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!