Deciphering the DNA of Pisco Grapes

Pisco has captivated connoisseurs around the world with its rich history and diverse flavors. At the heart of this beloved spirit lies the DNA of pisco grapes, a topic that has fascinated specialists and enthusiasts alike. In this blog post, we embark on a journey to explore the genetic makeup of pisco grapes and the intriguing complexities that surround them.

The Ever-Evolving World of Pisco Grape DNA: In our first version of the Pisco Certificate course back in 2020, we delved into the intricate genealogy of pisco grapes, referencing the work of Jorge Jiménez, who drew from research conducted by Jorge Llanos and Jancis Robinson, among others. We even shared a family tree of pisco grapes created by Nico Vera based on this knowledge.

Since then, additional specialists such as Amanda Barnes, Karl Mendoza, and their teams have unearthed new findings about the DNA of pisco grapes, adding fascinating layers to the narrative. As you can see in the image (click to zoom), some of their research is conflicting. The question is why.Grapes Pisco DNA

The Complexity of Pisco Grape Evolution: The complexities surrounding pisco grape DNA are as multifaceted as the grapevines themselves. Here are some key factors contributing to the contradictory information:

  1. Constant Evolution: Pisco grapes are agricultural products, and the grapevines are in a state of constant change. These vines can cross-pollinate through various means like wind, insects, and self-pollination. Over centuries, the grape varieties originally brought from Spain have naturally crossbred, giving rise to the intriguing diversity we see today.
  2. Unidentified Cultivars: Another challenge is the presence of unidentified and unnamed grape cultivars in Peru. These unique and unclassified varieties add an element of mystery to the DNA puzzle.

What We Can Assume to be True: Based on the confirmed findings of prominent researchers, some aspects of pisco grape DNA seem more certain. We can assume that:

  1. Quebranta is a cross between the Mollar grape and Negra Criolla, representing Peru’s only indigenous vinifera variety.
  2. Negra Criolla is a synonym for Listán Prieto, the first grape variety planted in Peru.
  3. Mollar has DNA similarities with other grapes with similar names, though the exact match varies.
  4. Uvina is a hybrid grape, formed by the crossing of vitis vinifera and vitis aestivalis.

Outlining the Discrepancies: However, discrepancies persist in the pisco grape DNA narrative:

  1. The origins of the Italia grape remain widely disputed.
  2. Torontel is another grape with differing views on its lineage.
  3. Palomino Fino, associated with Sherry production in Spain, presents contrasting interpretations.
  4. Moscatel remains one of the most mysterious grapes in the pisco world.

A Complicated Subject Indeed: Despite differing opinions among researchers, they all agree on one thing: the DNA of pisco grapes is an exceptionally intricate subject. As Karl Mendoza’s research aptly puts it, “Within the genetic resource of each region, several synonyms and homonyms remain to be clarified… making it difficult to assess the value of a given cultivar in a region.”

Conclusion: So, as we navigate this world of complex pisco grape DNA, we invite you to embark on your own exploration. Draw your conclusions, conduct your research, and most importantly, savor the diverse origins of Peru’s beloved pisco grapes.

Unraveling the Origins of Quebranta and Cabernet Sauvignon: Crossing vs. Grafting

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When it comes to the world of grapevines, there’s more than meets the eye. Behind every grape variety, there’s a fascinating story of how it came into existence. To help us navigate this vineyard of knowledge, we’ll take a close look at the Quebranta grape, a cross between Mollar Cano and Negra Criolla, and Cabernet Sauvignon, a cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc.

Crossing Grape Varieties: Quebranta and Cabernet Sauvignon

Quebranta, the quintessential grape variety for making pisco in Peru, is a testament to the art of crossing grape varieties. This unique grape is the result of natural hybridization between two distinct parents, Mollar Cano and Negra Criolla.

In the natural process of grapevine reproduction, vines can cross-pollinate, resulting in the development of new grape varieties with genetic characteristics from both parent grapes. This hybridization also led to the creation of Cabernet Sauvignon, which has become one of the most popular and well-known red wine grape varieties in the world. The name “Cabernet” in Cabernet Sauvignon suggests a relationship with Cabernet Franc, and the “Sauvignon” portion of the name is associated with Sauvignon Blanc.

People often confuse crossing with grafting, so let’s dig deeper into that subject.

