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Milennials, the Craft Spirits Movement and PiscoLogia

hand harvest, pisco grapes, quebranta, acholado, piscologia, peruvian pisco, craft pisco, craft liquor, craft spirits

 

Several recent studies have shown that Millennials are drinking less alcohol in the USA, Australia, the U.K., and many European countries (Pattani). According to Forbes, Millennial drinkers are also paying more for higher quality “craft” beer and spirits (Nurin). We feel Millenials’ demand for specialty booze is setting a positive trend for the future, so let’s discuss what “craft” means and how it relates to PiscoLogía.

 

What is craft liquor? In our opinion, the authority on this subject is Craft Distillers. They describe the craft method as: “the creative individuality of a single human being working with small, hand-operated equipment”. They also mention that these methods are the antithesis of large-production spirits, as they reflect the authenticity, experience, personal attention, and love of one’s work. We apply all these principles when making our quebranta and acholado.

 

The craft nature of PiscoLogía starts from the moment the vines are planted and it ends when our pisco is consumed. Everything is completed by hand, including planting, pruning, harvesting, selecting, crushing, distilling, filtering, bottling and labeling. We believe the process continues when our quebranta and acholado are mixed in beautiful cocktails by an experienced bartender and enjoyed by you. Here are more details about each component:

 

 

Pruning: We prune by hand, usually in July or August (winter in Azpitia). Using manual techniques gives the plants a more gentle & meticulous treatment and avoids overcropping. Many large companies prune mechanically to save money. However, we will always prune by hand because it provides jobs for people we care about.

 

Estate-grown grapes: We personally care for our vineyards to provide maximum quality control of our grapes. Tending to our own estate-grown grapes also ensures that no excess pesticides and fungicides are used on the plants. This investment of time pays off with our high-quality pisco.

 

Harvest: Our harvests are completed strictly by hand in early March. Hand-harvesting gives us the benefit of selecting every grape that goes into our pisco. This also allows us to harvest in small batches so the grapes can reach perfect sugar levels.

 

Crushing process: Crushing our grapes lightly by foot avoids breaking the seeds, which can give the wine we distill a bitter flavor.

 

Fermentation: Nati carefully monitors the fermentation process. She prefers to allow native yeasts to kickstart fermentation. These natural ambient yeasts (also called “bloom” or “blush”) allow the terroir of Azpitia to fully express itself in our pisco.

 

Small batch: Our wine is distilled in small batches in our 300L copper pot still. This allows us to control distillation more easily and it uses less energy.

 

The rest: From hand-labeling each bottle to social media posts, every part of this cycle is carried out by our workers and partners, making PiscoLogía is the most quintessential craft spirit. We can thank Millenials for helping us recognize the value of focusing on quality, not quantity. Hopefully the push toward craft spirits will be a trend that will continue in the future.

 

 

Sources:

Aneri Pattani. New study shows millennials are drinking less, enjoying it more”, Pittsburg Post-Gazette, 7 August 2018, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/health/2018/08/07/New-study-shows-millennials-drinking-less-pennsylvania/stories/201808060166

 

Nurin, Tara. “10 Trends That Will Determine Your Drinking In 2018”, Forbes, 31 January 2018, https://www.forbes.com/sites/taranurin/2018/01/31/ten-trends-that-will-determine-your-drinking-in-2018/#1b5113c42992

Singani and Pisco- Distillation Methods of New World Grapes

Peruvian pisco grapes, muscat, Italia grapes

 

The indigenous people of the Americas had a tradition of making alcoholic beverages long before the Spaniards brought the first grape plant across the Atlantic. They often fermented corn, strawberries or potatoes, a custom still practiced in many countries. For example, “chicha”, made from fermented corn or fruit, is highly consumed throughout the Andes in Peru today.

 

Although the first grapevines in the Americas were planted at the end of the 15th century, distillation of wine seemed to have begun about 100 years later. Since then, certain grape varieties have thrived in different locations and production methods of distilled wine have diversified.

