En esta entrada de blog, explicaremos la primera parte del proceso de producción de pisco: la cosecha y la fermentación.
Buscamos alcanzar una madurez fisiológica completa en las uvas para decidir la fecha de cosecha. Cuando los niveles de Brix llegan a 23°-26° y la fruta tiene un acidez de 3.4PH (gracias a la brisa del Océano Pacífico), nuestras uvas están listas para cosechar, sujeta a que los otros factores estén maduros también (hollejos, semillas y raspones).
Flor y Samuel, quienes nos ayudan a cuidar las uvas, juntan a los miembros de su familia en preparación para la cosecha. Con un pronóstico del tiempo de 28°C y una humedad de 69%, va a ser un día caluroso y bochornoso. Para evitar el calor, empezamos a cosechar a las 5:00 de la mañana.
Para mantener la tradición, cosechamos a mano. Eso nos permite seleccionar cada uva que entra en nuestro pisco.
Se despalillan las uvas
y estrujamos el jugo con los pies para extraer el jugo sin romper las semillas que pueden dar un sabor amargo a nuestro jugo.
Después realizamos un prensado suave para separar el mosto de las partes sólidas
Nati le pone un porcentaje menor de cáscaras al jugo, para asegurar que las levaduras nativas de Azpitia estén presentes. Para lograr una fermentación optima utilizamos las levaduras nativas proveniente de nuestras uvas.
En 7-10 días, el jugo se fermenta y el vino está listo para la destilación, que explicaremos en la siguiente entrada de blog.
“Craft” is a term that is over-used and unregulated, making it difficult to differentiate between what is truly craft and what isn’t. We believe PiscoLogía is the quintessential craft pisco because every part of our process is completed through handmade, artisanal practices. To us, our craft methods are important not only because they build the foundation for a premium pisco, but because they provide benefits for those who help make PiscoLogía.
Our Craft Practices Provide Economic Benefits for the Community
Using human hands to complete every part of our production process means more economic benefits to the community in Azpitia. We do everything by hand, from planting to pruning, to harvesting, crushing and bottling. The more people we require, the more families we provide for.
We also believe the lack of intervention from machines guarantees a higher quality product. For example, hand harvesting allows us to select every grape that goes into our pisco. It also allows us to harvest in small batches so the grapes reach optimal sugar levels to facilitate fermentation with native yeasts.
Positive Environmental Impact
Craft methods applied in the vineyards benefit the environment. We don’t use industrial viticulture methods, fertilizers or excess chemicals, allowing us to reduce our carbon footprint and protect our oceans and rivers. Instead of machines or pumps, we save energy through a system of gravity-flow surface irrigation to collect runoff from the Andes to sparingly irrigate our vines.
To make a good pisco, you must first start with a good wine. We never use commercial yeasts or enzymes in our winemaking process. Instead, natural ambient yeasts ferment our grape juice. We feel that non-intervention methods provide us with a wine that fully expresses the terroir of our vineyards, something you can taste in every bottle of pisco.
Small batch means that Nati can demonstrate her skill and love of pisco-making with every distillation. Using a 300L copper pot still allows her to control distillation more easily and conserve energy. Every batch is unique and reflects the hard work of everyone who helped make it, the characteristics of the harvest and the artistic skill of Nati.
This is part 1 of a series of interviews with Fernando Gonzales-Lattini, a sommelier specialized in pisco, vigneron and producer of premium wine in the Peruvian Andes.
How do you taste pisco and train
“To properly taste a pisco, you need a pisco snifter, like the photo shown above. In a tasting, a sommelier always evaluates 3 aspects: appearance, aroma and flavor. First, take a look at how the pisco looks. A good pisco must be clear and dense. Swirl the pisco around in the snifter to test its viscosity. A viscid pisco will form thick legs on the side of the glass. This is an indication that the pisco is full-bodied and has a good ratio of alcohol/glycerol. Transparency is also very important. Hold the glass up to the light to observe its color. Peruvian pisco is clear when it runs off the still, nothing is added to it, and it isn’t aged in barrels. For those reasons, it should be as clear as water in the bottle.
To detect aromas, I always recommend that people waft toward their noses instead of smelling directly from the snifter. If you inhale too closely, you can overwhelm your sense of smell, making it impossible to distinguish aromas. Piscos made from different grapes will have different descriptors. For example, a quebranta will commonly smell like banana, mango, pecans and raisins. An aromatic pisco like Italia will smell like fruit and flowers such as jasmine. Once you have observed the aromas and appearance, it’s time to taste.
