Myth #9- A wine-making ban led to pisco production in Peru

We are back to our series of mythbusters to clarify misconceptions about Peruvian pisco!

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Vintners in Peru started making pisco when Spain tried to hinder wine-making.  However, the story is more complicated than a simple restriction.

 

According to historian Guillermo Toro-Lira, the first vineyard in South America was planted in Lima between 1539 and 1541 by Hernando de Montenegro, a Spanish captain (Lima). The first wine was made in 1551, marking the beginning of a new era of wine-making in the New World. By the end of the 16th century, delicious Peruvian wine was demanded around the world, creating formidable competition for Spain’s winemakers.

To hinder wine production in Peru, Spanish royalty imposed high taxes, banned Peruvian wine in Spanish colonies and prohibited the planting of new vines in Peru. However, their attempts were unsuccessful until 1641, when King Philip IV prohibited the importation of Peruvian wine to Spain. Peru was then cut off from one of its last remaining markets. Here is a summary of the timeline:

  • 1539 -1541– First vine (Listán Prieto) planted in Lima by Hernando de Montenegro
  • 1551– First wine made in Lima, making Peru the first winemaking region in South America
  • 1595– Felipe II prohibited planting vines in the colonies. However, people continued planting and making wine.
  • 1595– Felipe II- started taxing vineyard owners, which diminished the amount of vines in Peru.
  • 1614– Peruvian wine was competing so much with Spanish wine that King Philip III prohibited the importation of Peruvian wine to Panama.
  • 1615– The sale of Peruvian wine was banned in Guatemala.
  • 1641– King Philip IV prohibited the importation of Peruvian wine to Spain. Since the market for wine was cut off, vintners in Peru began to use their grapes to make pisco.

 

Instead of abandoning their vines, locals began to use the grapes to make brandy in lieu of wine. Over time, the viticultural knowledge of the Spanish blended with agricultural traditions passed down from the Incas. Years of trial and error led to diversification and selection of the best varieties, identification of optimal regions for grape growing and improved production practices. These factors, along with a climate favorable to grape growing, have allowed Peruvians to proudly craft their national beverage for hundreds of years.

So now you know, a series of restrictions that spanned over the course of 100 years led Peruvians to start making clear brandy. While the decision was detrimental to the wine industry in Peru, thankfully Peruvians were able to use their grapes, knowledge and manpower to make pisco.

 

Sources:  

Huertas Vallejos, Lorenzo. “Historia De La Producción De Vinos y Piscos En El Perú.” Revista Universum, vol. 2, no. 19, 2004, pp. 44–61.

“Lima, Cuna Del Primer Viñedo y Del Primer Vino De Suramérica.” www.efe.com, 28 Sept. 2018, www.efe.com/efe/america/gente/lima-cuna-del-primer-vinedo-y-vino-de-suramerica/20000014-3763502.

 

Peruvian Pisco vs. Chilean Pisco

Is Pisco Peruvian or Chilean? This question is the subject of an ongoing debate between Peru and Chile. Based on historical and etymological evidence that the first pisco was produced in Peru and because of Peru’s rich history of pisco production, we believe pisco is Peruvian.

However, the objective answer to the question is: legally, pisco is both Peruvian and Chilean; both countries call their grape brandy “pisco” and both have a protected Denomination of Origin for pisco.

You may think Peruvian pisco and Chilean are similar. After all, they are both brandies, made from grapes, in two countries with geographic, linguistic and cultural similarities. However, when you take a closer look and examine their distillation methods, geographical zones of production, resting techniques and other details, you will find that they are very different spirits.

Here is a chart to compare the two:

peruvian pisco, chilean pisco

PiscoLogía Quebranta Wins Gold Medal at the Women’s Wine and Spirits Awards in London

womens wine spirits award, spirits award, gold medal pisco, gold medal

 

LIMA, PeruNov. 16, 2019 — PiscoLogía Quebranta, a single-variety Peruvian pisco made from Quebranta grapes, won a gold medal at the most important wine and spirits competition in the world judged by women buyers – the Women’s Wine and Spirits Awards. Held in London at the Royal Yacht Club, 100 of the world’s most influential female buyers assembled for the historic occasion. Top retailers, importers, and hospitality entities were present for the blind tastings, including Waitrose & Partners, Bibendum, Enotria & Co, 67 Pall Mall, and The Arts Club.

The award reflects the quality and craftsmanship of the pisco, which is made in Azpitia, in the Denomination of Origin of Lima. “We are honored to receive this gold medal and celebrate the work completed with my partners Nati Gordillo and Kami Kenna. It is a culmination of years of dedication to the art of pisco making” said Meg McFarland, founder of PiscoLogía.

PiscoLogía is available in the USA through Craft Distillers, in Canada through the Unknown Agency and in Japan through The Blue Habu Trade Group.

