Tequila: Laws & Regulations

02. The Official Denomination of Origin

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In 1974, an official denominación de origen, or Denomination of Origin” (DO), was established, making Mexico the official home of tequila.

Established by countries to protect indigenous products and prevent unfair competition, DO is the term used within Mexico to identify a product that originates within, and is produced exclusively by, a certain region of the country. The term is fluid depending on organization and country. The World Trade Organization uses the title Geographical Indications, defined as: place names (in some countries also words associated with a place) used to identify products that come from these places and have these characteristics,” citing Champagne, Roquefort and Tequila as prime examples. Other terms include (but are not limited to):

  • Appellation of Origin (AO)
  • Protected Geographical Indications (PGI)
  • Protected Designation of Origin (PDO)

A field of Weber Blue Agave with a mountainous ridge in the background

100% WEBER BLUE AGAVE — Growing in the highlands of Jalisco.

Once limited to sites of European production, these geographical indications have expanded all over the world, and today there are countless examples relating to crops, food, food products, and beverages of many types. These regulated areas are chosen on the basis of two factors: geographical factors, including weather, altitude, longitude, and soil characteristics; and human factors, which cover the use of traditional production techniques developed and shared from generation to generation. Having a DO for a product creates a direct connection between the quality and characteristics of the product and the place where it comes from and prevents the appellation from becoming a generic name.

Taking its name from the town of Tequila – the center of historic tequila production– tequila was the first internationally recognized Denomination of Origin for a region outside of Europe. The DO prescribes where tequila can be made, what it can be made from, where its raw material must be grown, and many other aspects of the production and marketing of tequila. The DO for tequila does not apply to the many spirit producers making distillates from other agave species and agave grown in other regions, which go by other names and in some cases have their own DO (we will discuss this in the Other Notable Mexican Distillates” chapter).

A map of Mexico highlighting Jalisco and other tequila-producing regions in green

TEQUILA-PRODUCING REGIONS

Tequila producers can use Weber Blue agave from 5 different states of Mexico. All of Jalisco & the shaded regions of the 4 other states are included in the DO.


Tequila’s DO originally specified that the spirit can only be made in the following municipalities (akin to a US county) in the following states:

30 IN MUNICIPALITIES MICHOACÁN

  • Briseñas de Matamoro
  • Chavinda
  • Chilchota
  • Churintzio
  • Cotija
  • Ecuandureo
  • Jacona
  • Jiquilpan
  • Maravatío
  • Marcos Castellanos
  • Nuevo Parangaricutiro
  • Numarán
  • Pajacuarán
  • Peribán
  • La Piedad
  • Régules
  • Los Reyes
  • Sahuayo
  • Tancítaro
  • Tangamandapio
  • Tangancicuaro
  • Tanhuato
  • Tinguindín
  • Tocumbo
  • Venustiano Carranza
  • Villa Mar
  • Vista Hermosa
  • Yurécuaro
  • Zamora
  • Zináparo

8 IN NAYARIT

  • Ahuacatlan
  • Amatlan de Cañas
  • Ixtlan del Rio 
  • Jala
  • Jalisco
  • San Pedro de Lagunillas
  • Santa Maria del Oro
  • Tepic

7 IN GUANAJUATO

  • Abasolo
  • Cd. Manuel Doblado
  • Cueramaro
  • Huanimaro
  • Penjamo
  • Purisima del Rincon
  • Romita

125 IN JALISCO

  • (i.e., the entire state)

Not part of the original 1974 declaration, Tamaulipas was added in 1977 after proving their production traditions aligned with those from Jalisco. 11 municipalities in Tamaulipas are now allowed to call their tequila tequila.”

11 MUNICIPALITIES IN TAMAULIPAS

  • Aldama
  • Altamira
  • Antiguo Morelos
  • Gomez Farias
  • Gonzalez
  • Llera
  • Mante
  • Nuevo Morelos
  • Ocampo
  • Tula
  • Xicotencatl

The Denomination of Origin for tequila is protected in key international markets. In 1958, The Lisbon Agreement established the framework for international acceptance of protected terms and all 24 countries involved in the agreement acknowledged the DO for tequila when it was established in 1974.

In addition to legally binding consortiums, there are also a number of organizations in the non-governmental sector that uphold multilateral agreements, and advocate on behalf of regional organizations, such as the Organization for an International Geographical Indications Network (OriGIn), a Swiss-based NGO that represents over 2 million producers in 40 countries. The World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Trade-Related (TRIPS) offers the same protection. The U.S. and Canada both recognized tequila as a DO in 1994 when the NAFTA agreement was enacted (and in exchange, Mexico recognized American Bourbon). The EU accepted this later in 1997 (and registered the spirit as a formal GI in 2019). Brazil finally recognized the GI in February 2019 (after first filing for protection in 2008). The CRT cites that today tequila is defined, registered and protected in 50 countries.