When you taste a pisco, it should feel smooth in your mouth and throat. At no time should you feel a burning or harsh sensation. Identify in your mouth what flavors it has. You should be able to taste the same aromas that you smelled. For example, if you smelled pecans, you should taste pecans. You might be able to discover other flavors too, so pay close attention to how the flavors might change at different stages in the tasting process.
This is the general idea of how to conduct a pisco tasting. Remember that it takes practice to detect the different flavors and aromas of pisco. The more you do it, the more trained your nose and palate will become.”
In Peru, it is difficult not to stumble upon something associated with José de San Martín. From streets to provinces to statues to schools, this man’s legacy is ubiquitous. Born in Argentina, José de San Martín was a military leader who fought to liberate Argentina, Chile and Peru. However, he was notable not only for his efforts to gain independence in South America. San Martín also fought to abolish slavery, advocated for indigenous people and enacted freedom of speech in Peru.
José de San Martín first liberated Argentina and Chile from royalist rule. He then traveled to Peru to do the same. His efforts were successful; Peru’s independence was declared on July 28th, 1821. To this day, Peruvians celebrate Independence Day with copious amounts of pisco. Now they can add PiscoLogía’s San Martín cocktail to their repertoire.
Peru’s national hero died in France at the age of 72, shortly after hearing the news of Argentina’s victory against the Anglo-French blockade. To note this historical fact, Kami added a French twist to this cocktail with Chartreuse and Dubbonet.
Created by the master Kami Kenna, we present the San Martín cocktail to you:
PiscoLogía was recently described as deliciously briny by a discerning piscophile. We thought that this concept of brininess was interesting, so we set out to find out the origin of these salty undertones. In the end, we discovered more about how the Pacific Ocean breeze affects the flavor of our grapes and the terroir of our vineyards.
Many people believe that the salty sea air influences the flavor of grapes (Griffin). The reason for this comes down to simple geography. Vineyards near the coast are exposed to the tiny particles leftover from evaporated ocean spray droplets. Air currents then carry the particles from the sea, dispersing them far and wide. In the case of a vineyard, these salty remnants would fall on grape skins and in the soil (Clarke). Salt on the skins and in the environment in Azpitia would blend into the batch during production, possibly altering the flavor of the wine.
We have explained that to make Peruvian pisco, you first start with wine. Since our pisco is distilled only once, many characteristics of the wine are preserved in the final product. A briny, minerally wine will create a pisco with similar descriptors.
Our vineyards are only 4 miles from the Pacific Ocean. The ocean breeze that comes off of the coast in the early evening cools our vines while leaving a brackish trail in its path. This salty mist is just like the natural yeasts in our vineyards in Azpitia; they are floating in the air, forming the uniqueness that is our terroir.
Clarke, Shana. “Forget the Fruit, Savor These Salty Wines.” Pastemagazine.com, 26 June 2017, 1:16pm, www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2017/06/forget-the-fruit-savor-these-salty-wines.html.
Griffin, Annaliese. “What Do We Mean When We Say a Wine Is Salty?” Quartzy, Quartz, 24 June 2018, qz.com/quartzy/1313189/what-do-we-mean-when-we-say-a-wine-is-salty/.
In past posts we have discussed various steps of PiscoLogía’s production process, including harvest, fermentation and distillation. So, what else must happen before our pisco is bottled and exported? Like most spirits, pisco must rest before bottling. In fact, the regulations of the Denomination of Origin require that Peruvian pisco sit for at least 3 months in neutral casks so as to not alter its physical, chemical or organoleptic characteristics. This allows the flavors and aromas of pisco to evolve, improving the overall quality of the final product (Consejo).
At PiscoLogía, we prefer a maturation period of at least 6 months. If we are lucky, our pisco will sit for a couple of years before we bottle. We believe the longer it sits, the more time the flavors and aromas have to meld. Our master distiller and partner Nati explains the reasoning behind this long maturation period: “pisco aromas are extremely volatile. During the sitting stage, these aromas stabilize and blend with the liquid. The Peruvian Pisco Standard requires a resting period of at least three months, but we have our pisco sit at least 6 months to ensure the best quality product”.