 

 

About Piscología Pisco Puro Quebranta

Made from 100% estate-grown grapes, PiscoLogía Quebranta is the quintessential craft pisco. Its aromas are grassy, herbal, and reminiscent of sweet caramelized banana.  It tastes of toasted almonds, pecans and tart green apples.

 

About Topa Spirits, LLC

Topa Spirits, LLC is a 100% women-owned producer, importer and wholesaler of Piscología Pisco Quebranta and PiscoLogía Pisco Acholado.

Connect with PiscoLogía on Facebook, Twitter and www.piscologia.com for cocktail ideas, contests and breaking product news.

 

NOTES FOR NEWS EDITOR:

For further images, see link here: http://wineawards.org/medal-and-press-images/

Full results on https://wineawards.org/wwsa-2020-results/

The Best Pisco Is Made With Intuition

Nati Gordillo, pisco distiller, peruvian pisco, women liquor industry

 

I recently sat down with Nati over a delicious meal, as one always does with Nati, to conduct an interview for this blog post. Since forming the band of women that lead our company, we 3 PiscoLogía partners have never lived in the same city. My goal was to pinpoint exactly what makes Nati so special, as understanding each other helps our partnership thrive. I quickly discovered that besides being the most talented master distiller, Nati’s profound intuition is what sets her apart from others.

Nati’s intuition is manifested in the way she connects with nature. It all started in northwestern Peru, in the city of Piura, where Nati grew up among lush agricultural fields. She used to spend hours in orchards as a child, harvesting juicy guavas and other sweet treats. In her youth, Nati formed a special bond with Pachamama (Mother Earth), a bond that nagged her after starting a family in the bustling city of Lima.

In 1998, Nati’s yearning to connect with nature brought her to Azpitia, where she happened upon a plot of land for sale. At first glance, the sandy hills of Azpitia seemed inhospitable to plants. However, Nati’s intuition allowed her to recognize the unique terroir and immense potential in the barren, rolling slopes. First she would have to channel glacial meltwater from Andean Lagoons to bring life to her project. Then she would have to cleanse the soil of salt- residue from the briny Pacific Ocean mist that had accumulated for centuries.

She irrigated day and night to remove the salt and resuscitate the coastal desert. After a year, native plants began to appear, proving her land was ready for Quebranta, Italia and Torontel vines. Throughout the waiting process, Nati contemplated the circle of life that surrounded her, monitoring the moon’s phases, honoring Pachamama to bless her future crops and sowing native plants that would benefit her vines. She also studied the practices of those who came before her, adopting agricultural techniques from the Incas and viticulture concepts from the Spaniards.

Three years later, she rented a still to distill her first batch of pisco. Nati patiently supervised as the clear brandy collected in the well, drip by drip, for 33 hours. The experience gave her the confidence and determination to learn more. One course and a Sommelier degree later, and Nati was ready to buy her first 300L copper-pot still, which boldly shines in the distillery today.

Learning a trade and running a business can be tumultuous. However, one thing has always guided Nati: her intuition. It tells her how to raise her grapes, when to harvest and how to listen to nature. It gives her the insight to know when to cut the heads from the tails and how to care for the pisco after distillation. Her clairvoyance makes her treat the Earth with respect before reaping its benefits. That is why Nati’s pisco is so extraordinary. She creates delicacies with nature’s ingredients through a deliberate, respectful and loving process.

When I asked Nati what she wanted the world to know about her, she humbly answered that she believes in putting positive energy into everything she does. She stated that she likes crafting pisco because it is an act of giving to others. Her comments made me reflect on how lucky Kami and I are to work with Nati. Her quiet introspection completes the puzzle of our partnership, guiding us to make wise business decisions. I then realized that Nati isn’t the most talented master distiller AND the most intuitive; she is the most talented master distiller BECAUSE of her intuition.

Soon Nati’s daughter Beatriz will start her apprenticeship to learn how to distill pisco with her mom. Beatriz will learn well from her mom’s talent and sixth sense.  We all know that the best pisco is made with more than just skill; you need positive energy, respect for Pachamama, and most importantly, intuition.

Pisco Cocktail Recipe Postcards

If you love Kami’s pisco cocktails, now you can download our recipe postcards! Click on the links below to learn more about the diverse ways to mix PiscoLogía. In addition to classic pisco cocktails such as the Capitán and Chilcano, you will also find new renditions of traditionally rum-based cocktails such as the Mai Tai and Piña Colada. Finally, if you are looking for something new, we know you won’t be disappointed by the spicy Bees Knees Stings or the Flor Canela.

 

Do you need high resolution files? Please contact us at info@topaspirits.com.

