When the first wine was made in 1551, it marked the beginning of a new enological era in the New World. However, it wouldn’t have been possible without the agricultural prowess of Peru’s natives, who were experts in cultivating and irrigating the arid coast. Their expertise and manpower, combined with the demanding manual labor & agricultural knowledge of African slaves, made grape-growing highly successful in Peru.
By the end of the 16th century, the popularity of Peruvian wine posed a formidable threat to the Spanish wine industry. In an attempt to hinder wine production in Peru, Spanish royalty imposed high taxes, banned Peruvian wine in their colonies and prohibited the planting of new vines in Peru. However, they weren’t successful until 1641, when King Philip The Fourth prohibited the importation of Peruvian wine to Spain, cutting Peruvian vintners off from one of their last remaining markets.
Instead of abandoning their vines, locals began to use the grapes to make brandy. In the tradition of the Old World’s firewater, they called this grape distillate “aguardiente de uva”, following alchemical methods from the Middle Ages. Eventually, the name changed to “pisco”.
Over time, the viticultural knowledge of the Spanish blended with agricultural traditions passed down from the Incas and African laborers. 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.
Pisco is defined by the Denomination of Origin as “the product obtained from the distillation of fresh musts of recently fermented pisco grapes”. If you are new to pisco, you might not know what musts are. Must is freshly crushed grape juice that may contain some skins, seeds and possibly some stems. Depending on their preferences, master distillers in Perú may leave some skins, seeds and stems in the must during maceration.
Maceration is the process of soaking all or some of the skins, seeds and stems to extract aromas and flavors from the skins and transfer them to the juice. According to the Peruvian Technical Standards, fermentation may occur with or without maceration, or with partial or total maceration of the pomace. It depends on the preferences of the master distiller. However, the must has to be separated from the pomace before distillation because ONLY wine can be distilled in Peruvian pisco production.
The rich history of pisco shows in the traditions performed throughout the entire pisco-making process, starting with agricultural and spiritual practices in the vineyards and ending when the pisco is consumed. We will cover every my noot detail of those processes in this course, but for now, let’s talk about harvest.
Harvest of pisco grapes happens in Fall in Perú, typically in March or April. The ripe berries are plucked from the vines, giving the master distiller the raw materials needed to craft the perfect batch. The grapes are destemmed and crushed and maceration may or may not occur. With the help of yeasts, the sugar converts the grape juice to alcohol and the juice becomes wine, ready for distillation.
Making pisco is a demonstration of the craft, skill and scientific knowledge of the distiller. While the wine heats up, boils, evaporates and then condenses into pisco through a scientific process, intuition tells the distiller when to cut the heads from the tails, how to manage the environment, to regulate temperatures and make other very important decisions to obtain a quality product.
Once distillation has converted the wine to pisco, the brandy must rest a minimum of 3 months in neutral vessels such as stainless steel or fiberglass. This makes pisco completely transparent and unaltered, allowing you to fully appreciate the original identity of the spirit. After resting, it can be bottled and is ready for consumption.
Peruvian pisco is unique because it is distilled only one time, making it different from other brandies that are distilled more than once and watered down to proof. That means a master distiller has only one chance to craft an exceptional pisco at the desired proof. However, the ABV must be between 38 and 48%, according to the Denomination of Origin in Perú.
Since nothing is added to Peruvian pisco, that means there is only one ingredient in the bottle: grapes. So, just how many grapes are in one bottle? On average, there are an incredible 7.5 kilos, 16.5 pounds packed in one bottle of puro or acholado, the most common types of pisco. On your screen, you can see how that compares to wine and mosto verde piscos. Next time you go to the grocery store, try to buy 16.5 pounds of grapes and you will get an idea of just how many grapes that is!
Pisco was formally declared a Denomination of Origin in Peru on December 12th, 1990, by Directorial Resolution No. 072087-DIPI. It was ratified by Supreme Decree No. 001-91-ICTI / IND on January 16, 1991. However, we will eternally emphasize that the pisco production methods and traditions had been practiced in Peru hundreds of years before the official formation of the D.O.
