The Agave Shortage of 2017 Is Worse Than We Thought

We tried to pretend it didn’t already exist.

Articles on an impending agave shortage had been showing up since late 2015, but we thought safety precautions were in place.  The Consejo Regulador del Tequila (CRT) had it all handled.

Then, this happened…

The Agave Shortage of 2017 Is Worse Than We Thoughthttp://wp.me/p3u1xi-4DZ

Snow In Arandas

On March 10, 2016, Arandas, Jalisco, Mexico, considered part of the all-important Agave Golden Triangle of Tequila (Atotonilco, Tepatitlán, Arandas and Jesús María), woke up to this–

The Agave Shortage of 2017 Is Worse Than We Thoughthttp://wp.me/p3u1xi-4DZ

An anomaly that has occurred only twice in 100 years.

Beautiful, yes.

We couldn’t look away.

Then, fear stuck.

Would this weather phenomenon increase the odds of a real agave shortage?

Initial reports like this one from revered agavero and tequilero, Felipe Camarena Curiel (Pasote, ArteNOM 1579) on his Facebook page, made us breathe a sigh of relief.

“The conditions of 1997, [the last major agave shortage that shook the Tequila Industry] and the most recent one, were very different.

“In 1997, the low temperatures affected the entire state of Jalisco, reaching -17 C (1.4 F) in Los Altos for a considerable amount of time, freezing the shallow roots of 1-to-3 year old agave and provoking the anticipated maturing [flowering] of the surviving agave.

“The current [snowfall] affected some municipalities in Los Altos de Jalisco, but not the entire state.  The temperatures were not so low and they rapidly returned to normal.

“Of course, in very concentrated areas, there will be total losses.

“We’ll know the magnitude of the damage in the next few days, but in my personal opinion, in the long run, it [the loss; damage] won’t be as grave as that of 1997.”

The Agave Shortage of 2017 Is Worse Than We Thoughthttp://wp.me/p3u1xi-4DZ

[“Las condiciones de 1997 y las recientes fueron muy diferentes.

“En 1997 la temperatura baja afectó a todo el Estado de Jalisco, llegando en los Altos a -17°C por un tiempo considerable, congelando las raices poco profundas de los agaves de 1 a 3 años y provocando madurez anticipada de agave que sobrevivió.

“La actual afectó a algunos municipios de los Altos de Jalisco, no a todo el Estado.  Las temperaturas no fueron tan bajas y se recuperaron rápidamente.

“Por supuesto en áreas muy focalizadas habrá pérdidas totales.

“La magnitud del daño lo sabremos en los próximos dias pero mi opinión personal es que el daño no será ni lejos tan grave como en 1997.”]

Not everyone in the Camarena family was so cautiously optimistic.

In this blog post from the UK, Carlos Camarena, Felipe’s brother and master distiller of Tapatío tequila, warned a roomful of British bartenders, “…buy up tequila now as in 3 to 5 years there will be a worldwide tequila shortage.”

Blame Global Warming

In a thought provoking post by Clayton Szczech via his website, he firmly attributes the weather aberration to global warming.The Agave Shortage of 2017 Is Worse Than We Thoughthttp://wp.me/p3u1xi-4DZ

With accelerated climate change comes the uncertainty of once predictable annual weather patterns reported Alquimia Tequila’s owner and organic agavero, Dr. Adolfo Murillo, via its Facebook page.

“…we have been talking about [global warming] for some time now.  This is man’s effect on our Mother Earth.  Will our agaves survive?”

That Didn’t Take Long

By April 2016, articles like the one referenced above were reissued to drive home the possibility of an agave shortage, whether real or rigged.

By late June to early July 2016, confirmed reports reached this office of transnational corporations locking in major contracts with medium sized maquiladoras (distilleries that produce tequila for various other brands) to provide them with enormous quantities of tequila to be bottled under their labels.

By mid-August, confirmed reports reached us verifying that other distilleries were already hiking their prices to their clients in anticipation of, or in answer to, an increase in agave prices.

By late October 2016, other well known brands were feeling the squeeze of a spike in agave prices.

What We Know

Reliable sources tell us that estimates of agave losses are ranging in the millions of plants.

The Agave Shortage of 2017 Is Worse Than We Thoughthttp://wp.me/p3u1xi-4DZWhile initial reports stated the snowfall reached only 1-3 centimeters [.093 to 1.96 inches], there are now unsubstantiated claims of up to 8 inches of snow had actually fallen in many areas of the Los Altos region.

Unsubstantiated reports reached this office in mid-July 2016 of small agave farmers selling off up to 2 year old agaves before they completely rotted in the fields.

There are also unconfirmed reports of agricultural engineers recommending a scorched earth solution to these small farmers.

Hectares of agave fields are to be plowed under and burned due the danger of crops being infected by the dreaded snout-nosed weevil that prefer to lay their eggs inside weakened plants.

These same small farmers are reluctant to take such a heavy financial hit and would rather sell off what they can rather than destroy their rapidly wilting crops.

