miércoles, 24 de junio de 2015

In the land of pisco... The Five Pisco Regions "Moquegua" Abundant and Plentiful Valley

The department of Moquegua, located in the extreme southern area of Peru, consists of three provinces: Ilo, Mariscal Nieto and General Sánchez Cerro. The department was created by law on April  3, 1936 and its area is 15,813.46km. The capital is the city of Moquegua. Its territory adjoins the departments of Arequipa, Puno and Tacna, as well as the Pacific Ocean. Its coastal belt consists mostly of deserts along the Pacific Ocean. 

The weather is mild along the coast, and mild and cold in the Andean region. The production in the valleys is abundant, especially in those valleys that are bathed by the Tambo, Torata and Moquegua-Osmore Rivers. These valleys are rich in the following agricultural products: olives, vines, wheat, corn and potato. Under the rule of the Inca Mayta Capac, this region was part of the Inca Reign, and was populated by mitimaes “which the Inca brought from the highlands in order to punish the resistance that was built up against them in this region.”

During colonization the region became famous for its wines and Piscos. The population, originally known as Santa Catalina of the Moquegua Valley, was recognized as the principal population center in the valley by the Viceroy Marques de Guadalcazar in 1625 when the town was given the name of Village of Santa Catalina de Guadalcazar of the Moquegua Valley. In 1765 in the book by Cosme Bueno, it is called the Village of Moquegua. 

According to Vásquez de Espinosa, a Carmelite friar and Chronicler of the early 17th Century, the valley was well known as being “abundant and plentiful” so “well supplied and rich” that “it seems like Paradise.” In the year 1714 the French traveler Amedee Frezier, a fortification engineer, visited the Moquegua valley and states the following in his observations. “There [in Moquegua] is an important commercialization of wine and firewater that is transported to the high plateau, that is to the mountains. It is incredible that in a terrain as small as this, every year around 100,000 bottles are harvested, which results in 3,200,000 Parisian pints, which when sold at 20 reales per bottle, makes 400,000 pesos.” 

Moquegua became, by the middle of the 18th Century, an obligatory stop for travelers who were heading from the port of Ilo to the mountains, which brought about the flowering of the city’s commercial industry. The city’s alcoholic products became highly accepted in the mountainous region, not only because of the quality, but also because of the fact that the Moqueguan vineyard owners established a virtual monopoly over the commercialization of wines and firewaters. They did so through an extensive distribution network. Their products, especially their wines and grape firewater, were destined to satisfy the demand in cities such as Puno, Chucuito, La Paz, Oruro, and Potosí. And from these cities also reached Salta, Tucumán and Mendoza  in the Buenos Aires Viceroyalty. 

This priviledged situation was maintained during the 19th Century until a huge catastrophe affected the region. In 1868 an earthquake occurred which destroyed a large part of the city, ruining many of the wine and Pisco producing bodegas. 

Luis Kuon Cabello states that the loss of wine and firewater was huge since giant “tinajas” or ceramic containers for the storage of these beverages were destroyed. This fact, combined with the innumerable material losses, brought many Moquegua families to ruin. A decade later, after the city’s had recovered from the fierce battle with nature, Chilean troops occupied the city and the valley four times. 

In effect, during the ill-fated War of the Pacific, Moquegua was occupied by the invaders and subjugated to mercyless depredations. When the war ended in 1884, Moquegua, which was previously prosperous and happy, had become a ruined coastal province which adjoined the territories occupied by Chile. Added to this misfortune, a terrible plague of phylloxera practically destroyed the Moqueguan vineyards a few years later. 

Today Moquegua has recovered some of its past splendor, especially that which concerns its traditional crops of vines and olives. In regards to Pisco, we say that Moquegua has a great reputation for its Pisco. Its high quality is due not only to the excellent production of vines in the region, but also because it is the result of the care and the way in which Moqueguans have preserved their traditional methods of producing Pisco. 

                                                     * * *These testimonies speak of the propicious conditions that runs through the vineyards of this region, which along with the unbeatable climate and soil conditions, especially along the coastal area, combine with the strength, effort and labor of the region’s inhabitants. The vineyards began to establish themselves in the sandy soils of the Peruvian coast as well as in the daily lives of the region’s people, and resulted in the fruit of the unique Peruvian beverage: Pisco. 

