lunes, 27 de octubre de 2014

In the land of Pisco... Pisco in San Francisco

The Lost Bank Exchange Painting

By Guillermo Toro-Lira

The Bank Exchange and Billiard Saloon of San Francisco, California, the place where the Pisco Punch was created, was cofounded in 1853 by John Meiggs, brother of Enrique, shortly before both brothers emigrated to South America in order to contribute to the history of Peruvian railways, as well as that of other countries.

A few years later, the saloon passed into the hands of George Parker, an art connoisseur. He adorned the walls with oil paintings imported from Europe. Among these paintings there was a large one, of Sampson and Delilah, which later became an icon of the establishment.

During that period of time, the Bank Exchange was the meeting space for the most powerful people of the city. In fact, its name was derived from the fact that the first transactions of the stock exchange took place there. The Exchange raised the spirits of its patrons with a large amount of available drinks, among them Pisco (Figures 1, 2 and 3).

One of the regular visitors was a young reporter named Samuel Clemens, who would later change his name to Mark Twain and would become one of the most famous American writers (figure 4). Twain wrote an article for a newspaper where he sarcastically described the scene of the painting.

In 1876, the Saloon changed owners and the painting was sold. One of the devoted regular visitors purchased it (future senator Milton S. Latham) for the amount of $10,500, a considerable amount for this time period.

The history ended there, until this author found another clue in an article published in 1889 where it was indicated that the painting had passed into the hands of a man named Haquette, who hung it at his locale on Kearney Street (Figure 5).

Everything signaled that the painting had been destroyed during the fierce fire of 1906, since this street was totally destroyed. However, fortunately it was discovered that the painting was donated prior to the fire to a museum outside of the disaster zone.

After many inquiries, it was discovered that the museum sold the painting to an anonymous private collector, but not before a photo reproduction was taken, which we are proud to publish here for the first time (Figure 6). There is nothing better than to analyze the picture as Mark Twain did in his 1864 article, perhaps with a glass of good Pisco in his hand. Cheers!

You take a stranger into the Bank Exchange and show him the magnificent picture of Samson and Delilah, and what is the first object he notices? – Samson's fine face and flaming eye? or the noble beauty of his form? or the lovely, half-nude Delilah? Or the muscular Philistine behind Samson, who is furtively admiring her charms? Or the perfectly counterfeited folds of the rich drapery below her knees? Or the symmetry and truth to the nature of Samson's left foot?  No, sir, the first thing that catches his eye is the scissors on the floor at Delilah's feet, and the first thing he says: "Them scissors is too modern – there warn't no scissors like that in them days, by a d--d sight!"

Translated by Katrina Heimark

Pisco bilingual magazine

martes, 21 de octubre de 2014

En the land of Pisco... The Negra Criolla or Negra Corriente Grape

Pisco / Peru more than 400 years of History & Tradition (1613-2013).

This grape is a non-aromatic variety from the Moquegua and Tacna  valleys. It is possibly the oldest of the varieties brought to Peru by the Spanish. It has berries that range from tones of red-violet to red-blue, irregularly colored, round, of a medium size, in cone shape clusters and produces abundant fruit. The grape produces Piscos that are very pleasant and structured in the mouth, with enjoyable and well constituted flavors, with a very good persistence. In the nose the grape evokes light aromas of green, and recently cut grass.

Variety: Variedad: Negra Criolla
Origin: South Canary Islands of Spain
Other Names: Criolla Chica (Argentina), Mission (USA)
Principal Use: Pisco, Red Wine
Strength of the Plant: Good
Clusters: Cone-shaped, large size, long and loose
Berries: Sphere-shaped, flattened, medium sized Color: reddish-purple or black
Harvest: March
Zone: Most prevalent in Moquegua and Tacna

Tasting: Fresh herbs, apple, pear, honey, raisons, cocoa, caramel, in mouth
Pleasant Pisco, with good persistence, and well structured.

Pisco bilingual magazine 

lunes, 13 de octubre de 2014

In the land of Pisco... Pisco Gatherings "Picasso de Juerga"

We would like to thank Mr. Carlos Barriga for sending us this article about Mujica Gallo’s recollection of a cheerful reunion with Pablo Picasso.

The Flamenco party had begun during broad daylight, early, under the pretext of a lunch under the warm Nice sun, like the gold colored Guadalquivir River passing through the middle of the Seville Fair. It was only that there, on the Costa Azul, no one
smelled the perfume of oranges, nor did they enjoy the flowerpots filled with geraniums, nor the patios filled with white jasmine, nor did they see the bull and the light of the arena.

But there on the sunny coast of France, the figure of Picasso is alive, the eternal lad that makes everything Spanish and young again. There he is, smiling as he follows the gypsy rhythms of the cañas, the ay-yay-yayes and the clapping. The flamenco
ambiance transports Nice to Andalucia. We could perceive from the beautiful French coast the enchantment of the Santa Cruz barrio and the grace of La Giralda.

The fact is that now, there, in front of Picasso, Antonio Gades is dancing, that this, which is already something, isn’t everything. While “La Polaca” a Spanish woman from Madrid without a drop of “cale” blood swirls her dotted train with passion and gypsy grace, creating a trance, Rafael Alberti drops his andalusian compliments and majestically strums “mar y tierra” in front  of the couple.  
Then Luis Miguel “Dominguín” stands up as if he were in the plaza and claps. In the oles there is a nostalgia for the arena which held the bullfight in othertimes.