 

We would like to highlight the characteristics of 3 spirits distilled from grapes in South America: Peruvian pisco, Chilean pisco, and Bolivian Singani. The chart below makes a brief comparison of 3 of the 8 Peruvian pisco grapes (Quebranta, Torontel and Uvina) and their Bolivian and Chilean counterpart, Muscat of Alexandria.

 

Grape Type Distilled Spirit Grape Characteristics Typical Characteristics When Distilled
Quebranta Peruvian Pisco Non-aromatic: Red/Purple color Herbal, nutty, banana, apple and mango.

 

Torontel Peruvian Pisco Aromatic: Golden yellow color Floral aromas such as lavender, tropical fruit, cinnamon, citrus.

 

Uvina Peruvian Pisco Non-aromatic: Blue/black color Olives, fresh herbs, apple, banana.

 

Muscat of Alexandria Bolivian Singani Aromatic: White/yellow/pink Pink peppercorns, citrus and white flowers.

 

Muscat of Alexandria Chilean Pisco Aromatic: White/yellow/pink Floral, with hints of jasmine and green pears.

 

 

The common ground between Peruvian pisco, Chilean pisco and Bolivian Singani is that they are all made from New World grapes, using distillation methods that were introduced at the end of the 16th century in Latin America (and as we mentioned in an earlier post, they are all are types of brandy). They all have unique qualities, depending on the terroir and the distiller who crafts them. Regardless of your preference, it is indisputable that the introduction of the grape into Latin America was a momentous game-changer. Thanks to those viticulturists in the 15th century, we now enjoy Peruvian pisco, Chilean pisco and Bolivian Singani today!

 

Vineyards in Peru? Thank the Humboldt Current!

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Desert along the Peruvian coastline

 

Most of the world’s premium wine production takes place between the 30th and 50th parallels of the Southern and Northern Hemispheres, where temperate conditions are conducive to grape growing. In these areas, grapevines generally thrive in warm, dry locations with distinct seasonal changes. The climates found between these parallels fall into 3 categories: Mediterranean, continental, and maritime. For example, the Saale-Unstrut wine region in Germany is located at 51° N and has a continental climate, while Tuscany, at 43.77° N, has a Mediterranean climate.

 

Tropical zones are defined as the part of the Earth’s surface between the Tropic of Cancer (23.5° N) and the Tropic of Capricorn (23.4° S). Growing grapes in tropical regions can be problematic for many reasons. It is widely known that the tropics are characterized by heavy rain, humidity, and high temperatures, three conditions that promote various diseases in vines, such as mold and mildew. Moreover, while cool nights promote acidity and balance in grapes in temperate zones, in tropical regions, minimum nightly temperatures fall no lower than about 71.6 °F (22°C), making it challenging to achieve that same roundness. Finally, because of the year-round sweltering heat in the tropics, it is difficult to complete a period of dormancy during the winter. Dormancy is crucial because it allows the vine to rest and conserve energy, in preparation for the next season.

 

Azpitia is located at 12° S in the tropics, so theoretically, it should be extremely difficult to grow grapes there, or anywhere else in Peru. So how are we able to produce healthy pisco grapes in this area of the world? The answer lies in an oceanographic phenomenon called the Humboldt Current.

 

The Humboldt Current is a cold ocean current that flows north along the western coast of South America. The current extends from southern Chile to northern Peru, bringing frigid waters from the south, cooling the ocean & creating dry, chilled air, which changes the tropical climate. This is why the Peruvian coastline is so barren. Where a dense jungle would normally lie, sand dunes and cacti line the coasts of Peru, creating very favorable wine-making conditions, similar to what you might see in the high-desert vineyards of Washington State.  Days are hot and dry, but nights are relatively cool in Azpitia, creating the perfect conditions for our vines. Because of this fascinating phenomenon, we can grow grapes in optimal conditions and produce the high-quality wine that we distill to make PiscoLogía!

