All the Peruvian Pisco Grapes- Quebranta, Italia and 6 Others

The 4 aromatic pisco grapes are Albilla, Torontel, Italia and Moscatel. The 4 non-aromatic grapes are Quebranta, Uvina, Mollar and Negra Criolla. But before we explore each variety, first let’s talk about the 2 categories of pisco grapes: aromatic and non-aromatic. While the latter categorization might imply that some piscos lack aromas, it should be clarified that all varieties of Peruvian pisco have very expressive aromas. This often creates confusion for people not familiar with Peruvian pisco. They understandably expect a “non-aromatic” pisco to not have any aromas.

All the Peruvian pisco grapes have highly aromatic qualities because of production methods required by the Denomination of Origin in Peru. First, the single distillation method helps bring out the unique aromatic profile of each grape variety. Then, resting in neutral casks enhances aromas while preserving the pisco’s original identity. This is different than spirits that age in barrels whose flavors and aromas are altered by wood. Please watch the video below for more information.

 

 

What do Acholado, Pisco Puro and Mosto Verde Mean?

In lesson 2, you will learn about the differences between the 3 types of piscos: pisco puro, pisco acholado & mosto verde. What differentiates one type of pisco from another depends on the grapes, not in the varieties used to make them, but in the way they are used.

Pisco puro is made from one grape. For example, Quebranta is a grape used to make Peruvian pisco, just like Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay are grapes used to make wine. So, pisco puro de quebranta is a pisco made from just one variety, the quebranta grape.

Acholado means blend. An acholado can be made from a blend of grapes or a blend of piscos, which means a distiller can combine the grapes before distillation or the piscos after distillation. In the case of PiscoLogía, our master distiller Nati blends Italia and Quebranta piscos before bottling. This allows her to create the perfect formula in each batch once the flavors and aromas have melded during the resting phase.

Finally, a mosto verde pisco is made from musts that aren’t fully fermented, such that the yeasts haven’t completely converted all of the sugars from the grape juice into wine. This results in mosto verdes having a more silky texture and are more aromatic.

 

 

 

Pisco Certificate Course and & PiscoLogia- What is Pisco?

In lesson 1 of the Pisco Certificate Course, you will learn about the pisco-making process from grapes to glass, the ABV levels permitted by the D.O. in Peru and how many grapes are in a bottle of pisco.

The rich history of pisco shows in the traditions performed throughout the entire production process, starting with agricultural and spiritual practices in the vineyards and ending when the pisco is consumed. Harvest of pisco grapes happens in Fall in Peru, typically in March or April. The ripe berries are plucked from the vines, giving the master distiller the raw materials needed to craft the perfect batch. The grapes are destemmed and crushed and maceration may or may not occur. With the help of yeasts, the sugar converts the grape juice to alcohol and the juice becomes wine, ready for distillation. Once distillation has converted the wine to pisco, the brandy must rest a minimum of 3 months in neutral vessels such as stainless steel or fiberglass. This makes pisco completely transparent and unaltered, allowing you to fully appreciate the original identity of the spirit. After resting, it can be bottled and is ready for consumption.

 

 

How to Make Vegan Pisco Sour with Kami Kenna!

As a bartender, Kami has made cocktails to meet all types of dietary needs and preferences. In order to accommodate vegans and consumers iffy on eggs in their drinks, it was necessary to perfect a vegan pisco sour recipe. The purpose of the egg is to add texture and to dry out the cocktail. Whether or not you are vegan, or just turned off by raw eggs, you will learn how to ditch the egg and make an equally tasty and textured cocktail! Learn how to make a vegan pisco sour in this video!

 

Pairing Pisco with Chuncho Chocolate

pisco flavor wheel, pisco tasting wheel

Because Peruvian pisco is made from wine and it is so aromatic and flavorful, it pairs especially well with food. In this post, we have chosen a quintessential Peruvian food, Chuncho chocolate, and combined it with pisco to show you what a perfect harmony of food and drink looks like and tastes like.

Chuncho is a variety of theobroma cacao and is considered to be the “center of origin” for all cacao flavors and aromas, with flavors like mandarin, soursop, peach, banana, and jasmine. Chuncho hails from La Convención in Cusco, Peru – precisely where Machu Picchu is located.

Fascinatingly, it is suspected that the cacao pods manifested attractive aromas to allure consumer animals and to ensure repeat consumers it had to deliver a flavorful pulp. This occurred to facilitate seed dispersal and the continuation of the plant. Pre-Inca and the Incas alike consumed the flavorful pulp and only slightly roasted the beans. In fact, Chuncho farmers to this day still do.

Since the flavors in the pulp are imparted to the beans and ultimately to the finished chocolate, the long-standing selection process of the Chuncho cacao variety makes it one of the most prized.