Picasso has recently been operated on. He can’t taste the sherry nor the wine nor the Malaga. He isn’t even looking nor does he need to. Picasso is witty and cheerful like a young man who has just started to live. I hand him a bottle of Pisco which he smell appreciatively.

Everyone drinks directly from the bottle, except for him. His alert, smiling look centers on the brand “Picasso” of this bottle of  Pisco which contains the most Peruvian of all liquors, the healthiest and the one most internationally reknown.

The painter then discovers the happy coincidence of the names and I told him that the success of the brand is due to the popularity of his name.

Under his brown hat, slightly askew, his expressive face becomes truly youthful. A gray coat over a green jersey, the checkered pants and the sporty shoes, the same color as the hat, help, without a doubt, make Picasso seem more jovial, make his happy image
more graceful, without a trace of affectation. Picasso is pure simplicity.

The bottles of sherry, of Malaga and red wine--I think the red wine is from Cataluña—disappear with shocking ease. There are signs of fatigue on the faces. The party ends when the light of the sun disappears over the horizon. Picasso says good
bye. The endless lunch seemed to reach its end, and here I have unexpectedly revived it.

But the party starts anew with the warm atmosphere and the aroma of the Peruvian Pisco. Luis Miguel and Picasso synchronize their hand-clapping with Antonio Gades and La Polaca’s dancing and Rafael Alberti’s humming.

The last bottle of Pisco is passed on from hand to hand. Pisco isn’t bitter, nor is it sweet, but it slides down the throat smoothly. Picasso is especially interested in the destination of the Pisco Picasso. He measures the contents and caresses the bottle: he makes it his own.

I now associate this gypsy party to those unforgettable “Traditions of Don Ricardo Palma,” so praised by Unamuno. Palma, with his Lima-ease-of-expression, claims that food flavoured with a mix of Cataluña red wine, sherry and Malaga, accompanied by
good Pisco, “the troublesome” Peruvian firewater, necessitates the immediacy of dance; something that we in Peru call “jarana” and in Spain they call “juerga,” And there we were, in Nice, applying the recipe of the great Peruvian writer.

But in fact now not only the day had become night, but the night was becoming morning. We watch the moon shine while Picasso, in light of the question about the state of his health after such a lively gathering, dramatically unbuttons those black and white checkered pants in order to show us his scar. Picasso then shows the same viril and arrogant stance of a matador showing his livid scars.

I ask him then if he hadn’t at one time in his childhood, dreamed of becoming a bullfigthter. The answer was clear enough: “I have not thought of anything else,” he told me “except being a painter.” “But since you were a child,” I add. And with a sort of melancholy he continues to talk, gazing at me, “I am surely the only child in the world that did not ride a bicycle in order to have fun; I was always absorbed by the urgency of my brushes. It was the need to pain, which was so vital for me,” he said, “like breathing and eating,” he added, complaining that Jacqueline, due to medical recommendations, would not let him touch nor grab a pencil.

While Nice still  swarned with people on their terraces and Picasso now rested in his bed after  the lengthy lunch and its night, the friends, Luis Miguel among them, started running around frantically, looking for the empty bottle with Picasso’s name on it which he had urged to rescue: “That will be for me”, he said “an unforgettable reminder of this day, and I will always enjoy seeing my name on the bottle.”

Manuel Mujica Gallo, Madrid 1969

Pisco  bilingual magazine

Translated by Katrina Heimark

jueves, 2 de octubre de 2014

In the land of Pisco... The Invader who arrived from America

We were visiting one of the vineyards in Southern Peru and conversing with Engineer Edwin Landeo. He motioned towards one of the vines, and showed us a leaf that was totally doubled over, and its top face was full of small yellow lumps. It was then that the conversation turned to the Phylloxera and the Great Plague of the 19th Century.

It is known that during the second half of the 19th Century, under the commercial exchange that took place over the sea, plagues that attacked the vines of Europe were also transported from the new world. Three of them had American origin, and against which the vitis europea was not prepared. These plagues caused great damages until remedies were found to counteract them, which was done with large economic sacrifices, and for the first time, with the invaluable help of science.

Two of the plagues above mentioned were caused by fungus, and  the third, the Phylloxera, is borne by an insect, a parasite of the vitis Americana, which lives within the plant without damaging it. But when it was transferred to the vitis europea it strangled the plants’ roots and caused the inexorable death of the plant.

The Phylloxera, Daktulosphaira vitifoliae (Fitch, 1854), is considered to be the most global, devastating and decisive plague of the world viticulture history. The fact is that no event, plague, or sickness, spread as fast and caused as much change to the centers of grape production as the arrival of this insect to Europe did at the end of the 19th Century.

Although there are some natural conditions that slow the spread (dry environments and sandy soils), in the rest of the cases there is no natural chemical treatment against this plague. The only solution was to substitute European bases for American ones. More than 5 million hectares of vineyards had to be pulled up throughout Europe from 1870 to 1930.

The production of wine suffered large ups and downs; the scarcity in determined periods increased the price of wine to values that had never been reached before. The international wine market reached volumes never before seen; the areas of vineyards experienced huge changes. At the end of the process, the fight against the plagues and the surmounting of the crisis brought about great scientific advances and a modernization of the sector, up to the point that viticulture in the 20th Century really was a “new viticulture.”

By Gladys Romaní*

Translated by Katrina Heimark

*Sommelier, Specialist and Pisco Taster

Pisco bilingual magazine