September 15, 2020
Because Peruvian pisco is made from wine and it is so aromatic and flavorful, it pairs especially well with food. In this post, we have chosen a quintessential Peruvian food, Chuncho chocolate, and combined it with pisco to show you what a perfect harmony of food and drink looks like and tastes like.
Chuncho is a variety of theobroma cacao and is considered to be the “center of origin” for all cacao flavors and aromas, with flavors like mandarin, soursop, peach, banana, and jasmine. Chuncho hails from La Convención in Cusco, Peru – precisely where Machu Picchu is located.
Fascinatingly, it is suspected that the cacao pods manifested attractive aromas to allure consumer animals and to ensure repeat consumers it had to deliver a flavorful pulp. This occurred to facilitate seed dispersal and the continuation of the plant. Pre-Inca and the Incas alike consumed the flavorful pulp and only slightly roasted the beans. In fact, Chuncho farmers to this day still do.
Since the flavors in the pulp are imparted to the beans and ultimately to the finished chocolate, the long-standing selection process of the Chuncho cacao variety makes it one of the most prized.
Out of 40 flavors and aromas identified in Chuncho cacao, twenty nine of them mimic those of known fruit and flower or spice species such as: mandarin, soursop, custard apple, cranberry, peach, banana, inga, mango, nut, mint, cinnamon, jasmine, rose and lily.
If you look at the pisco flavor wheel in the image above, the flavor and aroma crossover with pisco is uncanny. Based on the shared flavors and aromas, it is very clear that this would be an exciting pairing to make. While chocolate made from Chuncho cacao may be exclusive and hard to find, any high quality chocolate will be suitable to carry out the pairing.
The flavors and aromas of pisco are fruity and flowery, mainly due to the presence of terpenes, esters, and aldehydes that come from the varieties of grapes used in the wine production and are also produced during the fermentation and the distillation processes. In pisco, forty-two olfactory attributes have been detected, highlighting the complexity of the product.
Channeling back to the tasting lesson, taste the chocolate and the pisco slowly and studiously. We recommend you alternate a small bite of chocolate with a small sip of pisco, taking care to give your palette and brain ample time to formulate an analysis. When pairing with food, there are times when the distillate is enhanced due to the pairing and there are times when it is not. The takeaway is the analysis and what you have learned about both of the tasting specimens individually and together – even if the pairing is a fail.
Because pisco is an unaged spirit with seemingly infinite variations from the grape, the growing year, the producer, and production methods, pairing food with pisco can be such an adventure. Pairing is yet another tool to add to your arsenal of studying the spirit.
We hope you can use the culmination of your experience with Peruvian pisco to experiment with pairing, try pairing it with some of your favorite dishes!