 

pisco cocktail, pisco logia, acholado, quebranta, spicy cocktail

 

Bees Knees Stings

Capitan Perfecto

Dr. Hopeful

Flor Canela

Mai Nikkei Tai

Matcha Colada

Pisco & Tonic

San Martin Cocktail

Watermelon Chilcano

 

Pisco & Tonic – The Most Peruvian Cocktail

cinchona, pisco tonic, tonic, quina

Cinchona Bark

 

If you think the pisco sour is the most Peruvian cocktail, it may surprise you to hear that we think the pisco & tonic should be the flagship cocktail of Peru. Quinine, the ingredient that gives tonic water its bitter taste, comes from the bark of Peru’s national tree, the cinchona.

There are 23 species of cinchona plants, six of which only grow in the tropical areas of the Peruvian Andes. The Cinchona officinalis (quina in Spanish) is among those 6 species. Quinine from this tree is not only used to make tonic water, but it also has been historically used to treat malaria.

You can make your own tonic water by soaking cinchona bark in carbonated water. However, it’s difficult to find. Sadly, cinchona trees are in danger of extinction.

We believe the pisco tonic should be revered as the quintessential Peruvian cocktail. Tonic, made from bark from Peru’s national tree + pisco + ice =  the most Peruvian experience in a glass!

 

pisco tonic, Peruvian pisco, piscologia, pisco cocktails, acholado

Pisco y Tonic

1.5 oz PiscoLogía Acholado

Top with Fever Tree Tonic

Serve over ice. Garnish with kalamata olives & lime peel 

 

 

Sources:

Cortijo, Roberto. “Peru in Danger of Losing Its National Cinchona Tree.” Phys.org, 18 Oct. 2018, phys.org/news/2018-10-peru-danger-national-cinchona-tree.html.

 

Riepl, Martin. “Quina, El Casi Extinto Árbol Medicinal Del Escudo De Perú Que Pocos Patriotas Conocen e Inspiró El Gin Tonic .” BBC News Mundo, BBC, 28 July 2017, www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-40744976.

Create a Pisco Sour Without the Egg!

vegan pisco sour, pisco sour without egg

Credit: Blue Habu

 

The unappetizing odor, fear of food-borne illnesses and adherence to a vegan diet are reasons many avoid raw eggs in their cocktails. The traditional pisco sour recipe relies on egg whites to create its creamy foam. However, these 3 alternatives use aquafaba, Ms. Better’s Bitters Miraculous Foamer and organic soy milk to create a similar texture.

 

First, Tara Duggan from the San Francisco Chronicle uses aquafaba:
  • 2 oz. Pisco
  • 1 oz. aquafaba, or the drained water from a can of unsalted garbanzo beans
  • 1 oz. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons sugar or ¾ oz. simple syrup

 

Nico from Pisco Trail works with Ms. Better’s Bitters Miraculous Foamer in lieu of egg whites:
  • 2 oz. PiscoLogía Pisco Quebranta
  • 1 oz. Lime juice
  • 1 oz. Simple syrup
  • 1/2 Dropper Ms. Better’s Bitters Miraculous Foamer

 

Maurice Dudley from Blue Habu in Okinawa uses organic soy milk:
  • 2 oz. PiscoLogía Pisco Acholado
  • 1 oz. Shiquasa liquer
  • 1 oz. Gum syrup
  • 1 oz. Organic soy milk

 

*For all recipes, place all ingredients in a shaker without ice. Shake for 30 seconds. Add ice and shake again. Strain into chilled glass. When foam rises, garnish with 3 drops of bitters.

 

Pro-tip- If you’re making a maracuyá sour, passionfruit makes a natural foam. Vigorously shake 1 oz. of pure passionfruit juice with pisco and simple syrup. You will be pleasantly surprised by the natural froth that forms from the juice.

Leave us a comment if you find a favorite substitute for eggs whites for your pisco sours!

 

 

Sources:

Blue Habu Trade Group. “The 4-30”. https://web.facebook.com/bluehabutrade/. January 20, 2018.

 

Duggan, Tara. “Recipe: Aquafaba Pisco Sour Cocktail.” SFChronicle.com, San Francisco Chronicle, 9 Mar. 2016, www.sfchronicle.com/recipes/article/Recipe-Aquafaba-Pisco-Sour-Cocktail-6880706.php.

 

Vera, Nico. “Vegan Pisco Sour .” Pisco Trail, 2 Feb. 2019, www.piscotrail.com/2019/02/02/cocktails/vegan-pisco-sour/.

Matcha Colada

piscologia, craft pisco, piña colada, peruvian pisco, pisco cocktail

 

Pisco replaces rum in this Piña Colada-style concoction, showcasing the versatility of Peruvian pisco and highlighting its longstanding relationship with the pineapple.

 

The marriage of Peruvian pisco and pineapple happened thanks to Duncan Nicol, but the pineapple had gained fame in the USA long before the Pisco Punch. In the 1700’s, the tropical fruit began to symbolize opulence in the colonies- one pineapple cost the equivalent of $8,000 in today’s dollars, due to its “perishability, novelty, exoticism, and scarcity” (Raga).