Out of 40 flavors and aromas identified in Chuncho cacao, twenty nine of them mimic those of known fruit and flower or spice species such as: mandarin, soursop, custard apple, cranberry, peach, banana, inga, mango, nut, mint, cinnamon, jasmine, rose and lily.

If you look at the pisco flavor wheel in the image above, the flavor and aroma crossover with pisco is uncanny. Based on the shared flavors and aromas, it is very clear that this would be an exciting pairing to make. While chocolate made from Chuncho cacao may be exclusive and hard to find, any high quality chocolate will be suitable to carry out the pairing.

The flavors and aromas of pisco are fruity and flowery, mainly due to the presence of terpenes, esters, and aldehydes that come from the varieties of grapes used in the wine production and are also produced during the fermentation and the distillation processes. In pisco, forty-two olfactory attributes have been detected, highlighting the complexity of the product.

Channeling back to the tasting lesson, taste the chocolate and the pisco slowly and studiously. We recommend you alternate a small bite of chocolate with a small sip of pisco, taking care to give your palette and brain ample time to formulate an analysis. When pairing with food, there are times when the distillate is enhanced due to the pairing and there are times when it is not. The takeaway is the analysis and what you have learned about both of the tasting specimens individually and together – even if the pairing is a fail.

Because pisco is an unaged spirit with seemingly infinite variations from the grape, the growing year, the producer, and production methods, pairing food with pisco can be such an adventure. Pairing is yet another tool to add to your arsenal of studying the spirit.

We hope you can use the culmination of your experience with Peruvian pisco to experiment with pairing, try pairing it with some of your favorite dishes!

Myth #11- Quebranta is the strongest and most flavorful of all pisco grapes

This is the 11th in a series mythbusters to clarify misconceptions about Peruvian pisco!

quebranta, pisco, pisco grapes, quebranta most flavorful

 

Quebranta is indeed a very flavorful variety, but so are the other 7 Peruvian pisco grapes.

 

Let’s first address the idea that the Quebranta grape is the strongest of all the Peruvian pisco grapes. This statement brings up a lot of questions, such as: What does “strength” refer to? Does it refer to the strength of the flavor of the Quebranta grape? Or perhaps it refers to the robustness of the Quebranta plant? Or maybe this is a misconception of the alcoholic strength of the final product?

The Quebranta plant is Peru’s only indigenous vitis vinifera variety and it has indeed adapted very well to the climate and soils in Peru. However, from a standpoint of durability or longevity, the Negra Criolla (Listán Prieto) variety was the first to be planted in Peru sometime between 1539 and 1541. Therefore, because Negra Criolla has been around for longer in Peru, it would technically win the contest of longevity.

Furthermore, potency of the alcohols in a pisco depend not on the grape type, but on the sugar levels of the grapes used in fermentation. We all know that a pisco can have a maximum ABV of 48%. You can have pisco at 48% ABV made from any of the 8 grapes allowed in the production of Peruvian pisco, not just Quebranta. To reach the desired sugar levels, and therefore the desired alcohol levels of the final product, vintners will aim to reach around 23-26 Brix before harvesting. This measurement is taken with a refractometer. Then finally, proper distillation methods also help regulate the alcohol content.

Second, it is difficult to defend or refute the notion that Quebranta is the most flavorful grape because the concept of taste is very subjective. What may seem flavorful to one person could be bland to another. It would require years of qualitative research and surveying to determine which grape is the most flavorful.

Making scientific measurements of flavor requires the implementation of complicated processes. Techniques such as solvent extraction and headspace methods would be required to identify and qualify methoxypyrazines and non-volatile, glycosylated conjugates of volatile molecules in grapes, among many other elements. Then to analyze, one would need to conduct gas-liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry. Furthermore, soil, climate and traditions also greatly impact flavor expression, regardless of the grape variety. All of those factors would need to be studied and compared before making a general statement about the flavor of Quebranta grapes.

Put simply, the most flavorful pisco grapes are the ones that have been tended to carefully throughout the year and the whole production process. Those grapes are most flavorful when they are recently harvested and have the desired Brix levels. Needless to say, it is a very weak argument to say that the Quebranta grape is the strongest and most flavorful grape without any data or research to back it up. In our opinion, all the Peruvian pisco grapes are strong, flavorful and so unique that they should each be appreciated as such.

 

Sources:

Williams, P. J., and M. S. Allen. “The Analysis of Flavouring Compounds in Grapes.” SpringerLink, Springer-Verlag, Berlin,    Heidelberg, 1 Jan. 1996, link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-642-79660-9_3.

Myth #10- Singani= High-Altitude Brandy & Peruvian Pisco= Low Altitude Brandy

This is the 10th in a series mythbusters to clarify misconceptions about Peruvian pisco!

pisco vs singani

While it’s true that signani is associated with high altitudes, Peruvian pisco can be produced at altitudes as high as 2,000 meters (6,562 feet).

