Tequila regulatory body stresses the importance of respecting Geographical Indications of origin

17 March, 2021

Picture this scenario: a world-famous alcoholic drinks brand launches what it calls a “Tequila-flavoured” product, with the aim of persuading consumers that they are enjoying a drink with the purest expression of the country of Mexico.

Imagining that they are experiencing the authentic taste of Tequila, the consumer is transported thousands of miles from their home in Germany, or France, or the UK – all the way to the agave fields of Mexico. It’s hardly surprising that the product becomes a huge success.

But there’s a problem. Despite what it says on the label, the product does not contain authentic Tequila, and it isn’t authorised to use the Tequila Geographical Indication (GI) by the Mexican Government. Instead, it disrespects Tequila’s good name by transforming this great drink into nothing more than a commercial flavouring agent. Ask yourself: would this be fair?

It takes centuries, and a combination of proud tradition and great craftsmanship, for each region to develop the local products that become its essence. This unique expression of place and local identity unites all those who are part of it, and recognises and rewards their hard work and skill. It also offers the consumer a guarantee of quality and authenticity.

So, when someone violates the rules in order to exploit the reputation of a product recognised and protected by its GI or Denomination of Origin, it’s more than just an assault on the efforts of all the people involved in upholding that product’s long heritage and tradition.

It is nothing less than an attack that threatens the entire regulatory framework of GIs and Appellations of Origin throughout Europe. After all, if the precise purpose of this framework is to protect products from copycats and imitators, how can such a threat be allowed to go unchallenged?

There are more than 300 protected GI names for spirit drinks in the UK alone, from multi-billion dollar industries such as Scotch whisky and Cognac, to the proud tradition of local products like the grappas of Italy, the aquavits of the Nordics and the fruit liqueurs of central Europe. In the European Union as a whole, there are something like 3,500 appellations of origin in total. Their combined value? A total of up to EUR75trn a year.

In its simplest form, a Denomination of Origin is a label that tells a consumer where a product comes from. But it’s much more than that: GIs give everyone in the supply chain – no matter how big or small – a guarantee of that product’s specific origin and, in turn, an exclusive identity that will attract the consumer. The contribution that such products make to the local industries that create them is huge, as is the recognition they offer.

Such a violation of European Union legislation doesn’t just pose a risk to the system of Appellations of Origin in Europe; it also threatens the livelihoods of all the families, farmers, producers and workers involved in making the product in the first place.

What is more, it is a strike against the hard work of governments and regulatory authorities to ensure that GI and appellation rules of origin are complied with. Any attack on such a certified product, wherever in the world it takes place, is an assault on a long chain of companies, authorities and individuals involved in the creation and protection of that product.

The GI protection model adopted by Mexico and by many other countries around the world was inspired by and aims to emulate the model developed in the European Union. It has been a great success in Mexico not only for Tequila, but for all of the 18 Denominations of Origin that now exist in the country.

For Tequila, it protects the livelihoods of more than 70,000 families directly involved in Tequila production, and more than 20,000 farmers, providing a huge boost to the regional economy and tourism. In short, Tequila has become one of the most important and emblematic products in Mexico – but now that hard-won status is under threat.

Preserving and protecting the system of Protected Appellations of Origin and Geographical Indications is the fundamental duty of all of those involved in the supply chain. By doing so, they offer a guarantee of the quality, authenticity and origin of all GI products, in the EU and beyond. They also allow the consumer to taste, discover and enjoy the culture and tradition – the essence, if you will – of a truly authentic local product.

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