When discussing volatility in the context of pisco production, it means that the desired aromas easily evaporate at normal temperatures. That means if a pisco isn’t properly cared for, it will lose all its aromatic qualities. A recently distilled Peruvian pisco should rest in sealed neutral casks in order to prevent evaporation and to allow the aromas to blend with the liquid.
In addition to melding aromas, the resting period enhances the flavor of pisco while fading out unwanted nuances caused by impurities. Because of its effect on the flavor and aroma, the resting phase of the production process is crucial in creating a balanced, high-quality craft pisco.
Consejo Regulador de la Denominación de Origen Pisco. “Reglamento De La Denominación De Origen Pisco.” www.indecopi.gob.pe/documents/20195/200722/6+Reglamento_DO-PISCO.pdf/a2259836-69e6-4c8c-b403-f8c3c38f7039.
Fermentation is now complete, which means native yeasts have converted our sugary Quebranta and Italia grape juice to alcohol, leaving us with tanks of unaged wine. Soon Nati will start distilling this wine in our 300L copper pot still. PiscoLogía is made using batch distillation, which allows for greater flexibility and promotes Nati’s artistic expression through pisco-making.
There are generally two types of distillation used to create alcoholic beverages: batch and continuous. Continuous distillation is an efficient method of making large quantities of liquor with uniform flavor. On the contrary, batch distillation is more versatile. We believe it allows the consumer to appreciate the true skill of the distiller.
In addition, distilling in small quantities allows us to adhere to traditions that have existed for thousands of years. Archaeologists have uncovered the first artifacts associated with batch distillation believed to be dated over a span of 3,000 years from “the end of the fifth millennium BC to the end of the second millennium BC”. (Belgiorno 21). Using a method that has been perfected over the course of several millennia provides us great satisfaction. It also gives us more flexibility to create an artisan product. Every single batch of pisco that we make is unique. Continuous distillation gives you a consistent product, but consistency isn’t something we strive for when crafting our pisco. We want each and every batch to show Nati’s distilling skills, to reflect the terroir of our vineyards and the characteristics of harvest that year.
So, how does batch distillation work? Remember, Peruvian pisco is distilled only one time, which means Nati has only one chance to create an exceptional pisco at the desired proof . She first loads our copper pot still with wine made from our estate-grown grapes. The still is then heated until the wine boils at a temperature of 78.4 °C/173.12 °F (This is a lower boiling point than water, so the alcohol evaporates faster than water). The vapors travel up the neck at the top of our still, down the lyne arm and into the condenser, where they cool. As all experienced distillers do, Nati separates methanol and other impurities during this process by removing the initial and final condensed liquid (heads and tails). The final result is a pure, delicious Peruvian pisco.
Belgiorno, Maria. “Experimental Archaeology.” BEHIND DISTILLATION EXPERIMENTAL ARCHAEOLOGY , edited by Antonio De Strobel, De Strobel Publisher, 2018.
Brix levels have reached 23° and our grapes have ripened to perfection, thanks to the balmy Peruvian sun. The fruit has an acidity of 3.4PH because of the cooling effect of the evening Pacific Ocean breeze. It’s time for harvest.
Flor and Samuel, who help care for our grapes, gather their family members in preparation for harvest. With an expected high of 28°C/82° F and humidity of 69% in Azpitia today, it will be sultry. To avoid the heat, we start picking grapes at 5:00AM, when the average temperature is 20°C/68° F.
To maintain tradition, we harvest by hand. That allows us to hand-select each and every grape that goes into our pisco.
The grapes are then destemmed
and then crushed by foot, in order to extract the juice, but not crush the seeds that could add bitterness to the juice.
A secondary crush then extracts the juice that remains between the flesh and the skin of the grapes.
Nati throws some skins back into the juice, just to ensure Azpitia’s natural yeasts are present.
In 7 to 10 days, the yeasts work their magic, the juice ferments and the wine is ready for distillation.
Forbes Magazine recently highlighted the role of women in the liquor industry in its “Women Running The Liquor World” series. After reading about these inspirational figures and as Women’s History Month approaches, we wanted to reflect on why it matters to be a 100% female-owned company.
We have experienced economic benefits that could be attributed to qualities of female business leaders. Studies show that companies owned by women could have 13% higher revenues because they set achievable goals, collaborate better, believe in slower, steadier growth and have excellent time management skills (Parets).
