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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.  Hopefully you can use this as a guide the next time you browse the brandy section of the liquor store.

pisco

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!

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.

 

 

 

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

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!

 

Peruvian Pisco Grapes: Acholado vs. Quebranta

peruvian pisco, pisco, piscologia, acholado, quebranta

To understand the difference between Acholado and Quebranta, one must first understand what Peruvian pisco is. Peruvian pisco is a clear brandy made from 100% grapes. That means it is a fine wine that is distilled once and then aged in neutral casks.

Quebranta is a grape variety used to make Peruvian pisco, just like Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay are types of wine grapes. In Peru, there are 8 grapes used in pisco production: Quebranta, Negra Criolla, Mollar, Uvina (non-aromatic) and Italia, Torontel, Moscatel, and Albilla (aromatic). In Spanish, a pisco made with a single variety of grape is called “pisco puro”.

Acholado means “blend”. If a pisco is an Acholado, it is made from either a blend of two or more types of grapes or from a blend of single variety piscos. Nati, our master distiller, mixes a perfect concoction of Quebranta and Italia grapes to create our PiscoLogía Acholado.

Here is a comparison of Acholado and Quebranta:

PiscoLogía Acholado:

peruvian pisco, pisco, craft pisco, acholado, quebranta

Flavors: Matured dried currant & bananas

Aromas: Pecan and orange blossom

Pair with: Semi-sweet chocolate

Cocktail suggestion: “Eggs Benedictine”

  • 2 oz. PiscoLogía Acholado
  • 1 oz. Pineapple Syrup
  • 1 oz. Lime
  • .5 oz Benedictine
  • Egg white
  • Fresh grated nutmeg (garnish)

Serve on the rocks

PiscoLogía Quebranta:

Aromas: Grassy, herbal, carmelized banana

Flavors: Toasted almonds, pecans, tart green apples

Pair with: Camembert and apples

Cocktail suggestion: “Grape on Grape on Grape”

  • 2 oz. PiscoLogía Quebranta
  • .5 oz. Manzanilla Sherry
  • .5 oz Punte E Mes Sweet Vermouth

Serve Neat