Taken from: Chronicles and Accounts which refer to the Origin and Virtues of Pisco, Traditional Beverage and Heritage of Peru
Banco Latino 1990
Lima Perú

Translated by Katrina Heimark

Pisco bilingual magazine

miércoles, 10 de junio de 2015

In the land of pisco... The Five Pisco Regions: A marvelous womb. "The Jars (Tinajas) of Arequipa"

Pisco / Peru more than 400 years of History & Tradition (1613-2015).

The ceramic objects found in the pre-Hispanic tombs of Arequipa demonstrate that the Andean societies mastered various techniques  and knew about various materials and supplies, as well as were able to create unique, simple or highly decorated ceramics. Among the conquistadors that established themselves in Arequipa after the founding of the city in 1540, some knew the basic principles to mold clay and create some dishes, bowls or containers, which they made for their daily use. 

Chicha was the most consumed drink in the Andean world, and wine was what was most consumed by in the Hispanic world. In both cases the containers for each beverage had different sizes and functions. However, they were the objects that were produced, and little by little they fused in size, technique and use, which resulted in the tinaja, which is defined as a large container made from fired clay, wider about the middle than at the bottom and the top. It is generally fitted to the ground, or semi-buried, and served to house the grape must during its fermentation or maturation period for the necessary time, according to the criteria of the bodeguero. Later the grape must would become wine, or would be processed, resulting in the national beverage of Peru: Pisco. 

The commerce of wine and its production were very important activities; in the second half of the 16th Century, the jurisdiction of Arequipa supplied the entire southern region of the Peruvian viceroyalty as well as Charchas--today Bolivia--with its wines, firewater and vinegars, which were principally from the valleys of Vítor, Moquegua, Majes, Siguas and Caravelí. 

For this exorbitant commerce, it was necessary to have an enormous amount of tinajas and bottles. One of the oldest manuscripts dates from the end of the 1660s and is a unique contract between natives from Caravelí who were masters at making tinajas. They are identified as Alonso Vequi, Martín Vequi and Antón Quise, who along with the Spaniard Hernán Bueno signed a contract to make 54 tinajas of 30 to 35 arrobas each (an arroba is a Spanish measure that is equivalent to about 11.5 kilos). The clauses of the document establish that the tinajas will be delivered within a month and a half, and the price for all of the work was 108 pesos of common silver; half to be paid in gold pesos, and the rest in silver pesos. Hernán Bueno committed himself to giving the locals the clay and the housing they would stay in while they fulfilled their work. This information demonstrates that in 1569, in the region of Arequipa there were efficient, quick and qualified laborers for the production of tinajas of various sizes. 

Arequipa, telluric land, has in its 472 years of establishment suffered dozens of earthquakes which have changed its architectural features. Bodegas and tinajas were destroyed and were built anew thicker and more resistant to the inclemency of the weather. A tinaja was found in the Convent of the Recoleta of Arequipa that was dated to 1550, which makes it the oldest in Peru. Another important example is the tinaja that was found in the bodega titled El Curaca in the Caravelí valley, dated to 1609. 

Tinajas have been present throughout Arequipa’s history, and have become an invaluable legacy to be protected as culture heritage and needs to have its story told in order to protect these containers from their illegal sale, as well as there destruction. Also, we must rescue their techniques of production, and in this way value them as one of the symbols of our Peruvian heritage. 

Alejandro Málaga Núñez-Zeballos 
Academia Peruana del Pisco
Universidad Nacional de San Agustín 

Translated by Katrina Heimark

Pisco bilingual magazine

martes, 2 de junio de 2015

In the land of pisco... The Five Pisco Regions "Ica" Part I

Interview with Pisco Magazine
Executive Director of the Center of Vine-growing Technological Innovation

1.-Mr. Manuel Morón, could you please explain for our readers what CITEVID is? 

CITEVID is a department of the Ministry of Production. It was created in the year 2000. We are a part of the CITES group. In Lima there is a technical office for CITES, where they coordinate the three public CITES which are: CITECALZADO (Center for Technological Innovation of the Shoe Industry), CITEVID and CITEMADERA (Center for Wood Technological Innovation). The office also works with eleven private CITES that are linked to the Ministry of Production. MINCETUR (Ministry of Foreign Commerce and Tourism) also has CITES such as ones for handicrafts, jewelry and others that they directly manage.

