This is the 12th in a series mythbusters to clarify misconceptions about Peruvian pisco!
Acholados can be made from a blend of any of the 8 grapes permitted by the D.O. in Peru. The blend does not need to contain both aromatic and non-aromatic grapes.
Another myth about pisco that requires clarification is the notion that an acholado must be made from a blend of at least one aromatic grape and one non-aromatic grape. To address this myth, we turned to Pepe Moquillaza, Liquid Story Teller, brand Ambassador and maestro pisquero, who stated: “traditionally an acholado was made from Quebranta and a mix of aromatic grapes. However, this wasn’t enforced in the legislation of the Denomination of Origin, so that requirement is no longer. Now you can mix grapes, fermented must or piscos of any of the 8 grape types permitted by the D.O.”
Here are the D.O. rules for acholados:
4.3 Pisco acholado is obtained from a mix of:
Pisco grapes, aromatic and non-aromatic
Musts of aromatic and non-aromatic pisco grapes
Completely fermented fresh musts (wine) of aromatic and non-aromatic pisco grapes.
Piscos made from aromatic and non-aromatic pisco grapes.
And just a reminder, those pisco grapes are: Quebranta, Negra Criolla, Mollar, Uvina (non-aromatic) and Albilla, Italia, Torontel and Moscatel (aromatic).
So there you have it- one can find all types of acholado piscos in Peru, and blends made from solely non-aromatic or aromatic grapes are permitted. The end result in the bottle comes down to the vineyard and the preferences of the master distiller.
The 4 aromatic pisco grapes are Albilla, Torontel, Italia and Moscatel. The 4 non-aromatic grapes are Quebranta, Uvina, Mollar and Negra Criolla. But before we explore each variety, first let’s talk about the 2 categories of pisco grapes: aromatic and non-aromatic. While the latter categorization might imply that some piscos lack aromas, it should be clarified that all varieties of Peruvian pisco have very expressive aromas. This often creates confusion for people not familiar with Peruvian pisco. They understandably expect a “non-aromatic” pisco to not have any aromas.
All the Peruvian pisco grapes have highly aromatic qualities because of production methods required by the Denomination of Origin in Peru. First, the single distillation method helps bring out the unique aromatic profile of each grape variety. Then, resting in neutral casks enhances aromas while preserving the pisco’s original identity. This is different than spirits that age in barrels whose flavors and aromas are altered by wood. Please watch the video below for more information.
In lesson 2, you will learn about the differences between the 3 types of piscos: pisco puro, pisco acholado & mosto verde. What differentiates one type of pisco from another depends on the grapes, not in the varieties used to make them, but in the way they are used.
Pisco puro is made from one grape. For example, Quebranta is a grape used to make Peruvian pisco, just like Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay are grapes used to make wine. So, pisco puro de quebranta is a pisco made from just one variety, the quebranta grape.
Acholado means blend. An acholado can be made from a blend of grapes or a blend of piscos, which means a distiller can combine the grapes before distillation or the piscos after distillation. In the case of PiscoLogía, our master distiller Nati blends Italia and Quebranta piscos before bottling. This allows her to create the perfect formula in each batch once the flavors and aromas have melded during the resting phase.
Finally, a mosto verde pisco is made from musts that aren’t fully fermented, such that the yeasts haven’t completely converted all of the sugars from the grape juice into wine. This results in mosto verdes having a more silky texture and are more aromatic.
This is the 11th in a series mythbusters to clarify misconceptions about Peruvian pisco!
Quebranta is indeed a very flavorful variety, but so are the other 7 Peruvian pisco grapes.
Let’s first address the idea that the Quebranta grape is the strongest of all the Peruvian pisco grapes. This statement brings up a lot of questions, such as: What does “strength” refer to? Does it refer to the strength of the flavor of the Quebranta grape? Or perhaps it refers to the robustness of the Quebranta plant? Or maybe this is a misconception of the alcoholic strength of the final product?
The Quebranta plant is Peru’s only indigenous vitis vinifera variety and it has indeed adapted very well to the climate and soils in Peru. However, from a standpoint of durability or longevity, the Negra Criolla (Listán Prieto) variety was the first to be planted in Peru sometime between 1539 and 1541. Therefore, because Negra Criolla has been around for longer in Peru, it would technically win the contest of longevity.
