A sommelier talks Peruvian Pisco: Part 2

best pisco, how to make pisco, pisco harvest

 

 

This is part 2 of a series of interviews with Fernando Gonzales-Lattini, a sommelier specialized in pisco, vigneron and producer of premium wine in the Peruvian Andes.

In your opinion, what makes Peruvian pisco special?

“Pisco is unique because it comes from very high-quality, aromatic organic material: grapes. Compared to other liquors made from grains or potatoes, grapes are so much more aromatic and flavorful in their raw form. The single distillation method used to make Peruvian pisco also allows the full gamut of flavors and aromas to show up in this high quality spirit.

I am a sommelier and I own my own vineyard. Needless to say, I love wine. I think pisco should be appreciated like a fine wine. There are more than 300 descriptors for wine. When you distill wine to make pisco, you concentrate those flavors and aromas even more. The terroir of the vineyards should also be appreciated in every bottle.”

 

What do you want the world to know about Peruvian pisco?

 

“People need to try this premium spirit. I guarantee they will be impressed, especially if they are wine-lovers. I can’t emphasize enough the parallels between the two. Just like wine, one can distinguish the characteristics of different grape varieties, vintages, and terroir of pisco. It also pairs beautifully with food.

Tradition is also very important in Peru. We have been making pisco for hundreds of years, which has many benefits. First, we have traditions passed on from generation to generation. Second, we have been perfecting the art of pisco making and selecting the best vines for centuries. We know what regions are most apt for grape growing and what production methods are best. It’s like winemaking in France- their current methods are based on hundreds of years of tradition.”

Is pisco expensive? Ask the grapes!

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Piscologia is Peruvian Pisco

What makes a bottle of liquor expensive? Where does Peruvian pisco fall on the pricing scale of spirits? Let’s discuss why Peruvian pisco is a premium spirit and how its price reflects the quality and care of what goes into every bottle.

Piscologia is Peruvian Pisco

The price of a bottle of liquor is influenced by its distillation methods, aging times, quality of ingredients, the labor involved in the production process and other factors. The higher the quality of ingredients or the more labor involved in making it, the more expensive it will be. For example, a meticulous distiller could use 17 pounds of potatoes to make one bottle of premium vodka. A cheaper brand might use significantly less potatoes, potatoes of lower quality or sloppy distillation methods. In other words, many factors influence price, but as a general rule, the more invested by the producers when crafting the product, the more it will cost at the liquor store.

Piscologia is Peruvian Pisco

Now, why is Peruvian pisco on the higher end of the scale in terms of price? The answer comes down to grapes; there are a lot of grapes in one bottle of pisco. On average, there are approximately 7.5 kilos (about 16.5 pounds) of grapes per bottle of pisco puro or pisco acholado. To make a mosto verde, you need an average about 15 kilos (33 pounds), double the amount of a regular bottle of pisco.

Piscologia is Peruvian Pisco

To explain this further, we made the chart below. You can see how Peruvian pisco compares to wine with regard to grapes per bottle. These are averages, as cluster size, grape size and grapevine yield vary widely between vineyards.

Piscologia is Peruvian Pisco

Per bottle of:
Weight of grapesClustersGrapes# of grapevines
Wine1.5 kilos / 3.3 lbs107001
Acholado o puro7.5 kilos / 16.5 lbs503,500almost 4
Mosto verde15 kilos / 33 lbs1007,0007.5

Piscologia is Peruvian Pisco

As evident in the chart, a bottle of regular pisco has more than 3,500 grapes in it, while a mosto verde requires roughly double that amount. That’s 7,000 grapes in one bottle of liquor!

Piscologia is Peruvian Pisco

In Azpitia, we get an average of 2 kilos of grapes per plant. This means that one bottle of pisco puro or pisco acholado uses the fruit from almost 4 entire grape vines. Mosto verde pisco uses all the fruit from 7.5 grape vines.