2.-When and how did you begin your activities as CITEVID, and who was part of the team at that time? 

We began to work in October 2000; we’ve been working for more than ten years. We began with a basic team of three people and were able to work in part due to common effort of the Spanish Cooperation as well as some funding from what was (at that time) the Ministry of Industry and Tourism. We were a part of that Ministry and had some seed capital to begin our work. Before this, we managed to get a section that was in use which are these almost 12 hectares that we have here. When we got here, everything was a bare; there was absolutely nothing. Only a few traces of a very old adobe structure that was abandoned, but nothing other than that.

Our activities began with an enologist, a wine-growing engineer, and myself, who am an economist. You can’t imagine; we were on a mission, one of transferring technology and knowledge. Our vision was that this knowledge be used to improve the quality of life for people, that it be transfer, that it be competitive and be part of the world market, because that was the direction we wanted to go, and it was very tied, initially, to Pisco.

3.-What changes are in store for CITEVID?

Let me explain. We are just a step away from becoming a CITE for Agro-Industry, so we no longer will be called CITEVID--we are going to add the letter A to this name in honor of Agro-Industry, and so in the future it will be called CITEVIDA. This is premier news, only revealed for Pisco Magazine; the Resolution has not yet been published. Since we started with three people, and we had this mission of transferring knowledge and training people it was very difficult. Especially since in 2000 until today there is a certain level of mistrust of government bodies. 
4.-As part of CITEVID, you had visualized a challenge: that of gaining the trust of producers. Did you  have a strategy in order to win over this sector?

Yes, our challenge was to effectively win over the small producers so that they would trust us. It was a titanic challenge, and so we designed an entire strategy to work with basic core groups of producers. This strategy consisted of mapping the zone of our influence because we cover the area from Lima to Tacna in matters of Pisco grapes, but everywhere from Tacna to Tumbes in matters of table grapes. So since we were only three people, we agreed that we would start with Ica and map Ica. We did so in order to see which were our basic core groups of producers, identify the leaders (and, preferably young leaders, or leaders who have young children to whom we could transfer our knowledge). That is how we began to work with illustrative parcels and bodegas.

We also had to demonstrate that we knew the business, that our bases were clear, that we wanted the vine-producing sector to grow as a chain. That was our objective and little by little we began to start our work, and at the same time see how we would grow in the future here. So thanks to the Spanish Cooperation which was supporting us, we could purchase a still; with funds from the treasury we could build a bodega, and since the Spanish Cooperation allowed us to get some basic state-of-the-art equipment for the laboratory, we were able to demonstrate to the producers of Ica, as well as those of neighboring areas, what the future of CITE was going to be like. Also the Spanish Cooperation allowed us to purchase all the material necessary to set up the areas for cultivation, and that is how we began.

We inaugurated the bodega school and since then on, we have somehow contributed to the growth of the sector. 

5.-CITEVID has practically formed businesses. How does it feel today to see constituted businesses that have an exceptional presence in the national and international market? 

First I can say that we feel very happy to say that more than 90 small businesses have been trained here. Many of them, actually the majority, have won regional, national and international rewards.

This past year was a very special one for us; due to the fact that a Pisco elaborated here by a small producer that works very seriously, won a Gold Medal in the Regional Competition, and a Gold Medal and a Great Gold Medal at the National Competition. And, on the Day of the Pisco Sour he again won the Medal for the best Pisco Sour. I think that this has been our best year. We were very demanding with our students because we work in the traceability of the product -from the grape collecting to the packaging of the bottles of pisco- so little by little the training was not only oriented towards good logistical practices, not only good manufacturing practices (production), but also the efficient management, which has been one of the most difficult tasks.

6.-When do you offer training? From what perspective?

The work of training is a vocation, and much more of a vocation in the fields because we are faced with different problems that the farmer has; problems that one lives up closely when there is a plague, or when a farmer can’t attend a course, or when their child can’t attend, and the most important, it is difficult to convince the farmers that the training is not an expense, but rather an investment.

Also, I can tell you that we have contributed to the sector. If in the year 2000 we had 1.2 million liters of production, we are now producing over 7 million. If in 2000 we had 16 brands in supermarkets and commercial stores, now there are more than 370 brands. If in 2000 we had 48 denominations of origin that were registered, we now have more than 500 registered.

