be legitimized.

The Mexican Institute of Industrial Property (IMPI) authorized the denomination of origin Mezcal for Mazatlán, Rosario, Concordia and San Ignacio; Mezcal export opportunity and job creation: Javier Lizárraga Mercado

He explained that according to the lawyers, the legal argument that Oaxaca has asserted in court is that in Sinaloa only distillate is generated, which if certified can cause the adulteration of the drink and can cause the collapse of the industry at the national level and worldwide.“There are several organizations that are supporting us, such as the Chamber of Mezcal, Mujeres del Mezcal, and other colleagues are somehow concerned that more states are added to the denomination of origin of mezcal, as in the case of Sinaloa. I understand that in the legal part it has been possible to stop it provisionally, but the means will be sought to ensure that no more status is added to the appellation of origin”, she affirmed.

He said that in the legal fight a collective amparo was won before a court and it is against a resolution issued by the Mexican Institute of Industrial Property (IMPI).

Currently there are nine states that enjoy the denomination of origin: Oaxaca, Puebla, Michoacán, Zacatecas, Durango, San Luis Potosí, Guerrero, Tamaulipas and Chiapas, of which Oaxaca has the hegemony , “last year 8 million liters of mezcal and Oaxaca represented 92 percent of that total”.

Abelino Cohetero affirmed that the Mexican mezcal industry is valued for its sales and production at 4 billion pesos, and it is estimated that more than 5.1 million liters are for export and are destined for the United States and European markets.

Is it advantageous being the biggest designation of origin in the world?

Have you traveled around Mexico? Did you notice agaves everywhere you went? Well, agave is a plant that has been utilised by Mexicans from centuries and they learned to distillate it and they called to the spirit “Wine Mezcal”. Now, the world “Mezcal” is legally protected (because it got “Designation of origin”) and only some Mexican states are able to label their spirit with this name. In @Agavache we promote “the good” mexican agave spirits, wherever they come, either from areas with designation of origin or without it. In this post we will tell you the meaning to be part of this “distinctive label” and why we agree with other academics that this “marketing strategy” should be improved.

According to the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), “Designation of Origin” means: 

“The name of a region, a specific place or, in exceptional cases, a country, used to describe an agricultural or food product:
– originating in that region, the specific place or the country;
– the quality or characteristics of which are exclusively or essentially due to natural and human factors inherent to a particular geographical environment, and
– the production, processing and preparation of which take place in a
defined geographical area”. 

The Secretaría de Economía de México (Mexico’s Economy Secretariat) declares that denominations of origin are not obtained or given by any authority or governmental decree, but that they exist as “matter of fact”. This means that first they must be used and consumed, become popular and acknowledged by the public, and after this they can be protected by an appropriate declaration.

Mexican states authorized to produce Mezcal

The Consejo Regulador de Mezcal (CRM) (Regulatory Council of Mezcal) has repeatedly declared that the DO Mezcal is the biggest denomination in the world with over 500 thousand square kilometers, but why would that be a good thing? In 2018 the states of Aguascalientes, Morelos, and Mexico State requested to be included in the DO, but many mezcaleros (guided by the then president of CRM, who had originally promoted and helped those states in their request to join) objected and made legal appeals in the courts against this expansion, stopping it even though the IMPI (Mexican Intelectual Property Institute) had already voted in favour. In a press conference reported by El Financiero (article: “Mezcaleros de Oaxaca en contra de  ampliar la denominación de origen”) several organizations of producers from Oaxaca highlighted that their opposition was out of concern for the risk that artisanal mezcales have as they are unprotected against big producers from other states or foreign interests with a  higher commercial and industrial capacity and which could affect the sales and survival of the small producers.

The affected states by the appeal against them joining, made in turn their own appeal at the courts and the cases remain unresolved to this day. The CRM celebrates what they call a “victory over political interests” (with no mention that they were part of the stirring up of those same political and economic interests), while the governors of the states of Aguascalientes, Morelos and Mexico State assure their producers that they will soon obtain the denomination and try to encourage industrial projects and investors. Even with this precedent and uncertainty, the state of Sinaloa requested its inclusion into the DO in 2020 claiming to process historical proof that validates its claim.

Regardless of the DO, there are mezcales of great quality all throughout the Mexican territory, but if your business is Mezcal, we recommend that you check out these infographics regarding the DO, its territory, and levels of production:

  • To identify the 9 Mexican states which are legally part of it.
  • To know that the states have been added in different years.
  • To understand that DO protects some areas of the states and not all the states municipalities are under protection.
  • To know the mezcal production per state. 
Stadistics of Mezcal produced per state.

In the aforementioned report by El Financiero, they make the comparison between the size of the DO Mezcal and that of the Romanée-Conti wine, which is barely 18 square km. However, they fail to analyze that “wine” is a generic term used all over the world and “Romanée-Conti” is the AOC (Appellation of Controlled Origin) which is the equivalent to the DO. This correct comparison would be if “Mezcal” was followed by the place of origin, such as: “Mezcal de San Dionisio Ocotepec” or “Mezcal Matateco” rather than the generic term mezcal. This would actually refer to a product from a specific region, with particular characteristics in its production and socio-cultural environment, of a given quality and, therefore, a corresponding price range.

In an interview with Jorge Amigo published in CRM magazine, who was the first director of the IMPI and who was in charge of the creation of the DO Mezcal, he acknowledges that from the beginning they had foreseen problems with the designation of the DO because mezcal was the generic term for the agave distillates produced in several regions of Mexico. He also mentions that there was a proposal to “regionalize” the DO, such as “Mezcal de Oaxaca” or “Mezcal de Guerrero” but that the problem with this would be that it left the door open for “Mezcal from the USA” or Mezcal from any other part of the world regardless of tradition, process, or of the fact of where the agave originated. Something of a “lose-lose” situation for mezcal and its traditional producers.

The production of agave spirits in other countries was completely inevitable and having a DO as big as it is makes the product lack particularities that would otherwise identify and differentiate it against foreign products. New producers and products tend to generalize and seek to fit into an existing “successful” model without consideration for cultural or gastronomic factors. Their concern is to appeal to a certain market rather than to follow the tradition and flavors unique to their regions. We consider that Mezcal should be considered a generic denomination and that smaller regions should be designated by their historical tradition, unique characteristics, and their accomplishments, such as “Mezcal Minero of Santa Catarina”. Furthermore, denominations with their own unique regions and characteristics should be encouraged and promoted, as is the case with Bacanora and Raicilla.

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Source: milenio.com, diariomarca.com.mx, agavache.com

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