We recently made a correction to the PiscoLogía label based on a new regulation for the Denomination of Origin. It was brought to our attention that all piscos should be labeled “Denomination of Origin: Pisco”. That is, the specific region where the spirit is produced should not be specified on the labels, but rather, the one denomination of Pisco. For example, a producer in Tacna should not label bottles with “Denomination/Appellation of Origin, Tacna”, but rather “Denomination/Appellation of Origin, Pisco”.
More information can be found in Resolution No. 13880-2017 / DSD-INDECOPI.
As protecting the rights to pisco is a main priority for the Appellation of Origin in Peru, the Resolution specifies that the purpose of this change was “to imply greater protection in the other member countries of the Andean Community”.
This means the D.O. for pisco from Peru should have more clout in the Andean countries (if you need a refresher on why this is an issue, please buy Ambassador Gutiérrez’s book, “Pisco, its Name, its History”). While we love to appreciate the distinct terroirs of each region in Peru, we also believe this change will create unity between producers of one of the national symbols of Peru.
Now if you want information about the origin of a pisco, you will have to read the label to find out which region it came from. Here are a couple blog posts to guide you:
To tout their piscos, some brands have appropriated production methods required by the D.O., marketing them as unique proprietary techniques. Attempting to distinguish a pisco based on these supposed proprietary production methods is misleading. This blog post will explain why.
First, the D.O. in Peru requires that all pisco be made from 100% grapes. If you produce a clear brandy in Peru and label it pisco, it is strictly required that the spirit be made only from grapes. Nothing can be added to it, not even water. That means if a producer does add something to the must, grapes, or wine before production, or to the brandy after distillation, then they are in violation of the Denomination of Origin in Peru and are subject to punishment. We will explain why producers of other spirits might add water to their distillates in another blog post.
Second, the single distillation method is often appropriated for marketing purposes. For the same aforementioned reasons, claiming single distillation as a proprietary production method is fallacious. ALL pisco made in Peru is distilled once because the D.O. for pisco in Peru requires it.
As we have mentioned on our website and in several blog posts, single distillation allows producers to highlight the terroir and distinctiveness of each grape. It also means master distillers have one chance to obtain the perfect pisco at just the right ABV. This is obviously very different than the production methods used to make other spirits, including Chilean brandy.
Now, does the single distillation method make pisco superior to other distillates such as Chilean brandy, whiskey, or gin? Perhaps, but why compare apples to oranges? Does the single distillation method differentiate one pisco brand from another? Absolutely not. It is part of what makes pisco, pisco.
In summary, if people ask: “Why do you single distill and add nothing to PiscoLogía?”, the answer is simple: because the D.O. regulations require it. Why do the D.O. regulations require it? The D.O. for pisco in Peru was formed to formalize, regulate, and protect the production traditions perfected over hundreds of years in Peru.
For more information about the D.O. in Peru, please visit: https://www.indecopi.gob.pe/documents/1902049/3747615/pisco+%281%29.pdf/99a9fdfb-0b6a-97ff-06fe-37ddec01899f
La publicación en inglés prueba que la denominación de origen del pisco le pertenece al Perú
El Embajador Gonzalo Gutiérrez anunció la publicación en inglés de su último trabajo: “Pisco: su nombre, su historia”, la culminación de una investigación sobre el verdadero origen del aguardiente de uva. El trabajo analiza la evidencia etimológica, histórica y cultural para confirmar que el pisco es de Perú.
Al presentar documentos antiguos, procedimientos legales del siglo XVIII y reflexiones sobre el destilado de uva en las artes y la cultura popular, el trabajo del Sr. Gutiérrez muestra los derechos peruanos sobre la Denominación de Origen de la bebida. El autor expresó que compartir su investigación con una audiencia más amplia de habla inglesa catalizará el avance de la D. de O. peruana.
Meg McFarland, traductora del libro, declaró: “El análisis del embajador Gutiérrez es un hito revelador en el ámbito de la industria de las bebidas espirituosas. Mi objetivo como traductora fue ayudar a la comprensión de los lectores de habla inglesa sobre la historia, la cultura y el origen del pisco. Lograr que esta información esté disponible en diferentes idiomas es crucial para el crecimiento del destilado peruano en todo el mundo”.
