[caption id="attachment_5627" align="alignnone" width="1024"] The remains of the holidays[/caption] I know, I know, it’s almost February and we’re just writing about Christmas? I get it, it’s been a busy month what with the Fancy Food Show and setting up all the tastings over the coming months. But before February actually arrives here’s a quick recap of Christmas in Oaxaca.
[caption id="attachment_5537" align="alignnone" width="768"] The tasting and menu.[/caption] In early November I was fortunate enough to attend a Sagrantino de Montefalco tasting at Perbacco. Sagrantino is the grape, Montefalco the region within Umbria in Central Italy. This small appellation doesn't get much exposure outside of the wine world. Not much is made, the price point reflects that, and the structure of these wines cries out for the cured meats, wild boar, and pastas particular to Umbria. That shouldn’t deter you from trying it because Sagrantinos are truly fantastic and unique. But this is a mezcal blog so what do they have to do with mezcal?
It was a fabulous three weeks in Oaxaca that now feels simultaneously like I was there for forever and that it was all a dream. I'll just sum it up in five words-- so much damn good mezcal. Max did a great little write up about how the mezcaleria scene is changing, with differentiation coming in style and design and of course breadth of offerings. To my great dismay, I was not able to get to Cuish to see live and in person their newly revamped space. By all accounts, it is beautiful and is at the top of my list when I return. I have such high regard for what Felix Hernandez Monterrosa and Hilda Martinez Popoca have done for mezcal in Oaxaca. When they opened their doors in 2011,
[caption id="attachment_5577" align="alignnone" width="768"] The Mexico pavilion at the Fancy Food Show 2017[/caption] Monday Susan and I spent much of the day wandering the cavern known as Moscone Center in downtown San Francisco attending the annual Winter Fancy Food Show. There are hundreds of vendors hawking every food item imaginable, after a few hours you can’t help but be overwhelmed by all the pitches. It’s easy to drift into thoughts about late capitalism and commodity culture because so many of the foods are so similar and just one of them will probably break through, if any.
It's a new calendar year and things are changing for mezcal. As we all hold our breath this Friday we do know a few things, and all of them have some impact on the mezcal world.
It's never been so cheap to create a mezcal brandThere are more mezcal brands on the market in the United States than ever before. With the growing interest in the cocktail space and even the retail world, the business case is there and brands are being built to fill niches in the market. We routinely talk to distillers, brand creators, and others who are interested in creating or bringing a mezcal brand into the United States. In Mexico there are even more brands, so many that it’s been difficult to even imagine what’s going on in the mezcalosphere. That points to one fascinating contradiction in our moment: The production is there, the business interest is there, arguably the consumer interest is also there. But there are some big questions.
You know that with mezcal's surging popularity Oaxaca is seeing lots of tourists who want to taste and learn about mezcal so you’d expect the town to boast some of the world’s best mezcalerias. That’s true in resplendent variety. There’s Mezcaloteca’s very structured tasting environment. In Situ’s rough and ready bar. Txalaparta's mezcaleria within a hookah bar. Amantes’ old time store front replete with resident guitarist. And then there are all the restaurants that feature great mezcal selections. We could go on, just check our Where to Drink Mezcal in Oaxaca for a great guide. Here's our latest updated map.
[caption id="attachment_5494" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Rays of sunlight in the struggle for sustainability?[/caption] We all knew that the big liquor companies were coming to mezcal. Zignum, Beneva, and others have been around for a while but the really big distributors like Diageo jumped into the game last year, signing a distribution deal with Mezcal Union, while Pernod Ricard sounds like it's launching a mezcal in the next few months.
In the dead of summer when the rest of us were at the beach, the Guelaguetza, or sundry other trips the CRM released a new web site at mezcal.com. They were so quiet about it that we only really noticed last month. The site is completely redesigned to be much more consumer friendly, the old CRM site remains its old stodgy self while mezcal.com is building a bridge to the people that drink mezcal around the world.