 

The Denomination of Origin of Peruvian Pisco

alambiques, distillation peruvian pisco, copper pot still, D.O pisco, denomination peruvian pisco, piscologia

alambiques, distillation peruvian pisco, copper pot still, D.O pisco, denomination peruvian pisco, piscologia

Alambiques and Falca, as defined by the the D.O. in Peru

 

Today we would like to discuss a topic that we consider to be extremely important to protecting the standards of Peruvian pisco: the Denomination of Origin. On a worldwide level, a Denomination of Origin is created to promote and protect names of quality products. Only items that meet the various geographical and quality criteria may use the protected indication. Some of the most famous items protected by a D.O. are Champagne, tequila and many cheeses, ham and wine. Peruvian pisco is also protected and regulated.

 

The most practical way to explain the requirements in Peru is to provide an abridged translation of the Regulation of the Denomination of Origin of Peruvian Pisco, as an English version of the document does not seem to be readily available.

 

Source: Reglamento de la Denominación de Origen Pisco

https://www.indecopi.gob.pe/documents/20195/200722/6+Reglamento_DO-PISCO.pdf/a2259836-69e6-4c8c-b403-f8c3c38f7039

 

Peru was awarded the rights to protect and regulate the production of pisco in 1991. As stated by the Regulating Council, the clear brandy is a product obtained exclusively from the distillation of fresh, recently fermented musts of pisco grapes, using traditional production methods. It must be produced on the coast (no higher than 2,000 meters above sea level) in the Departments of Lima, Ica, Arequipa, Moquegua and the Locumba, Sama y Caplina Valleys of Tacna. The grapes must also be grown in these areas.

 

Pisco grapes are defined as any of the following varieties: Quebranta, Negra Criolla, Mollar, Italia, Moscatel, Albilla, Torontel y Uvina. Only Uvina grapes from Lunahuaná, Pacarán y Zúñiga, in the Cañete province (Lima), are protected by the D.O. Non-aromatic grapes are defined as Quebranta, Negra Criolla, Mollar y Uvina, while aromatic grapes are Italia, Moscatel, Albilla y Torontel.

 

Pisco must be produced by an authorized person & in a distillery that is accepted by the D.O. The grapes also must be grown in a vineyard approved by the Regulating Council.

 

The following types of pisco are recognized:

 

Pisco puro (pure)– pisco obtained solely from one variety of pisco grape.

Pisco mosto verde (green must)– pisco obtained from distilling fresh musts from pisco grapes. In a mosto verde, fermentation is interrupted, so you distill when there is still sugar present in the juice.

Pisco acholado (blend)– pisco obtained from a mix of: pisco grapes, musts of pisco grapes or pisco made from pisco grapes.

 

Fermentation can occur in the following ways: without maceration, with full maceration or with partial maceration of the grape pomace, controlling the temperature and sugar degradation process of the must. The distillation process must start immediately after fermentation, with the exception of mosto verde pisco, which should be distilled before the musts are fully fermented.

 

Pisco should rest for a minimum of 3 months, in glass or stainless steel containers (or any other container that doesn’t alter its physical, chemical, or organic properties) in order to promote the evolution of the alcohol and general properties of the pisco. Nothing may be added, not even water or sugar. The final product must have alcohol levels between 38% and 48%.

 

Pisco must be made by direct distillation, separating the heads from the tails, to select the body of the product. The machines used should be made of copper or tin. The pots may be made from stainless steel. Pisco should be distilled in falcas, alambiques, or alambiques with calientavinos (See figures above).

 

There are many more regulations such as reporting production volumes, labeling requirements, and the characteristics of the final product, but we will leave those for another post.

 

Some final comments: Nati strictly abides by the rules of the D.O. when she produces PiscoLogía. We believe her dedication to following the regulations makes our pisco one of the best.