El lanzamiento virtual del libro se llevará a cabo el 23 de junio a la 1:00 pm EST (7:00 pm CSET, 12:00 m. LIMA). El Embajador presentará los principales argumentos para establecer el origen histórico peruano del pisco. El panel también incluirá a Kami Kenna de PiscoLogía pisco y Bourcard Nesin de Rabobank, quienes compartirán sus puntos de vista sobre el papel del pisco en el sector de bebidas espirituosas.
Haga clic aquí para unirse a la presentación del libro virtual: https://illinois.zoom.us/j/6437912347?pwd=M2ZpSm82TVIxditNSWROd2NJdU9rUT09
Para comprar una copia de “Pisco: su nombre, su historia”, siga el enlace: https://piscocertificate.com/product/pisco-its-name-its-history/.
Sobre el Embajador Gutiérrez Reinel
Gonzalo Gutiérrez es el actual embajador de Perú en Bélgica, Luxemburgo y la Unión Europea. También ha sido Ministro de Relaciones Exteriores del Perú y Embajador del Perú en China y las Naciones Unidas en Nueva York. Recientemente publicó “Pisco Elqui, El Nombre Engañoso”, un ensayo que revela un esquema comercial engañoso montado en la década de 1930 para eludir las regulaciones sobre el uso de nombres geográficos para designar bebidas espirituosas en los Estados Unidos.
Sobre el Pisco
El pisco de Perú es el aguardiente de uva más antiguo de América. Destilado en la tradición del aguardiente ancestral, el pisco es transparente y no se le añeja. Según la IWSC (Concurso Internacional de Vinos y Licores), el pisco es una de las 5 tendencias de bebidas espirituosas más importantes del mundo, como se ve en su creciente popularidad en la competencia de 2019.
The English –Language Publication Proves the Appellation of Origin of Pisco Belongs to Peru
Ambassador Gonzalo Gutiérrez announced the publication of his latest work: “Pisco: its Name, its History”, a culmination of research about the true origin of the grape spirit. The crowning achievement scrutinizes etymological, historical and cultural evidence to confirm pisco is from Peru.
By presenting age-old documents, 1700s legal proceedings, and reflections of the grape distillate in the arts, Mr. Gutiérrez’s work shows the historical Peruvian rights to the spirit’s Appellation of Origin. He expressed that sharing his research with a broader English-speaking audience will catalyze the advancement of the Peruvian A.O.
Meg McFarland, translator of the book, stated, “Ambassador Gutiérrez’s analysis is an illuminating game-changer in the realm of the spirits industry. My goal as translator was to help shape English-speaking readers’ understanding of the history, culture, and origin of pisco. Making this information available in more languages is crucial to the growth of the Peruvian spirit worldwide”.
A virtual book launch will be held on June 23rd at 1:00pm EST (7:00pm CSET). The Ambassador will present the main arguments to establish the historical Peruvian origin of pisco. The panel will also include Kami Kenna of PiscoLogía pisco and Bourcard Nesin of Rabobank, who will share their expertise about pisco in the beverage industry.
Click here to join the virtual book presentation: https://illinois.zoom.us/j/6437912347?pwd=M2ZpSm82TVIxditNSWROd2NJdU9rUT09
To purchase a copy of “Pisco: its Name, its History”, follow the link: https://piscocertificate.com/product/pisco-its-name-its-history/.
About Ambassador Gutiérrez Reinel
Gonzalo Gutierrez is the current ambassador of Peru to Belgium, Luxembourg and the European Union. He has also been Minister of Foreign Affairs of Peru and Peruvian Ambassador to China and the United Nations in New York. He recently released “Pisco Elqui, The Misleading Name”, an essay revealing a duplicitous trade scheme mounted in the 1930s to circumvent regulations on the use of geographical names to designate spirits in the USA.
Pisco from Peru is the oldest grape spirit of the Americas. Distilled in the tradition of ancestral firewater (eau-de-vie, brandy); pisco is clear and unaged. According to the IWSC (International Wine and Spirits Competition), pisco is one of the five biggest spirits trends in the world, as seen in its rising popularity in the 2019 competition.
