This is the 4th post of a series of mythbusters to clarify misconceptions about Peruvian pisco.
We think Acholado is the best pisco for a pisco sour.
Contrary to the belief in Peru that pisco sours should be made with Quebranta pisco, we prefer a sour made with pisco Acholado. It’s even better when the Acholado is blended with an aromatic grape like Italia. The floral, fruity notes of the aromatic variety pair well with the citrus in the cocktail.
In a recent blog post we discussed the benefits of highlighting the characteristics of each pisco type when mixing cocktails. To do this, Kami envisions the 8 pisco varieties on a spectrum, drawing a parallel between their flavors and their sense of warmth. To her, the more aromatic the pisco, the cooler it is: “I love an Acholado or one of the aromatics for a pisco sour. I tend to think of Quebranta as warm, while Italia and Torontel are cool. I like my cool/floral/bright piscos with citrus and the “warm” Quebranta on its own or mixed into a Capitán or another booze-forward classic like a Negroni”.
With this advice from Kami, we encourage you to experiment by making pisco sours with different types of pisco. We are confident that you will agree- the floral, fruity notes of an Acholado work best with the sweetness and acidity of Peru’s most iconic cocktail.
In Peru, the eight grapes used in pisco production are separated into 2 categories: aromatic and non-aromatic. While the latter categorization might imply that some piscos lack aromas, we would like to clarify that all varieties of Peruvian pisco are highly aromatic. This is due to the production methods required by the Denomination of Origin in Peru. First, Peruvian pisco is distilled one time, which helps bring out the unique aromatic profile of each grape variety. Then it is aged in neutral casks, which enhances the aromas while preserving the original identity of the clear spirit.
In this post, we will list the flavors and aromas of each grape variety used in the production of Peruvian pisco: Quebranta, Negra Criolla, Uvina & Mollar (non-aromatic) and Italia, Torontel, Moscatel, and Albilla (aromatic).
Note: These are general tasting notes, as every pisco is different, depending on the region, the terroir of the vineyards and the methods of the distiller.
Origin: The Quebranta grape is a cross between Negra Criolla and Mollar grapes. It is the most common grape used in pisco production in Peru.
Pisco flavors: Lime, mandarin, flowers, orange blossom & tropical fruit
Origin: Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains. AKA Torrontés.
Pisco aromas: Flowers such as geranium, jasmine and magnolia, citrus, orange blossom & tropical fruit
Pisco flavors: Citrus, honey, tropical fruit & toffee
Origin: There is dispute about the origins of Peruvian Moscatel grapes. One theory is that it comes from the Muscat Rose à Petits Grains grape (Jiménez). This muscat grape is not to be confused with Italia, even though they are from the same family.
If you have ever felt overwhelmed by the jargon on a Peruvian pisco label, you have come to the right place. In this blog post, we want to help you understand the vocabulary used to differentiate between types of pisco, pisco grapes and production zones in Peru.
The Denomination of Origin in Peru requires that pisco labels must list 3 key elements: the type of pisco, the grape varietal(s), and where the pisco was produced. We will show you examples, but first we want to detail these 3 parts.
1) Type- There are 3 types of pisco:
Pisco puro– A single varietal pisco made from wine from one type of grape.
Pisco acholado– Made from more than one varietal. It can be a blend of grapes or a blend of piscos.
Pisco mosto verde– Pisco made from musts that aren’t fully fermented and sugar is still present in the juice. Mosto verde piscos tend to be more expensive because they use more grapes.
2) Varietal(s)- There are 8 grapes allowed in Peruvian pisco production:
Four aromatic grape varietals: Albilla, Italia, Moscatel & Torontel
Four non-aromatic grape varietals: Mollar, Negra Criolla, Quebranta & Uvina
Some producers may denote whether the grape used is aromatic or non-aromatic on their labels, although it isn’t required.
3) Production Location– There are 5 pisco-producing regions in Peru:
They are: Lima, Ica, Arequipa, Moquegua and Tacna (only in the valleys of Locumba, Sama and Caplina). Some labels might have more specific information about the D.O., for example the name of the valley or town where it is produced. You will see this is the case with our labels below.
Now, let’s see how these terms are used on our acholado label:
This corresponds to the type(s) of grape used to make the pisco. Remember, “acholado” is a blend of grapes.
This tells where the pisco is made. In our case, we produce in the Denomination of Origin of Lima, but more specifically, in the town of Azpitia.
It is common to specify what grapes are used to make an acholado. To make our PiscoLogía acholado, we use a blend of Quebranta and Italia piscos.
How to read a single varietal pisco (pisco puro) label:
Again, this tells us the type(s) of grape used to make the pisco. In the case, the “quebranta” grape is used. Pisco puro means “pure”, or only one pisco grape varietal. Many producers will provide more information about that single varietal. For example, the back of our label states: “A single variety pisco distilled from quebranta, a low aromatic red wine”.
We hope we have demystified some of the difficult vocabulary used to label Peruvian pisco bottles. Knowing these terms will give you the knowledge you need to make smart purchase the next time you are looking for PiscoLogía or another high-quality Peruvian pisco. The next step is mixing your cocktails. Don’t miss the recipe page on our website: http://piscologia.com/drink-recipes/. ¡Salud!
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.
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.