Furthermore, potency of the alcohols in a pisco depend not on the grape type, but on the sugar levels of the grapes used in fermentation. We all know that a pisco can have a maximum ABV of 48%. You can have pisco at 48% ABV made from any of the 8 grapes allowed in the production of Peruvian pisco, not just Quebranta. To reach the desired sugar levels, and therefore the desired alcohol levels of the final product, vintners will aim to reach around 23-26 Brix before harvesting. This measurement is taken with a refractometer. Then finally, proper distillation methods also help regulate the alcohol content.
Second, it is difficult to defend or refute the notion that Quebranta is the most flavorful grape because the concept of taste is very subjective. What may seem flavorful to one person could be bland to another. It would require years of qualitative research and surveying to determine which grape is the most flavorful.
Making scientific measurements of flavor requires the implementation of complicated processes. Techniques such as solvent extraction and headspace methods would be required to identify and qualify methoxypyrazines and non-volatile, glycosylated conjugates of volatile molecules in grapes, among many other elements. Then to analyze, one would need to conduct gas-liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry. Furthermore, soil, climate and traditions also greatly impact flavor expression, regardless of the grape variety. All of those factors would need to be studied and compared before making a general statement about the flavor of Quebranta grapes.
Put simply, the most flavorful pisco grapes are the ones that have been tended to carefully throughout the year and the whole production process. Those grapes are most flavorful when they are recently harvested and have the desired Brix levels. Needless to say, it is a very weak argument to say that the Quebranta grape is the strongest and most flavorful grape without any data or research to back it up. In our opinion, all the Peruvian pisco grapes are strong, flavorful and so unique that they should each be appreciated as such.
Williams, P. J., and M. S. Allen. “The Analysis of Flavouring Compounds in Grapes.” SpringerLink, Springer-Verlag, Berlin, Heidelberg, 1 Jan. 1996, link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-642-79660-9_3.
LIMA, Peru – Nov. 16, 2019 — PiscoLogía Quebranta, a single-variety Peruvian pisco made from Quebranta grapes, won a gold medal at the most important wine and spirits competition in the world judged by women buyers – the Women’s Wine and Spirits Awards. Held in London at the Royal Yacht Club, 100 of the world’s most influential female buyers assembled for the historic occasion. Top retailers, importers, and hospitality entities were present for the blind tastings, including Waitrose & Partners, Bibendum, Enotria & Co, 67 Pall Mall, and The Arts Club.
The award reflects the quality and craftsmanship of the pisco, which is made in Azpitia, in the Denomination of Origin of Lima. “We are honored to receive this gold medal and celebrate the work completed with my partners Nati Gordillo and Kami Kenna. It is a culmination of years of dedication to the art of pisco making” said Meg McFarland, founder of PiscoLogía.
Made from 100% estate-grown grapes, PiscoLogía Quebranta is the quintessential craft pisco. Its aromas are grassy, herbal, and reminiscent of sweet caramelized banana. It tastes of toasted almonds, pecans and tart green apples.
About Topa Spirits, LLC
Topa Spirits, LLC is a 100% women-owned producer, importer and wholesaler of Piscología Pisco Quebranta and PiscoLogía Pisco Acholado.
Connect with PiscoLogía on Facebook, Twitter and www.piscologia.com for cocktail ideas, contests and breaking product news.
Ansley Coale from Craft Distillers discusses PiscoLogía Quebranta and Acholado’s unique qualities in the following video:
According to Ansley, PiscoLogía pisco is “incredibly clean and has nicely intense flavor, but high acid” due to the desert climate of our vineyards. In addition, he found the Quebranta to be “intense, incredibly elegant and structured with a beautiful mouth and a very nice, long, clean and balanced finish”. The Acholado is “fruit forward, with soft aromatics. It’s Quebranta married with the roundness and fruitiness of the Italia”.
Do you want to buy PiscoLogía Peruvian pisco to find out for yourself? Check out Craft Distillers’ Distribution Page for a distributor near you or visit Caddell Williams‘ website to purchase online. Flaviar will also ship PiscoLogía to your home.
If you love Kami’s pisco cocktails, now you can download our recipe postcards! Click on the links below to learn more about the diverse ways to mix PiscoLogía. In addition to classic pisco cocktails such as the Capitán and Chilcano, you will also find new renditions of traditionally rum-based cocktails such as the Mai Tai and Piña Colada. Finally, if you are looking for something new, we know you won’t be disappointed by the spicy Bees Knees Stings or the Flor Canela.
