Bertha Gonzalez Nieves speaks to Food & Wine on the regulation of agave farming

Here’s how they keep track of 340 million plants.

Deep in the highlands of Jalisco, the scrubland slopes are filled with smallholdings. Farmers there tend spiky blue agaves, much the same way as they have for generations. They coax them to maturity for several years, a labor-intensive process aimed at producing a hearty core, or piña, that can be roasted in prep for tequila-making. It’s a cottage industry, and one that—at least at first—seems almost determinedly retro.

Bertha Gonzalez Nieves is a maestra tequilera and the co-founder of ultra-premium Casa Dragones. She has seen the painstaking, high tech process first hand. “I spent days trying to understand the process. You got with a verifier to a field, and they measure one side to another, then count the lines [of plants], then do a mathematical equation which they use to catalog the number of plants,” she marvels. “It gives you a sense of how well run the appellation of origin is.”

“From my perspective, because we’re Mexican, we have a certain reputation, perhaps that people think we can’t be that formal,” says Bertha Gonzalez-Nieves, “It makes sure that when it says the word tequila on the label, it’s in sync with the appellation of origin. This shows how we’re really serious about our spirit.” Pause and consider that the next time you’re sipping a margarita.

You can read the full article on Food & Wine here.