 

We would like to emphasize the importance of enforcing the D.O. regulations on a national level. If Peruvian pisco is going to conquer top shelves across the world, only brandies of utmost quality should reach the market. Because the D.O. designation in Peru is relatively new, interpretations of the Regulation are constantly evolving and improving. It is our hope that one day the same strict standards seen in areas such as Tequila, Mexico and Champagne, France will be applied to the production of Peruvian pisco. Producers, consumers, and D.O. enforcers should all apply uncompromising criteria to protect this high-quality spirit. With collaboration on all levels and by investing time and necessary resources, Peruvian pisco will become the world leader of top-shelf spirits.

 

 

Peruvian pisco – a brandy to be revered

types of brandy, peruvian pisco, pisco, piscologia, jerez, sherry, singani, marc, orujo, how to make brandy, what is brandy, grappa, chilean pisco

Freshly made PiscoLogía

 

Peruvian pisco is classified as a clear brandy. By definition, brandy is an extensive category that includes spirits made from fermented fruit juice, most often grapes. However, brandies can be so vastly different from one another, so how do you distinguish one from another? For example, how do pomace brandies such as grappa, marc, and orujo differ from cognac, Brandy de Jerez, singani, Chilean pisco or Peruvian pisco? The answer to this question is quite complex. Not only do these brandies use different grape varieties in production, but they also vary in the way the grapes are utilized, the distillation and aging processes and often times, in the way they are enjoyed by consumers. By the end of this blog entry, hopefully you will understand what makes Peruvian pisco especially distinctive and intricate.

 

To demystify this complex spirit, it is helpful to separate it in two subcategories: pomace and fruit (grape) brandies. Pomace brandies do not use the grape juice; they are made from fermented pulp, seeds, and stems of grapes leftover after the winemaking process. Grape brandies are made solely from the fruit juice, which means all stems and seeds are removed before making the wine to be distilled. Both pomace and grape brandies can be aged. Some examples of aged brandies are cognac, Brandy de Jerez and Chilean pisco. The oak casks give them a dark color. In contrast, Peruvian pisco never ages in wood, thus making it a clear spirit.

 

Peruvian pisco is especially unique because, unlike other brandies, it is distilled only once. Furthermore, no water is added after distillation, which means you have one chance to achieve perfection with each batch. All other brandies are distilled twice and water is then added to reach a desired proof. Because of this single distillation, one can especially appreciate the flavors of each grape profile in Peruvian pisco, as many important flavors and aromas can be lost during second distillation.

 

Furthermore, brandies can be made from a multitude of grape varieties. While Chilean pisco and singani are made from the Muscat grape, Cognac is typically made from Ugni Blanc. Since grappa and orujo are made from the leftovers of wine production, both can be made from many different grape varieties. However, the Denomination of Origin in Peru requires that Peruvian pisco be produced from at least one of eight different grape varieties, all of which have distinct aromas and flavors.

 

People tend to mix Peruvian pisco in delicious cocktails, while they may drink other brandies such as cognac or Brandy de Jerez in a snifter. We recommend that the next time you open a bottle of PiscoLogía, treat it like a cognac- pour it into a snifter to fully enjoy the nuances of grapes. You will note no interference from oak casks or second distillations, just the pureness of the fruit from our vineyard. We are certain you will be thoroughly impressed by the delicate nature of this single-distilled spirit.

About that Terroir………

peruvian pisco, piscologia, azpitia, craft pisco, terroir, vineyards in peru, rhone, alsace, piedmont, soils, ica, wineries in peru, how to make peruvian pisco

A peek at our soils in Azpitia

 

To make an exceptional craft pisco, you must start with a good wine. To make a fine wine, you must have the proper conditions, or terroir, to grow healthy, high-quality grapes. In a previous post, we talked about the ambient yeasts that grow naturally in Azpitia, forming part of the terroir of our vineyards. However, terroir involves many other factors that influence the quality and flavor of wine, including soil types, climate, sunlight, location, plant orientation and wind. Today we will focus on the soils and location of our vineyards.

