Tequila to take centre stage during expo

BLAME it on Jimmy (Wastin' Away in Margaritaville) Buffet if you want; but tequila just doesn't get the respect it deserves.

However, Eric Lorenz and the team of heavy hitters behind the fast approaching First Annual Vancouver International Tequila Expo (VITÉ), May 12 at VTCC, are out to change that - not to mention expose us to the remarkable range of styles and origins that Mexico's national spirit enjoys.

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Buying spirits of any kind in B.C. has never been an exactly joyous undertaking.

Slowly but surely, however, the range of products available is broadening and improving, as more retailers (and importers) get into the game. And the upcoming Tequila Expo - under the auspices and sponsorship of the Mexico Tourism Board, ProMexico and the Consulate General of Mexico in Vancouver - will only serve to advance the cause.

The other prime sponsor is Las Margaritas - long known, officially or otherwise - as the one place where you could go in Vancouver to taste serious tequila.

The May 12 daylong festival of seminars and cultural celebrations concludes with a Grand Tasting, 6-9 p.m., which will offer samples of several well known tequila brands as well as some harder to find drops. For tickets go to www. ticketstonight.ca.

You likely won't find anyone not only as passionate but also as knowledgable as Lorenz, who's fast becoming Canada's tequila ambassador. Aside from being a truly articulate educator, he's also involved in some truly fascinating research documenting the earliest origins of agave fermenting and (much later period) distillation.

"Most people, when they consider tequila, don't think about the history of agave spirits. But it actually has a place in pre-history," says Lorenz, who notes there is evidence of "ubiquitous" early agave-pit roasting sites ranging from Arizona all the way down to Honduras - with one of the earliest known dating from around 5,000 B.C., in Texas' Big Bend National Park.

In fact, the world's original six seats of civilization themselves and fermentation are "inextricably intertwined" suggests Lorenz. And he has a pretty powerful thesis which he'll present as part of his seminar "Ancient Origins of Agave Spirits."

Lorenz, whose academic background is in anthropology, says it's entirely possible that the discovery of fermentation was sufficient to bring about the very behaviour that changed us from hunter gatherers to sedentary beings who took up agriculture.

But it wasn't just for kicks.

"Early people didn't just consume agave for the buzz," says the anthropologist turned agave guru.

"It was very much about discovering an altered mental state that amounted to a spiritual endeavour that could move them closer to their god(s) - and motivated them to change their lives," he offers.

"Tequila is a spirit with a protected Denomination of Origin (D.O.) status like those of Cognac, Armagnac, single malt Scotch and Champagne," explains Lorenz. "It derives from a unique mix of Old World and New World tradition, with centuries if not millennia of rich history in every glass."

In fact, single malt drinkers, who often dismiss tequila's short aging techniques, should remember that the agave plant itself can take as much as a decade to mature, says spirits authority Charlotte Voisy.

Lorenz promises "The Vancouver International Tequila Expo is going to elevate the perception of this bold, tradition-laden, worldclass spirit in our province."

See you there!

More info at www. vancouvertequilaexpo.com.

...

- Fidencio Classico Mezcal Joven

Last fall, Lorenz introduced us to several Mezcals, some of which were quite reminiscent of single malt, including this complex, gently smoky and tangy peppery toned, five day pit-roasted, open vatfermented and twice-distilled spirit, made from 10-year-old biodynamically grown agave; BCLS $79.99.

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