Agave Growth and Harvesting

03. Agave Tequilana

03

Agave Tequilana

Before tequila became the defined and regulated spirit it is today, producers made mezcal de tequila from many varieties of wild agave (23 species of agave, including the most common agave angustifolia, agave schidigera and agave maximiliana, grow within Jalisco). Growers were cultivating plants as early as the mid-1700s, when producers like Jose Cuervo began establishing formal distilleries on haciendas in Jalisco. It wasn’t until the late nineteenth century that Weber Blue agave, a variety named after German botanist Frederic Albert Constantin Weber, became the dominant variety used for making tequila.

Farmers and distillers favored Weber Blue agave for many reasons: the plant had a better resistance to disease than other kinds of agave, it took fewer years to reach maturity than most; and had a high sugar content, making it ideal for producing spirits. Significantly, Weber Blue also has an unusually high production rate of hijuelos — rhizomal offshoots that are used to propagate new agave plants, meaning reproduction could happen more frequently.

Remember, by 1949, the norma de calidad de tequila established the blue agave as the main variety utilized in the production of tequila but still allowed the use of other varieties, and in 1976 the rule was amended to include two classifications for tequila: 100% de agave — in which all of the fermentable sugars used in formulation must come from the Weber Blue agave plant — and simply tequila,” which allows a percentage of sugar from other sources to be included.

Today, the plants used in tequila production must be cultivated from within the Denomination of Origin of Tequila, have to be registered with the CRT within a year of their planting, and must conform with the NOM from harvest to arrival to the tequila distillery.

A photo of stacked hijelos

HIJUELOS Rhizomal offshoots commonlyused to propagate agave plants.