 

The sandy, gravel and sandstone soils we have at Azpitia play an important role in healthy grape growth. Here is a chart to explain them:

 

 

Soil Type: Similar To: Benefit:
Sand The Italian wine regions of Piedmont Provides excellent drainage and protects against phylloxera, a deadly fungus

 

Gravel Some vineyards in the Rhone area of France Reflects and maintains heat, which allows for larger grapes with higher alcohol content

 

Sandstone Alsace, France Provides nutrients and minerals such as iron oxide to make sweeter grapes

 

 

Furthermore, similar to some of the most famous wine regions of California, Piscología’s vineyards are located close to the Pacific Ocean, at 200 meters above sea level. This proximity (4 miles) and altitude create a perfect storm in the evening, when the ocean breeze channels through the Mala River Valley to reach our vineyards, reducing the temperature surrounding our vines. This cooling phenomenon provides us with grapes with higher acidity levels. Grapes with higher acidity create a balanced, delectable wine, the wine we distill to create Piscología!

PiscoLogía’s (Spirit)ual Bond with Craft Distillers

craft distillers, piscologia, peruvian pisco, acholado, quebranta, what is pisco, craft pisco, where to buy pisco, caddell williams, pisco in california

 

We feel profound gratitude, exhilaration, and humility to be represented in the USA by Craft Distillers, one of the most highly regarded companies in the realm of distilled spirits. However, this is much more than a monumental opportunity for our small brand. Because Craft Distillers sets the standard for integrity in the industry, it is a tremendous honor to have PiscoLogía join their portfolio.

 

Craft Distillers emphasizes beautifully made spirits and the methods and human beings behind them. They apply this philosophy when marketing products that are hand-made, innovative, and authentic. Equally important, it is evident this “humanness” manifests itself in their company culture. The Craft Distillers team members are cordial and empathetic with their brand partners, always demonstrating graciousness and integrity that have become anomalies in this day and age.

 

We started this company in 2008 with the goal of creating a craft Peruvian pisco to be appreciated around the world. In order to create this superior product, we knew we needed to use traditional methods, abide by the Denomination of Origin, provide utmost care for our grapes and workers, and distill with the same experience, personal attention, and talent that Craft Distillers requires.

 

Luckily, the stars aligned, our persistence proved fruitful and we have formed this “spiritual” bond with the best in the industry. We are extremely humbled as we make preparations to grow across all 50 states with Craft Distillers. Please stay tuned as we announce more information about availability in your state!

 

For more information, visit: www.craftdistillers.com

 

“La Magia” of Azpitia: Native Yeasts

native yeasts, fermentation, how to make pisco, peruvian pisco, craft pisco, azpitia, mezcal cocktails, pisco in peru, wineries in peru

 

One of the many factors a master distiller has to consider when developing a product is what gives fermentation its gusto. In the case of PiscoLogía, our native yeasts at Azpitia are what create the magic.

 

Wild yeasts are all around us, even on us. A traditional foot press crushes the grapes and mixes the pulp with the yeasts on the skins, and also diversifies the yeasts’ presence as they come off of our bodies. In Tequila, maestros used to ”dance” with the agave in the fermentation tank to pull apart the plants’ fibers, while also releasing new yeast cells from their bodies. And because there are so many yeast strains that we haven’t harnessed and cultivated, let alone identified, we like to refer to fermentation as half-magic and half-science.

 

In the game of yeasts, it’s survival of the fittest. 1000 yeast strains and 1 tank of sweet grape juice: who will take home the championship? Our bodega sits among our grapevines on the upper bowl of the Mala River Valley in Azpitia. Nati has entrusted the bodega’s ambient yeast with her sweet fruit and she loves what it delivers: a uniquely Azpitian flavor profile. She knows that these native strains help give PiscoLogía the unctuous, caramel and nutty notes that backdrop the bright, creamy fruit flavors of the grapes. She feels lucky to have this yeast strain living on-site naturally.

 

Now, what happens if local yeasts don’t provide you with the profiles you look for? Or what if a competing yeast beats the one you prefer? One can consider using “commercial” yeast, one that has been well studied and that has been proven to provide predictable and consistent results. Although the word “commercial” isn’t typically used with artisanal products, sometimes a distiller can greatly benefit by using something that he or she knows will perform well. Having something that is predictable can facilitate the entire production process.