Piscologia is Peruvian Pisco

In addition to the sheer amount of fruit that goes into one bottle, one should also consider what’s required to produce healthy plants. Viticulture is arduous work. Grape vines must be carefully tended to for an entire year before the fruit can be picked. When you add in factors like hand-harvesting & hand-pruning, growing grapes can be even more expensive and time consuming.

Piscologia is Peruvian Pisco

We hope the next you sip a PiscoLogía cocktail, you will have a deeper understanding of what goes into every bottle. Besides thousands of grapes, there are many factors that make Peruvian pisco premium. The taste and quality of our final product reflect its price, a quintessential high-end spirit.

Piscologia is Peruvian Pisco

Piscologia is Peruvian Pisco

To make these estimations, we consulted the following source:

Piscologia is Peruvian Pisco

Piscologia is Peruvian Pisco

Gerling, Chris. “Conversion Factors: From Vineyard to Bottle.” Conversion Factors: From Vineyard to Bottle | Viticulture and Enology, 8 Dec. 2011, grapesandwine.cals.cornell.edu/newsletters/appellation-cornell/2011-newsletters/issue-8/conversion-factors-vineyard-bottle/.

PiscoLogía: The Craft of Batch Distillation

copper pot still, how to make pisco, peruvian pisco, piscologia, distilling

Our 300L Copper Pot still

 

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.

 

 

 

Sources:

Belgiorno, Maria. “Experimental Archaeology.” BEHIND DISTILLATION EXPERIMENTAL ARCHAEOLOGY , edited by Antonio De Strobel, De Strobel Publisher, 2018.

 

“Pot Still.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 25 Feb. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pot_still.

PiscoLogia from Harvest to fermentation- A photo journey

 

         Peruvian pisco, quebranta, acholado, how to make pisco, what is pisco, craft pisco, azpitia, types of pisco, harvest        Peruvian pisco, quebranta, acholado, how to make pisco, what is pisco, craft pisco, azpitia, types of pisco, harvest

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.

 

 

 

Peruvian pisco, quebranta, acholado, how to make pisco, what is pisco, craft pisco, azpitia, types of pisco, 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.

 

 

 

 

        Peruvian pisco, quebranta, acholado, how to make pisco, what is pisco, craft pisco, azpitia, types of pisco, harvest, piscologia        Peruvian pisco, quebranta, acholado, how to make pisco, what is pisco, craft pisco, azpitia, types of pisco, harvest, piscologia

To maintain tradition, we harvest by hand. That allows us to hand-select each and every grape that goes into our pisco.

 

 

 

Peruvian pisco, quebranta, acholado, how to make pisco, what is pisco, craft pisco, azpitia, types of pisco, harvest, piscologia        Peruvian pisco, quebranta, acholado, how to make pisco, what is pisco, craft pisco, azpitia, types of pisco, harvest, piscologia

The grapes are then destemmed

 

 

 

Peruvian pisco, quebranta, acholado, how to make pisco, what is pisco, craft pisco, azpitia, types of pisco, harvest, piscologia

and then crushed by foot, in order to extract the juice, but not crush the seeds that could add bitterness to the juice.

 

 

 

Peruvian pisco, quebranta, acholado, how to make pisco, what is pisco, craft pisco, azpitia, types of pisco, harvest, piscologia

A secondary crush then extracts the juice that remains between the flesh and the skin of the grapes.

 

 

 

Peruvian pisco, quebranta, acholado, how to make pisco, what is pisco, craft pisco, azpitia, types of pisco, harvest, piscologia, fermentation

Nati throws some skins back into the juice, just to ensure Azpitia’s natural yeasts are present.

 

 

 

Peruvian pisco, quebranta, acholado, how to make pisco, what is pisco, craft pisco, azpitia, types of pisco, harvest, piscologia, fermentation

In 7 to 10 days, the yeasts work their magic, the juice ferments and the wine is ready for distillation.