When Nicol opened the Bank Exchange, the fruit was still a symbol of great wealth, but it had become less expensive due to the increased movement of goods during the Gold Rush. Ships used to stock up on prospecting supplies in Peru en route to San Francisco, among the goods were pisco and pineapples. The fruit soon became more accessible, allowing Nicol to mix pineapple syrup and pisco to woo San Francisco’s wealthiest drinkers.

Luckily pineapple is no longer for the elite, so we can use it in our favorite cocktails without breaking the bank. For this Matcha Colada, a Peruvian piña colada, we recommend PiscoLogía Acholado, our special blend of Quebranta and Italia piscos. The pineapple and coconut will pair beautifully with the tropical flavors and aromas of the Italia.

For a special treat, add matcha syrup and matcha dust, a finely ground powder of green tea leaves!

 

Matcha Colada

2 oz. Pisco Acholado

1 oz. Coconut cream

.75 oz. Pineapple juice

.75 oz. Matcha syrup

Shake and pour over pebble ice. Garnish with mint bundle and matcha dust 

 

 

Source:

Raga, Suzanne. “The Super Luxe History of Pineapples.” Mental Floss, 25 June 2015, mentalfloss.com/article/65506/super-luxe-history-pineapples-and-why-they-used-cost-8000.

When to Harvest Pisco Grapes

harvest pisco grapes, pis

Before distillation, Peruvian pisco grapes are first crushed and then fermented to make wine. It is very important to make precise decisions about when to harvest so the grapes have the right amount of sugar, acidity and tannins. Having this balance gives us high-quality wine and pisco. Nati uses both science and intuition to determine if this balance has been achieved.

First, science is used to determine the sugar and pH levels. Nati uses specific measurements to determine that the Brix levels of our Quebranta are between 24°-26° and our Italia between 22°-23°. It is important to obtain the right amount of sugar because yeasts need glucose to convert the juice into wine. Furthermore, as grapes ripen, acidity drops as sugar levels increase. However, we need to maintain certain levels of acidity so the wine is well-rounded. Nati strives for a pH of around 3.2-3.4.

Nati also checks for physiological changes in the vines. This means that the grapes, stems and seeds have the proper coloring. The fruit should be bright and robust and the stems and seeds should be brown, indicating they are ripe.

Finally, she uses intuition when tasting the fruit. The fruit must taste sweet and have good acidity and tannins. Sugar is especially key in pisco production; the more you have, the higher the alcohol content.

Determining when to harvest is an extremely important step in the pisco production process. Perfecting the balance of science and intuition gives us grapes with better flavors and aromas and thus, a well-rounded pisco.

 

 

Singani vs. Pisco

Singani and pisco are both clear grape brandies that share similar physical attributes. However, when you examine their distillation methods, geographical zones of production, resting techniques, quality classifications and other details, you will find that they are very different spirits. We have listed the differences between Bolivian Singani and Peruvian pisco in the chart below:

 

Peruvian Pisco
Singani

A brandy made from 1 or a blend of the 8 pisco grapes permitted by the D.O. in Peru.

A brandy made only from Muscat of Alexandria grapes in Bolivia.

Rests in neutral casks a minimum of 3 months.

Rests in neutral casks for a minimum of 6 months.

Must be made in one of the Pisco-producing regions as defined by the D.O. in Peru.

Must be made in one of the Singani-producing regions as defined by the D.O. in Bolivia.

Produced at 2,000m (6,562 feet) or lower from grapes grown at those elevations.

Produced at 1,600m (5,250 feet) or higher from grapes grown at those elevations.

Has both single-variety Piscos (puros) and blends (acholados).

Only single-variety Singanis are produced exclusively from the Muscat of Alexandria grape. No blending with other varieties is permitted.

Linguistic evidence suggests the word “pisco” comes from the native Quechua word “pishqu” (meaning bird).

Linguistic evidence suggests that the word “singani” comes from the native Aymara word “siwingani” (meaning sedge).

Only single distillation permitted.

Usually double distilled and watered down to proof.

No quality classification

Has quality classifications:

Singani de Altura

Singani

Singani de Primera

Singani de Segunda

Pomace may never be distilled in Pisco production.

Singani de Primera and Singani de Segunda may be made from the pomace leftovers from winemaking (similar to grappa)

*Chilcano Cocktail*

  • Ginger ale or ginger beer
  • Lime
  • Pisco

*Shoofly Cocktail*

  • Ginger ale or ginger beer
  • Lime
  • Singani

 

Download our Signani vs. Pisco chart here: Singani vs. Pisco

 

Sources:

Armstrong, Darren. “Singani.” StrongSomm, www.strongsomm.com/singani.

“Singani.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 10 July 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singani.