 

We feel very fortunate to have the combination of science and magic working in our favor. The tremendous native yeast strains in Azpitia have provided us with consistent results since we started distilling PiscoLogía!

 

The (not-so) New Kids on the Block: Pisco and Mezcal

There are many parallels between the histories and cultures of Peru and Mexico, the crowns of the New World. Before the arrival of the Spanish, the Incas, Aztecs and Mayas had exceptionally advanced cultures. They were sophisticated astrologers, mathematicians, engineers and culinary experts. Today, Peru and Mexico not only share the Spanish language (and have many unique indigenous languages), but they both have immense pride in their national spirits, Pisco and Mezcal.

 

Fascinated by this socio-historical connection, our partner Kami Kenna loves combining Pisco and Mezcal in creative cocktails. We have highlighted one of her masterful creations, “The Meeting of the Minds” and the methodology behind it.

 

Kami: “When I think of Mezcal, the words ‘rustic, authentic, wild, alive, proud, terroir, historic’ come to mind. I associate words such as, ‘rustic, strict tradition, elegant, expressive, proud, terroir, historic’ with Pisco. I like to consider these concepts when creating combinations with both liquors. The flavors fit into this narrative and I play with proportions of the drink until they fill their starring roles.

 

When creating a cocktail, I like to pick a theme to help narrow my thoughts. If I incorporate a second base spirit, it’s important for me to understand their flavors individually and then together. I ask myself what other flavors can I combine to add interest and to highlight them.

 

In this case, I had a French 75 on my mind, so for sparkle, I grabbed a bottle of Txakolina – a delicious Basque wine. For this cocktail, I used the ‘rosado’ version, which worked perfectly as a topper and added the effervescent texture required for a French 75 style drink. It’s no secret that pineapple, lime and pisco make a dreamy Pisco Punch. For this cocktail, I decided to use a caramelized pineapple gomme syrup with clove and cardamom to add depth to hold up to the mezcal, a sweet and creamy Espadín with hints of mesquite from the roasting process. I was ecstatic with the final result, a cocktail I named “Meeting of the Minds”. I hope you enjoy this cocktail as much as I do!

 

Meeting of the Minds 

 

PiscoLogia Acholado-1 oz 

Mezcal Tosba- 1 oz 

Caramelised Pineapple Syrup- 1 oz

Fresh lime juice-1 oz 

Txakolina Rosado -1 oz 

 

Shake all ingredients together, top with Txakolina Rosado. Serve up. ¡Salud!

 

Enjoying Peruvian Pisco in Okinawa: A Historical Perspective

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Maurice Dudley From Blue Habu

 

PiscoLogía Pisco Acholado recently reached the shores of Okinawa and into the hands of Blue Habu Trade Group. This newly founded relationship with Blue Habu is not only an important milestone for both parties; it also symbolizes a deep-rooted cultural bond between Okinawa and Peru.

 

The connection between Peru and Okinawa dates back to the early 1900’s, when vast quantities of Okinawans left their homes in search of a better life. Many settled in South America. In Peru, they formed communities in the coastal areas, where they cultivated agricultural fields to provide for their families. This influx of Okinawans enriched the Peruvian culture in innumerable ways, including the diversification of food and the creation of “Nikkei”, the fusion of Japanese and Peruvian cuisine.

 

Currently, the alliance between Okinawa and Peru remains just as strong, manifested in the exchange of goods and movement of people. Because of this historical significance, we at PiscoLogía are especially proud to be working with Blue Habu Trade Group.

 

So, if you have the pleasure of visiting Okinawa, be sure to get your hands on some PiscoLogía and reflect on this very important part of history!

 

 

Sources:

Mitchell, John. “Welcome Home, Okinawa”. Japan Times. 22 October 2016.

Hatlestad, Kari, “Peruvian Food: the Social and Cultural Origins of Peruvian Food” (2017). University Honors Theses. Paper 367.