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Learn About All the Peruvian Pisco Grapes

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.

Quebranta

Peruvian pisco, quebranta, acholado, how make pisco

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 aromas: Banana, hay, lucuma, passionfruit, raisins, orange peel, dried grass & chocolate

Pisco flavors: Apple, hay, vanilla, peach, citrus, syrup, pecans, almonds

 

Negra criolla

negra criolla, listan prieto, pisco grape

Origin: Spain. AKA Listan Prieto. It’s a cross between Muscat of Alexandria and another unknown vitis vinifera.

Pisco aromas: Dried grass, apples, peaches, honey & chocolate

Pisco flavors:  Spices, raisins, cocoa & caramel

 

Uvina

uvina, uvina pisco, uvina grape

Origin: Rootstock from the USA or France (possibly Summer grape or Winter grape) and another unknown vitis vinifera. It is similar to Quebranta, but Uvina is known for its green olive nuances.

Pisco aromas: Green olives, mango & banana

Pisco flavors: Green olives, berries & mango

 

Mollar

mollar, peruvian pisco

Origin: Andalucia, Spain. AKA Mollar Cano, Mollar de Cádiz, Mollar de Granada & Mollar de Huelva. It is very similar to the Quebranta grape.

Pisco aromas: Honey, floral, apple & banana

Pisco flavors: Pear, apple, almond & banana

 

Italia

acholado, quebranta, types of pisco, singani, chilean pisco

Origin: A cross between Muscat of Hamburg and Bican grapes. It was created in Italy in 1911 by Luigi and Alberto Pirovano.

Pisco aromas: Tropical fruit, mango, pineapple, peach, jasmine & rose petals

Pisco flavors:  Lime, mandarin, flowers, orange blossom & tropical fruit

 

Torontel

torontel, pisco grapes, pisco

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

Moscatel

moscatel, muscat. pisco grape

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.

Pisco aromas: Vanilla, chestnuts, jasmine & mandarin

Pisco flavors: Peach, apple, flowers, cinnamon and spicy pepper

 

Albilla

albilla, pisco grapes

Origin: Spain. AKA Albillo Real

Pisco aromas:  Lime, lemongrass, peach, apple, vanilla & cinnamon

Pisco flavors: Honey, peach, pineapple & apple

 

Sources:

“Italia (Grape).” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 7 May 2015, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Italia_(grape).

Jiménez, Jorge. “Uvas Moscateles En El Pisco .” Excella by Andrea Bruno, https://www.excella-andreabruno.com/articulo.php?articulo=43.

“Noches De Cata Con Pisco ‘Cata Descriptiva’ .” El Pisco Es Del Perú, Feb. 2012, elpiscoesdelperu.com/web/boletin.php?ver=detnot&id=143&idboletin=101&idC=zoyeca@yahoo.com.

Vera, Nico. “Genealogy of Pisco Grape Varietals.” Pisco Trail, 2018, www.piscotrail.com/.

Understanding Peruvian Pisco Labels

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:

 

acholado, how to read a pisco label, pisco, peruvian pisco, best pisco                      acholado, how to read a pisco label, piscologia, peruvian pisco, pisco, best pisco

  1. This corresponds to the type(s) of grape used to make the pisco. Remember, “acholado” is a blend of grapes.
  2. 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.
  3. 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: 

quebranta, how to read a pisco label, piscologia, peruvian pisco, pisco

 

  1. 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!

The DNA of Peruvian Pisco grapes

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.

 

 

pisco grape varietals, negra criolla, moscatel, peruvian pisco, craft pisco, piscologia, types of pisco grapes, quebranta, acholado

 

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!

 

Sources:

 

Jiménez, Jorge. “Uvas Moscateles En El Pisco .” Excella by Andrea Bruno, https://www.excella-andreabruno.com/articulo.php?articulo=43.

 

Vera, Nico. “Genealogy of Pisco Grape Varietals.” Pisco Trail, 2018, www.piscotrail.com/.

 

Singani and Pisco- Distillation Methods of New World Grapes

Peruvian pisco grapes, muscat, Italia grapes

 

The indigenous people of the Americas had a tradition of making alcoholic beverages long before the Spaniards brought the first grape plant across the Atlantic. They often fermented corn, strawberries or potatoes, a custom still practiced in many countries. For example, “chicha”, made from fermented corn or fruit, is highly consumed throughout the Andes in Peru today.

 

Although the first grapevines in the Americas were planted at the end of the 15th century, distillation of wine seemed to have begun about 100 years later. Since then, certain grape varieties have thrived in different locations and production methods of distilled wine have diversified.

 

We would like to highlight the characteristics of 3 spirits distilled from grapes in South America: Peruvian pisco, Chilean pisco, and Bolivian Singani. The chart below makes a brief comparison of 3 of the 8 Peruvian pisco grapes (Quebranta, Torontel and Uvina) and their Bolivian and Chilean counterpart, Muscat of Alexandria.

 

Grape Type Distilled Spirit Grape Characteristics Typical Characteristics When Distilled
Quebranta Peruvian Pisco Non-aromatic: Red/Purple color Herbal, nutty, banana, apple and mango.

 

Torontel Peruvian Pisco Aromatic: Golden yellow color Floral aromas such as lavender, tropical fruit, cinnamon, citrus.

 

Uvina Peruvian Pisco Non-aromatic: Blue/black color Olives, fresh herbs, apple, banana.

 

Muscat of Alexandria Bolivian Singani Aromatic: White/yellow/pink Pink peppercorns, citrus and white flowers.

 

Muscat of Alexandria Chilean Pisco Aromatic: White/yellow/pink Floral, with hints of jasmine and green pears.

 

 

The common ground between Peruvian pisco, Chilean pisco and Bolivian Singani is that they are all made from New World grapes, using distillation methods that were introduced at the end of the 16th century in Latin America (and as we mentioned in an earlier post, they are all are types of brandy). They all have unique qualities, depending on the terroir and the distiller who crafts them. Regardless of your preference, it is indisputable that the introduction of the grape into Latin America was a momentous game-changer. Thanks to those viticulturists in the 15th century, we now enjoy Peruvian pisco, Chilean pisco and Bolivian Singani today!