Norma Oficial Mexicana 070
In April, 2017, the Consejo Regulador de Mezcal (CRM) implemented the first revision of the Norma Oficial Mexicana 070 (NOM 070) since the inception of the Denomination of Origin of Mezcal in 1995. NOM 070 provides the compulsory standards and regulations for the category of Mezcal and since 1995 this NOM was strikingly similar to NOM 006, the equivalent regulation for the category of Tequila. The revisions to NOM 070 were first proposed in 2015 and the goal was to create a Norma created specifically for the category of Mezcal that would protect the producers while providing category designations and labeling requirements that would make information more readily available to the consumer. The announcement of the proposed revisions was then followed by a period of discussion during which there were a series of meetings that provided producers throughout the DO an opportunity to offer opinions and feedback about the proposed revisions. During this time traditional mezcal producers, including the producers of Del Maguey, organized and advocated for modifications to the proposed revisions that would protect the culture of artesanal mezcal. This organization of mezcaleros successfully advocated for the removal of restrictions on the levels of acidity, the backbone in the spirit of Mezcal. However, at the same time, lesser-known amendments were made to NOM 070 that are affecting artesanal producers throughout the Denomination of Origin of Mezcal. As a result of these amendments, over the next few months you will see an increase in the ABV of some expressions of Del Maguey and we would like to explain why.
The revision of NOM 070 resulted in new restrictions on the levels of furfural and methanol in Mezcal. Furfural and methanol contribute to the flavors and textures that we have all grown to love in traditional Mezcal. They are necessary and essential components of this beloved beverage.
Chemical components in Furfural and Methanol
Furfural is an organic compound that occurs during traditional heat treatments such as cooking, canning and jarring. During the distillation of Mezcal, furfural appears towards the colas, or tails. Previously the CRM did not regulate this compound and the TTB (Alcohol and Tax Tobacco and Trade Bureau) and FDA (Food and Drug Administration) place no limitations on levels of furfural. Methanol is an alcohol that is derived from pectin and fructan, two components that occur naturally in agave. The new restrictions that have been placed on methanol by the CRM are significantly lower than the restrictions that are in place through the TTB and the FDA.
Del Maguey had a few options to consider in order to be compliant with the new restrictions. The most common and easiest way to reduce furfural and methanol is to proof your mezcal with water. None of the Del Maguey producers have ever added water to their mezcal post distillation. Instead the bottling proof of our mezcals is obtained through a combination of the heart of the run and the first part of the colas (tails) where furfural and methanol are most prevalent. Del Maguey is a company committed to preserving traditional production practices thus to consider the addition of water to any of our mezcals is not a viable possibility for our organization.
Other alternatives for compliance would require manipulating fermentation through the addition of nutrients or inoculation with proprietary yeast strains. The Del Maguey producers are committed to open-air fermentation using ambient yeasts, so this too was not an option.
After months of investigations, the answer that would allow for us to maintain the integrity of the traditional processes of our producers while being compliant with the new regulations of the CRM is to raise the proof of a few Del Maguey expressions. By raising the proof we will be minimizing the use of colas that will enable us to meet the new requirements in regards to methanol and furfural while still maintaining the traditional processes of our producers.
You will begin to see a few Del Maguey expressions with a new ABV in the coming weeks. The first will be Chichicapa which will now be at 48%. The flavors you love will still be intact in each expression but expect a richer mouth-feel and texture. The Chichicapa you have been enjoying until now had been certified previous to the changes in NOM 070 and was in full compliance with the CRM.
Even as we make adjustments in order to comply with the Consejo, we are dedicated to bringing you mezcals of the highest quality steeped in history and tradition. We look forward to continuing to work with fellow producers within the DO to advocate for Normas that protect traditional mezcal.
If you have any questions about the choices we have made or the changes that will be taking place, please feel free to email Misty Kalkofen at firstname.lastname@example.org and Steve Olson at email@example.com