Our growth has increased by 194% in the past year. Although we can’t prove that upward trend was due to our female partnership, we can attest to the fact that Nati, Kami and Meg demonstrate the qualities listed above. As a team, we have set the very ambitious goal of being the most widely distributed craft Peruvian pisco in the USA and beyond. We plan to achieve this together through a series of practical, methodical steps over the next few years.
Expression of Ideas
It has also been shown that women don’t express themselves as freely in the presence of men. In her paper, “Overcoming the Gender Gap: Women Entrepreneurs as Economic Drivers” Lesa Mitchell states: “Men, consciously or not, may act in ways that discourage women from getting involved in high-growth startups or even articulating their ideas as fully as they could” (14). We PiscoLogía partners express our ideas with each other without reproach. This unhindered exchange of ideas was especially important when we formed our new partnership and had to define who we were as a company and what our brand represented. In retrospect, we can now see that our high-quality craft pisco perfectly encapsulates the values of our 3 partners. Not only do we focus on creating the best product possible, but we also treat our workers, clients, and communities with respect and understanding.
On the same note, our partners are empathetic to each other. That empathy allows us to value each other’s opinions and needs. Meg McFarland observed: “Nati, Kami and I work well together because we are equally intuitive, nurturing and respectful. I am a mother, Nati is a mother and grandmother and Kami is a very special aunt. The caring relationships we have in our personal lives translate into our business. I believe this understanding has been the key to our success so far”.
Finally, in the spirit of collaboration, we plan to use our empathy and intuition to help other female entrepreneurs in the future. Lesa Mitchell also demonstrates that only 29 percent of privately held firms in the US are women-owned” (9) and that women owned firms tend not to grow or prosper nearly as much” (3). For that reason, we have created a program to mentor other women-owned businesses and aspiring female entrepreneurs. As Kami Kenna states: “it’s important for women to run businesses so we can create a more equitable society. We hope to hone the skills of female entrepreneurs (organization, intuitiveness, personal drive, diligence, dedication, innovation, to name a few) so they can achieve the same success”.
The foundation of our company was built by our innately “female” traits, our open communication, empathy and skills. As we continue to learn and grow our company together, we also hope to support women entrepreneurs to create more opportunities for aspiring females around the world, closing the prevalent gender gap and making change for future generations.
Mitchell, Lisa. “Overcoming the Gender Gap: Women Entrepreneurs as Economic Drivers.” Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, September 2011, https://www.kauffman.org/~/media/kauffman_org/research%20reports%20and%20covers/2011/09/growing_the_economy_women_entrepreneurs.pdf
Parets, Robyn. “4 reasons why Women-Owned Businesses Succeed”, Money Under 30, 31 March 2018, https://www.moneyunder30.com/why-women-owned-businesses-succeed
It is widely know that the Spaniards brought the first grape to Peru on one of their voyages across the Atlantic. In this post, we would like to dig deeper into this subject, citing the research of some of the most involved pisco specialists. What exactly was the first grape varietal to be planted in Peru? What are the current variations of this original vine? According to Jorge Jiménez, in his article “Uvas Moscateles en el Pisco” on Andrea Bruno’s “Excella” website, Peru’s first grape was the Negra Criolla varietal. Negra Criolla is the Peruvian name for Listan Prieto, which has origins in Spain’s Canary Islands.
Jiménez further explains that the famous Peruvian Quebranta grape is a cross between this Negra Criolla and Mollar, an Andalusian grape, and that most Peruvian pisco grapes belong to the Muscat family:
Torontel (Moscatel de Grano Menudo/Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains)
Italia (cross between Bicane with Moscatel de Hamburgo)
Negra Criolla o Rosa del Perú (cross between Moscatel de Alejandría and a vitis vinífera)
Quebranta (cross between Negra Criolla and Mollar)
To clarify the genealogy of pisco grape varietals even more, we would like to share this diagram made by our good friend Nico Vera. Nico Vera is founder of the “Pisco Trail” blog and Pisco Society.
The next time you drink Peruvian pisco, you will know the history of Uvina, Quebranta, Italia, Torontel, Albilla, Mollar, Negra Criolla and Moscatel grapes! Salud!
Jiménez, Jorge. “Uvas Moscateles En El Pisco .” Excella by Andrea Bruno, https://www.excella-andreabruno.com/articulo.php?articulo=43.