Due to the agave glut 7-8 years ago, many other growers stopped planting agave.  Now, because of the unexpected freeze, brokers (coyotes) are scrambling to meet demand.

At this writing, master agave growers are said to be demanding $3.00 per pound for their piñas–and getting it!

Don’t Hate the Game–Hate the Player

Who will survive?

As per usual, any pedigreed distillery with their own agave estates will ensure The Agave Shortage of 2017 Is Worse Than We Thoughthttp://wp.me/p3u1xi-4DZthat their flagship brands have plenty of plants and juice on hand.

Those maquiladoras that grow agave should also be able to ride out the storm.

Of course, the Big Boys, those transnational corporations with deep pockets, will also pull through, and even thrive.  As we mentioned above, they’ve been busy securing long term contracts since late spring and early summer 2016.

Those brands that are considered handcrafted, small batch, and micro-distilled tequilas should also prevail since the vast majority only produce enough for their own labels.

Virtually any master agave grower who tended his fields properly will prosper The Agave Shortage of 2017 Is Worse Than We Thoughthttp://wp.me/p3u1xi-4DZduring this looming crisis.

Who won’t?

Those short-term players with little or no experience who were only in it to make a quick buck.

But, this is a good thing, according to Patrón tequila’s Chief Marketing Officer, Lee Applbaum in this article.

Basically, Applebaum asserts, the shakeout of short-term growers will ensure that the market maintains plenty of quality juice while preventing the dilution of the ultra-premium category that Patrón covets so deeply.

Ante Up

The Agave Shortage of 2017 Is Worse Than We Thoughthttp://wp.me/p3u1xi-4DZ

So, what will drive tequila prices up?

Freezing snow?

The weevil?

Amateur agave growers?

A blue agave shortage?

All of the above.  The simple economics of supply and demand.

But, there’s a new scourge in Tequila Town, and this one is set to be a real thorn in the sides of the Big Boys.

They’re called…

Los Mieleros

Sources report that representatives of large pharmaceutical companies have courted well-respected agaveros for their brix-rich piñas to be used for inulin production, a projected $2.4 billion industry by 2024.

The Agave Shortage of 2017 Is Worse Than We Thoughthttp://wp.me/p3u1xi-4DZ

These same sources confirm that Los Mieleros have consistently and extravagantly outbid tequileros for their agave in just the past few years.

The option for large tequila producers to raid Oaxacan mezcaleros for their espadin like they did back in the mid-1980s, and as Sarah Bowen documented on page 46 of her book, Divided Spirits:  Tequila, Mezcal and the Politics of Production, is gone.  The current burgeoning Mezcal Industry will see to that.

In the meantime, get ready to ante up.

The 2017 Agave Shortage is much worse than we thought.

Learn all about tequila from field to glass and then get paid to share your love of agave spirits with others! Buy Them Both Now!

The Top 20 Craft Tequilas You’ve Overlooked

USA_Today_comIn early August of 2016, I received an email from USA Today asking me to weigh in on their craft spirits-themed Readers’ Choice contests, and in our case (at press time), the soon-to-be-launched craft tequilas list.

I’ll be honest, I dread these lists.  What’s worse is, I dread being asked to participate in compiling them.

Let me tell you why.

It’s A List

In the Digital Age, everyone wants things in bite sized form and they want it now.  It is also proven that numbered lists draw attention.  And, there are so many of them out there on the Interwebs–

Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover…

The 10 Best Ways to Cheat On Your Mate…

Six Ways Your Cat Plots to Kill You…

A Word About Your Sins

Ever wonder why those numbered titles are so enticing?7-deadly-sins

It’s because they are aimed at the 7 Deadly Sins.

A steadfast rule of copywriters is to compose content that elicits an emotional response from readers to take action.

To drive your particular sin even further to cause you to read the content, the word YOU is hammered into every title.

[Editor’s note:  See what I did with my title?  You choose which sin fits best for YOU.]

Craft Is A Buzzword

As we thoroughly examined in our reports, Craft Tequila:  WTF Does That Mean? Parts 1 and 2, the term craft has been kidnapped by marketers writing fancy copy to confuse the consumer.

Only 10?

gato sorprendido

While the instructions in the email required at least 20 selections from me, the contest will butcher the selections down to only 10–

Selected by those who are unaware of what a craft tequila really is, and…

Curated by someone whose job it is to find ways to engage USA Today’s readers.

It’s A Contest

check-list-red-wfjgrkbmmkvlWhen our COO, Lisa Pietsch, examined the contest website and the myriad of other pre-existing lists, she found that this is a clever way for USA Today to increase reader engagement.

Reader engagement translates to readers’ time spent on USA Today’s mammoth website, which in turn translates to money they charge advertisers.

The term we use is “sticky” as in spider’s web sticky.

Which leads me to–

Paid Advertisers 

Having been paid to ghost write Editor’s Choice lists in the past, I am fully aware that many times, spirits sponsors of major magazines and websites tend to sneak onto them.