 

We presented many differences between Peruvian pisco and singani in a past blog post. However, we wanted to elaborate on the subject of altitude. Singani is most often associated with high altitudes, as it must be produced at 5,250 feet or higher from grapes grown at those elevations. While that classification is well deserved for Bolivia’s clear brandy, it is important to note that Peruvian pisco is not necessarily a low altitude brandy.

Peruvian pisco is associated with lower altitudes, more specifically, coastal valleys. The D.O. in Perú requires that pisco be produced at 6,562 feet or lower from grapes grown at those elevations. Keep in mind that the concept of altitude is quite different in the Andean region. While Peruvians consider 6,562 feet to be fairly low, in the U.S., that is a relatively high elevation. For example, Denver, known as the “Mile High City”, has an elevation of 5,280 feet! There are Peruvian piscos made at altitudes higher than Denver in the D.O of Arequipa in the Caraveli Valley, which is located at 5,837 feet.

So the next time you hear the misconception that Peruvian pisco is a low altitude brandy, you can clarify. Yes, it can be made on the coast of Peru, but you will also find pisco vineyards and distilleries way high in the Andes mountains at 5,837, an altitude that is significantly higher than the famed “Mile High City”!

 

Pisco Producing Regions in Peru -Maps

There are 5 production regions recognized by the D.O in Perú: Lima, Ica, Arequipa, Moquegua and the Locumba, Sama and Caplina Valleys of Tacna. All the regions produce different, but very high-caliber brandies. This blog will give you a quick summary and a map of each region.

 

The northernmost production region is Lima. As you already know, Lima is the capitol of Perú, a bustling city of more than 10 million people. Did you know that Lima is also a department? There are 24 departments in Perú, similar to States in the US. The Department of Lima extends way beyond the capitol to encompass more than 32,000 square kilometers. It is also recognized by the D.O. as a pisco-producing region.

pisco lima, map lima D.O., mapa pisco en lima, ruta pisco peru, pisco route peru, map pisco regions peru

 

 

 

Ica is to the south of Lima. Here you will find some of the largest vineyards and distilleries in Perú.  According to the Ministry of Production, Lima and Ica are the leading regions in terms of pisco production. In fact, 90% of Perú’s pisco comes from Lima and Ica.

pisco ica, map ica D.O., mapa pisco en ica, ruta pisco peru, pisco route peru, map pisco regions peru

 

 

The regions south of Ica- Arequipa, Moquegua and Tacna are known for Negra Criolla piscos and acholados made with Negra Criolla and Moscatel or Italia. In Arequipa, you will find pisco producing regions such as the Caravelí Valley, the highest pisco producing region in Perú,  and the Majes Valley

pisco arequpia, map arequipa D.O., mapa pisco en arequipa, ruta pisco peru, pisco route peru, map pisco regions peru

 

 

To the South of Arequipa is Moquegua, where you won’t find many quebranta grapes, but you will find Negra Criolla and Abilla and less of Italia and Mollar varieties. An interesting fact about some parts of Arequipa, Moquegua and Tacna, the region you will learn about next, is that in these regions, they used to bury their earthenware fermentation jars when making wine and pisco. This allowed them to control the temperature during fermentation. This practice was not used in other parts of Peru, making these regions especially unique. Artifacts suggest that the technology and organization of winemaking in the Moquegua area reflects Spanish models, but also earlier Roman models.

pisco moquegua, map moquegua D.O., mapa pisco en moquegua, ruta pisco peru, pisco route peru, map pisco regions peru

 

 

 

If you head south of Moquegua, you will reach the southernmost region, Tacna. Located on the border with Chile, this region includes smaller areas producing pisco, only in the valleys of Caplina, Locumba, and Sama. In Tacna, you will find mostly Negra Criolla, Italia and Quebranta varieties.

pisco tacna, map tacna D.O., mapa pisco en tacna, ruta pisco peru, pisco route peru, map pisco regions peru

The Diversity of Peruvian Pisco

peruvian pisco, pisco peruano, 28 julio

We at PiscoLogía would like to celebrate pisco on 28 de julio, Independence Day in Peru. However, to celebrate pisco, we must celebrate the diversity behind the beloved grape-based spirit.

The first grape vine in South America was planted in Lima between 1539 and 1541 by Hernando de Montenegro, a Spanish captain. In 1551, the first wine was made by Spanish colonists.

The name “pisco” comes from Quechua, the language of the Incas.

The pre-Inca and Inca civilizations created very sophisticated agricultural and irrigation systems. Without indigenous land, agricultural knowledge manpower, viticulture would not have thrived like it has for hundreds of years.

Historically, the people who have planted, harvested and hauled the grapes have been Indigenous laborers and African slaves.

While distillation came to Peru with the Spanish, it is an Arabic technology.

Pisco is the fusion of peoples, cultures, and history. And with each sip we are honoring each and every one.

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