The Key Differences: Crossing vs. Grafting

Grafting and crossing grape varieties are two different processes used in viticulture for distinct purposes:

  1. Grafting:
    • Grafting is a horticultural technique used to combine the characteristics of two different grapevines.
    • It involves joining a scion (the top portion of a grapevine with desired characteristics) to a rootstock (the bottom portion with an established root system).
    • The purpose of grafting is to maintain the genetic identity of the scion while benefiting from the rootstock’s attributes, such as disease resistance, adaptability to certain soil types, or growth vigor.
    • Grafting is a form of asexual reproduction that does not result in the creation of a new grape variety; it preserves and propagates existing grape varieties with specific traits.


  1. Crossing grape varieties:
    • Crossing grape varieties is a process of sexual reproduction where two different grapevine varieties breed to create new grape varieties.
    • Crossing can be natural (through pollination) or controlled (to develop new grape cultivars with specific characteristics, such as flavor profiles, disease resistance, or adaptability to certain climates).
    • This process involves the pollination of one grape variety’s flowers with the pollen from another variety’s flowers.
    • The resulting grapevines from this process will have a unique genetic makeup, combining traits from both parent varieties. This can lead to the creation of entirely new grape varieties.


In summary, grafting is a technique used to preserve and combine the traits of existing grape varieties without altering their genetic makeup, while crossing grape varieties is a method for creating entirely new grape varieties by combining the genetics of two parent varieties.

PiscoLogía’s Puro Quebranta Wins Gold Medal at the Specialty Masters Competition

piscologia gold medal

The caliber of the clear spirit was recognized at the Specialty Masters Competition; results will be published in the November edition of ‘The Spirits Business’


The world’s most highly regarded series of spirits blind-tasting competitions, Global Spirits Masters, awarded PiscoLogía’s Pisco Puro Quebranta a gold medal at their 2021 competition in England.

The gold medal comes less than a year after PiscoLogía’s Master Distiller and partner, Nati Gordillo, was designated Female Craft Distiller of the Year by Craft Spirits Berlin, Europe’s premier event for handcrafted spirits. “Every bottle of PiscoLogía is tangible evidence of Nati’s gift for distilling. We feel proud to take home a gold medal and humbled by such prestigious recognition of our Quebranta expression”, said Meg McFarland, founder of PiscoLogía.

The all-female team of pisco producers have worked to bring pisco from Peru to the international spotlight. In October of 2020, PiscoLogía launched the Pisco Certificate Course, a certification in pisco offered for free in English and Spanish.  “With its single distillation methods, diversity of grapes used in production, differing terroirs and more, pisco is such a unique spirit. My goal is to create a category for pisco in the spirits industry. This gold medal is a sign that we are moving in the right direction; pisco’s quality and singularity have come to the international spotlight”, said Kami Kenna, director of marketing and partner of PiscoLogía.

For more information about PiscoLogía’s distribution or general information about the company, please visit:


About PiscoLogía

PiscoLogía Quebranta, a single-variety Peruvian pisco, recently won a gold medal at the Women’s Wine and Spirits Awards in London.

PiscoLogía Acholado, a blend of Italia and Quebranta piscos, was awarded a gold medal at the SIP Awards in California.

PiscoLogía’s Master Distiller and partner, Nati Gordillo, was designated Female Craft Distiller of the Year by Craft Spirits Berlin, Europe’s premier event for handcrafted spirits

The Pisco Certificate Course launched by PiscoLogía offers fresh and engaging information about Peruvian pisco. Participants in the program will benefit from the interactive online training, which includes testing, forums, activities, and certification.



Myth #12- Acholado piscos must be made from a mix of aromatic and non-aromatic grapes

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.

All the Peruvian Pisco Grapes- Quebranta, Italia and 6 Others

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.



What do Acholado, Pisco Puro and Mosto Verde Mean?

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.




Myth #11- Quebranta is the strongest and most flavorful of all pisco grapes

This is the 11th in a series mythbusters to clarify misconceptions about Peruvian pisco!

quebranta, pisco, pisco grapes, quebranta most flavorful


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,

PiscoLogía Quebranta Wins Gold Medal at the Women’s Wine and Spirits Awards in London

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LIMA, PeruNov. 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.

PiscoLogía is available in the USA through Craft Distillers, in Canada through the Unknown Agency and in Japan through The Blue Habu Trade Group.



About Piscología Pisco Puro Quebranta

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 for cocktail ideas, contests and breaking product news.



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PiscoLogia Tasting Notes by Craft Distillers

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.

Pisco Cocktail Recipe Postcards

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


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Bees Knees Stings

Capitan Perfecto

Dr. Hopeful

Flor Canela

Mai Nikkei Tai

Matcha Colada

Pisco & Tonic

San Martin Cocktail

Watermelon Chilcano


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