Hay 3 tipos de pisco peruano: puro, acholado y mosto verde. Lo que diferencia un tipo de pisco de otro depende de las uvas, no de las variedades que se utilizan para su elaboración, sino de la forma en que se utilizan.
El pisco puro se elabora con una sola cepa. Por ejemplo, el quebranta es una uva que se usa para hacer el pisco peruano, al igual que Cabernet Sauvignon y Chardonnay son uvas que se usan para hacer vino. Entonces, el pisco puro de quebranta es un pisco elaborado con una sola variedad, la uva quebranta.
Acholado significa mezcla. Acholado se puede hacer mezclando uvas, mostos de uva, mostos fermentados, también conocida como vino, o mezclando piscos, lo que significa que un destilador puede combinar las uvas de muchas formas diferentes antes o después de la destilación.
En el caso de PiscoLogía, nuestra maestra destiladora Nati mezcla los piscos Italia y Quebranta antes del embotellado. Esto le permite crear la fórmula perfecta en cada lote una vez que los sabores y aromas se hayan fusionado durante la fase de reposo.
Finalmente, un pisco de mosto verde se elabora con mostos que no están completamente fermentados, de modo que las levaduras no han convertido completamente todos los azúcares del jugo de uva en vino. Esto da como resultado que los mosto verdes tengan una textura más sedosa y más sabor a fruta y que sean más aromáticos.
Hagamos un resumen rápido. Ahora saben que hay 3 tipos de pisco: puro, acholado y mosto verde. También aprendieron que la principal diferencia entre estos tipos de pisco depende de cómo se usen las uvas durante o después de la destilación.
Tradition is what makes PiscoLogía’s terroir truly exceptional. From spiritual rituals in the vineyard to labeling the bottles, everything Nati does ensures that her unrivaled craft that shows in every bottle.
In August, after hand-pruning every vine, Nati gives thanks to Pachamama, the Mother Earth of the Incas. This spiritual practice ensures harmony in the environment and a plentiful growth cycle.
The grapes receive individual care when they are hand-picked and hand selected, only the finest will be crushed and transformed into wine by fermentation by native yeasts.
Then in distillation, her insight and scientific knowledge tell her when to cut the heads from the tails, how to manage the calientavinos to save energy and how to care for the pisco during the resting phase. Her copper pot still is the device that allows her to express her skill, allowing all the factors that make our terroir shine through in every bottle of PiscoLogía.
The conversion of wine to pisco is much more than a scientific process; it’s a manifestation of Nati’s skill and intuition, resulting in the maximum expression of terroir in every bottle.
Most of the world’s premium wine production takes place between the 30th and 50th parallels of the Southern and Northern Hemispheres, where temperate conditions are conducive to grape growing. Growing healthy grapes outside of those parallels can be extremely difficult.
So how are we able to produce healthy pisco grapes in Azpitia, located at 12° S in the Tropic of Capricorn? The answer lies in an oceanographic phenomenon called the Humboldt Current.
The Humboldt Current is a cold ocean current that flows north along the western coast of South America. When the Current brings frigid waters from the Southern Chile to Northern Peru, it cools the ocean & creates dry, chilled air. This is why the Peruvian coastline is so arid. Where a dense jungle would normally lie, sand dunes and cacti line the coasts, creating very favorable wine-making conditions.
Upwelling that occurs when the cool current meets tropical waters brings rich nutrients to the surface, creating an irresistible feast for Peruvian birds. In the 16th Century, people dedicated a portion of the coast to the abundant bird population by naming the area “Pisco”.
Because of this fascinating phenomenon, we can grow grapes in optimal conditions and produce the high-quality wine that we distill to make PiscoLogía.
PiscoLogía’s vineyards are located 4 miles from the Pacific Ocean at 200 meters above sea level. This proximity and altitude create a perfect storm in the evening, when the ocean breeze channels through the Mala River Valley to reach our vineyards, reducing the temperature surrounding our vines.
This cooling phenomenon provides us with grapes with higher acidity levels. Grapes with higher acidity create a more balanced wine, the wine we use to make PiscoLogía!