Vineyards in Peru? Thank the Humboldt Current!
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. In these areas, grapevines generally thrive in warm, dry locations with distinct seasonal changes. The climates found between these parallels fall into 3 categories: Mediterranean, continental, and maritime. For example, the Saale-Unstrut wine region in Germany is located at 51° N and has a continental climate, while Tuscany, at 43.77° N, has a Mediterranean climate.
Tropical zones are defined as the part of the Earth’s surface between the Tropic of Cancer (23.5° N) and the Tropic of Capricorn (23.4° S). Growing grapes in tropical regions can be problematic for many reasons. It is widely known that the tropics are characterized by heavy rain, humidity, and high temperatures, three conditions that promote various diseases in vines, such as mold and mildew. Moreover, while cool nights promote acidity and balance in grapes in temperate zones, in tropical regions, minimum nightly temperatures fall no lower than about 71.6 °F (22°C), making it challenging to achieve that same roundness. Finally, because of the year-round sweltering heat in the tropics, it is difficult to complete a period of dormancy during the winter. Dormancy is crucial because it allows the vine to rest and conserve energy, in preparation for the next season.
Azpitia is located at 12° S in the tropics, so theoretically, it should be extremely difficult to grow grapes there, or anywhere else in Peru. So how are we able to produce healthy pisco grapes in this area of the world? 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. The current extends from southern Chile to northern Peru, bringing frigid waters from the south, cooling the ocean & creating dry, chilled air, which changes the tropical climate. This is why the Peruvian coastline is so barren. Where a dense jungle would normally lie, sand dunes and cacti line the coasts of Peru, creating very favorable wine-making conditions, similar to what you might see in the high-desert vineyards of Washington State. Days are hot and dry, but nights are relatively cool in Azpitia, creating the perfect conditions for our vines. Because of this fascinating phenomenon, we can grow grapes in optimal conditions and produce the high-quality wine that we distill to make PiscoLogía!