7.-And in regards to the varieties of Pisco Grapes, what can you tell us?

When we first started we said “we cannot improve the quality of the grape if we don’t have a nursery,” so we began to work in that direction. That is why we have one open nursery and one closed. We have begun to produce American saplings that have given us the opportunity to show the small producer the importance of technical assistance. For example, a producer focused on his parcel, that was plagued with phylloxera, and he replied that it had been that way for the 40 years that he had it. Yes, but, what is its output? I think its fine that the Quebranta grape is tolerant of phylloxera, but it isn’t resistant; it slowly kills it. Therefore the production becomes smaller and smaller every day. We have made changes with illustrative parcels belonging to small producers that were producing 2.4 million kilos, and now are producing 15 million kilos per hectare, and they are realizing this. Here the big problem is that we aren’t an extensive nursery but rather a small one. The large nurseries that begin to import saplings from France demand a high initial investment that isn’t always within reach of the small producers, which leads to a change in these American patterns. One has to kill what is being produced in order to see the reality of the earnings. And that is what the small producer lives from.

 8.-How does CITEVID manage the area of the preparation of Pisco varieties?

We have all of the varieties. One can come and ask CITEVID for Torontel, Quebranta, Viña, etc; all the varieties without exception, but in small quantities. This is planned; if you come now and request so many plants for next year, we will prepare them for you. This is our job.

9.- What can you tell us in regards to planted areas. Have you increased the amount of areas that have Pisco grapes planted?

Yes, we have increased them. I can tell you that some small producers have purchased an additional 5 hectares, some 10. Jorge Queirolo, who is a visionary, has purchased more hectares, Johnny Schuller has purchased more than 300 hectares, and so have Vista Alegre and Tabernero. The biggest problem in our country is that the statistics aren’t trustworthy, therefore I cannot say with precision how much we have grown, not only in hectares, but also in investment for training. In Viña de Oro they have invested, which makes me happy because the work they have done there is good work. The same in Tacama and Vista Alegre. It is so rewarding to see how our bodegas have improved Tabernero, Tacama and Queirolo. They are producing some extraordinary and exquisite wines. 
So yes, I think that the vine-producing industry is on a good path, we have to insist and take care of the brands. Now I repeat to the small producers that we are a “fashion” and if fashions aren’t taken good care of, they slip away, they are lost. Therefore we have to be constant in our attention to our brand and image as a country. That is where we are in this effort, and I think it is something that we have achieved.

10.- Do you do production? Give Services?

Let me first say that we do not do production. A lot of people ask us about this; here we do service training. For example, we are asked “Sirs, how many people are going to produce your Pisco this season?” For example, last Saturday fourteen people came here to our training room. We gave them training and the “rules of the game.” Such as, how the grape should enter, how to recognize the traceability of the grape, what to do the first day. The first day they learn to use the de-stemmer, the second day they learn to use the horizontal press, the fourth day they have to see how their must is fermenting; they have to come every day to see how the grapes ferment so that they can see how to do the analysis. After the fermentation they have to attend, in turn. And if their turn is at 8pm, they have to be there at 8pm to see how to distill the liquid and make the different cuts. This is not a factory, not production.
And please note that we ask them to come with a young person so that the knowledge is transfered here, because there has to be someone, who must continue the work someday. Many people say that we do very good production, but we do not produce here. We are tired of saying that we do not do production.

11.-My understanding is that you have a limit of 2 to 3 years so that the small producer can begin to work independently. They must have installed their own still and equipment in order to begin to work within this time period. What can you tell us about this? 

We ask the small producers what their situation is like. When a small producer comes and tells me that he wants to make Pisco, I become his doctor. I ask him why he wants to produce Pisco, and he says that there is a niche in the market. I ask, “Does this niche have a market study?” He responds that no, it doesn’t. I advise him that there are many small producers that are making high quality Pisco and that they have to make their cost structures. For the most part they have no idea how much they will have to invest, they do not understand what market is, or what a minimum cost structure is in order to produce Pisco.

In the edition “Harvest IV” we will continue with this interesting interview. We’ll see: stainless steel tanks or polyethylene ones? How does CITEVID support producers? And so much more! Stay tuned!

Translated by Katrina Heimark

Pisco bilingual magazine