This, despite my vehement objections to the editors that such a move invalidates the list altogether.

So, before any of the Usual Suspects wind up on USA Today’s 10 Best Readers’ Choice Awards Craft Tequilas list, here are my selections.  Bear in mind, I was limited to only twenty brands.

The Top 20 Craft Tequilas You’ve Overlooked

In no particular order…

  1. Fortaleza
  2. T1 Tequila Uno
  3. Tears of Llorana
  4. Suerte
  5. Siembra Azul
  6. Siembra Valles
  7. Tapatio
  8. Tequila G4
  9. ArteNOM 1414
  10. ArteNOM 1580
  11. ArteNOM 1146
  12. ArteNOM 1549
  13. Trianon
  14. Pasote
  15. Embajador
  16. Alquimia
  17. DesMaDre
  18. Dulce Vida
  19. Don Fulano
  20. IXA

The Fallout

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Whether any of my selections make the cut, remains to be seen.

Depending on who the other “tequila experts” were that contributed to the final list to be voted on, the results, if nothing else, should be interesting.

One thing is for certain–

Not everyone will be happy.

Learn all about tequila from field to glass and then get paid to share your love of agave spirits with others! Buy Them Both Now!

Last Tequila Standing: Tasting a Vertical Flight

 

Alquimia Tequila

Alquimia Tequila is an ultra premium award-winning organic tequila. Our handcrafted product is 100 % natural, USDA Certified Organic, made of 100% blue agave Tequilana Weber. All of our certified organic agave is estate grown on our family ranch in Arandas, Jalisco, Mexico.

We carefully select the best and healthiest agaves, only harvesting plants that are at their peak of quality and ripeness. Our quality control process demands that we closely monitor the cooking, fermentation and distillation at every single step. This ensures that our tequilas are consistently of the highest quality possible.

Our project is completely sustainable and eco-friendly. Our tequilas are bottled in specially designed bottles made of recycled glass by a family of glass blowers in Tonalá, Jalisco. All aspects of our artisanal production reflect a proper balance of the old world and the new: a combination of alchemy, modern science, and rich culture. The making of Tequila Alquimia is just as much an art as it is a science.

Our tequilas have won a total of 25 gold medals in the past 5 years in the two most prestigious international spirits competitions: the San Francisco World Spirits Competition and the Chicago Beverage Testing Institutes International Review of Spirits. Tequila Alquimia was also voted the #1 new tequila by GQ Magazine’s men.style.com.

As a family owned company, Tequila Alquimia allows us to contribute to our communities, both in the United States and in Mexico. Tequila Alquimia is our vehicle for the promotion of organics and sustainable agriculture. Our organic protocol, which we teach to growers throughout Mexico, is the tool we use to improve the quality of our soils, protect the health of the farm workers and consumers, and make a positive impact on the environment.

We hope you enjoy our tequila as much as we have enjoyed bringing it to you.
¡Salud!

Learn all about tequila from field to glass and then get paid to share your love of agave spirits with others! Buy Them Both Now!

Last Tequila Standing: Alquimia Natural Margarita

 

Alquimia Tequila

Alquimia Tequila is an ultra premium award-winning organic tequila. Our handcrafted product is 100 % natural, USDA Certified Organic, made of 100% blue agave Tequilana Weber. All of our certified organic agave is estate grown on our family ranch in Arandas, Jalisco, Mexico.

We carefully select the best and healthiest agaves, only harvesting plants that are at their peak of quality and ripeness. Our quality control process demands that we closely monitor the cooking, fermentation and distillation at every single step. This ensures that our tequilas are consistently of the highest quality possible.

Our project is completely sustainable and eco-friendly. Our tequilas are bottled in specially designed bottles made of recycled glass by a family of glass blowers in Tonalá, Jalisco. All aspects of our artisanal production reflect a proper balance of the old world and the new: a combination of alchemy, modern science, and rich culture. The making of Tequila Alquimia is just as much an art as it is a science.

Our tequilas have won a total of 25 gold medals in the past 5 years in the two most prestigious international spirits competitions: the San Francisco World Spirits Competition and the Chicago Beverage Testing Institutes International Review of Spirits. Tequila Alquimia was also voted the #1 new tequila by GQ Magazine’s men.style.com.

As a family owned company, Tequila Alquimia allows us to contribute to our communities, both in the United States and in Mexico. Tequila Alquimia is our vehicle for the promotion of organics and sustainable agriculture. Our organic protocol, which we teach to growers throughout Mexico, is the tool we use to improve the quality of our soils, protect the health of the farm workers and consumers, and make a positive impact on the environment.

We hope you enjoy our tequila as much as we have enjoyed bringing it to you.
¡Salud!

Learn all about tequila from field to glass and then get paid to share your love of agave spirits with others! Buy Them Both Now!

How to Get Paid to Drink Tequila:

How you can turn your passion into profits and get paid to drink tequila as a blogger, vlogger, podcaster or author

 

Salud!!