In 1994, a Denominacion for Origen (DO) was created for mezcal. This has allowed Mexico to claim ownership of the word Mezcal.
In a very general sense, mezcal is like the term “wine,” because anything fermented from grapes is considered wine. In most states in Mexico someone is making a spirit from the agave plant and most of them call it mezcal. Legally mezcal has a different definition. The DO defines what regions are included based on the cultural heritage and history of production within those areas. As currently defined, Mezcal can only be made in 10 states in Mexico and has to be certified by semi-governmental organizations that have been tasked with regulating the category. They are the ones who determine when an agave spirit has been certified as legal mezcal and that the word Mezcal can be used on a label.
Currently, the following states have been included in the DO, though it is important to note that in most of those regions, only specific areas or municipalities have been granted entry into the DO.
- San Luis Potosi
Mexico is home to the greatest diversity of agave species on the planet, and is endemic to more than 250 varieties. The state of Oaxaca has the greatest diversity of agave in Mexico and produces the majority of mezcal found in the market.