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