Do you need high resolution files? Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Can you drink pisco straight? Absolutely! In fact, we encourage you to drink pisco straight to appreciate it like a fine wine. To guide you, here are 4 questions you can ask yourself when tasting:
1) What descriptors and characteristics can I identify?
There are more than 300 descriptors for wine. When you distill wine to make pisco, you concentrate those flavors and aromas even more. See if you can pick out different nuances in the pisco. For example, our Quebranta tastes like toasted almonds, pecans and tart green apples. If you’re tasting an Acholado, distinguish the characteristics of each of the blended varieties.
2) How is the terroir of the vineyards expressed in the pisco?
We have discussed the terroir of our vineyards and how it differs from other regions and vineyards in Peru. For example, our pisco has been described as briny, which is due to salinity on the grapes from the Pacific Ocean. Our soils are sandy, which create very different conditions than vineyards in the Andes, where soils are predominantly limestone. Pisco is greatly influenced by terroir, so see if you can appreciate how the conditions of the vineyards influence the flavors and aromas of the brandy.
3) How does the pisco pair with food?
Like wine, the clear Peruvian brandy pairs beautifully with food. We have given you some pairing suggestions in this blog post: https://piscologia.com/pairing-your-favorite-peruvian-food-with-pisco/, but pisco pairings go way beyond Peruvian food. There are endless opportunities with any cuisine. For example, try an Italia pisco in a snifter with Thai curry. You can play around with different varieties and food flavors to see what you like best.
4) Are there certain aspects of this vintage that make it different than others?
Just like wine, the conditions of each harvest vary each year, making every vintage unique. For example, if a year is especially hot, the wine and pisco will have higher alcohol percentages because the grapes will have developed more sugar. Or, if rainy season arrives earlier than expected, the grapes must be harvested early to avoid diseases on the fruit such as botrytis. Sometimes this means that the grapes might not ripen enough, meaning they will have less aromas and flavors.
Pisco tastes like grapes because it’s a grape brandy (grape juice ferments to make wine, then the wine is distilled to make pisco). There are more than 15 pounds of grapes in every bottle of regular pisco and 33 pounds in a bottle of mosto verde. Naturally, the dominant flavor will be that of the vitis vinifera used to make the pisco. Also, because it rests in neutral vessels after distillation, nothing alters the original flavor of Peruvian pisco, so you can appreciate the concentrated flavors of the fruit in the bottle.
How do the 8 grape varieties of pisco differ in terms of flavor?
Besides flavors and aromas of grapes, you should also note other nuances that are typical to each variety. For example, a Quebranta may taste like pecans, peach or apple (see the example flavor chart above), Albilla might taste like pineapple and Negra Criolla could have notes of raisins and caramel. For more detailed information about the unique flavors and aromas of each variety, check out this blog post: https://piscologia.com/all-the-peruvian-pisco-grapes/
What’s an example pairing with pisco?
Try a Quebranta pisco with suspiro a la limeña, a famous Peruvian dessert. In this combination, the sweetness and creaminess of the suspiro are balanced out with the alcohol from the pisco. It’s a perfect fusion between the sugar in the dessert and the fruitiness of the pisco. If you can’t get your hands on suspiro a la limeña, try a Quebranta with key lime pie. You won’t be disappointed!
This is the 4th post of a series of mythbusters to clarify misconceptions about Peruvian pisco.
We think Acholado is the best pisco for a pisco sour.
Contrary to the belief in Peru that pisco sours should be made with Quebranta pisco, we prefer a sour made with pisco Acholado. It’s even better when the Acholado is blended with an aromatic grape like Italia. The floral, fruity notes of the aromatic variety pair well with the citrus in the cocktail.
In a recent blog post we discussed the benefits of highlighting the characteristics of each pisco type when mixing cocktails. To do this, Kami envisions the 8 pisco varieties on a spectrum, drawing a parallel between their flavors and their sense of warmth. To her, the more aromatic the pisco, the cooler it is: “I love an Acholado or one of the aromatics for a pisco sour. I tend to think of Quebranta as warm, while Italia and Torontel are cool. I like my cool/floral/bright piscos with citrus and the “warm” Quebranta on its own or mixed into a Capitán or another booze-forward classic like a Negroni”.
With this advice from Kami, we encourage you to experiment by making pisco sours with different types of pisco. We are confident that you will agree- the floral, fruity notes of an Acholado work best with the sweetness and acidity of Peru’s most iconic cocktail.