miércoles, 23 de diciembre de 2015

In the land of Pisco... The History of Pisco

Grapes first arrived to Peru in the 16th Century, brought from the  Canary Islands by Marquis Francisco de Caravantes. According to chroniclers from the era, the first vinification of South America took place in the Marcahuasi Estate, in Cuzco. They also mention Mateo Atiquipa as the first American enologist. However, it was in the valleys of Ica where the crops reached their maximum expansion, favored by the area’s weather conditions that also permitted the strong development of the wine industry.

In the mid-16th Century (1574), the Spaniards began to use the name “Pisco” to refer to a river, a town and a port. This was one of the main regional trade routes where guano and Spain bound silver were shipped.

Vine crops were so successful in Peru that wine exports from the Peruvian Viceroyalty to Spain became common, and Spanish producers requested Philip II to ban such trade in order to avoid the threat of competition. The ban was enforced in 1914, forcing coastal monk landowners to intensify the production of the Peruvian grape eau-de-vie, which quickly became a popular drink among the region's travelers thanks to its unique characteristics.
The earliest historical reference to the preparation of grape eau-de-vie dates back to the early 17th Century. Lorenzo Huertas, renown Peruvian historian, says: “We have found what might be the oldest reference to the preparation of (grape) eau-de-vie not only in Peru, but in America: a document from 1613 mentioning the manufacturing of this liquor in Ica.”  The document mentioned by Huertas is the will of Pedro Manuel the Greek, resident of Ica, whose last will stated that, among his properties, he had a Creole slave and “thirty burnay jars filled with eau-de-vie, and a barrel filled with eau-de-vie, that contained thirty little pitchers of such liquor, plus a large lidded copper cauldron used to extract eau-de-vie, and two pultayas, one with a spout and the other smaller and in better conditions.” This is the oldest information found in Peru about eau-de-vie. However, warns Huertas, although the will is dated 1613, eau-de-vie production instruments were used in earlier years. (Research by Dr. Lorenzo Huertas Vallejos, Producción de Vinos y sus derivados en Ica, Siglos XVI y XVII [Production of wine and its byproducts in Ica, 16th and 17th Centuries], Lima, 1988.)

The "Diario del Perú" (“Peruvian Journal”) of Hugh S. Salvin is also worth mentioning. It refers to Pisco as a city “… built about a mile away from the beach, and laid out like all Peruvian cities: a large main square in the center and converging straight streets (…). This district is known by the manufacturing of a strong liquor named liked the city and distilled from grape in the fields toward the highlands, five or six leagues away.”
Similarly, the “Testimonio del Perú” study (“Peruvian Testimony”, 1838-1842) by Johann Takob Von Tschudi, reads: “… the small city of Pisco, half a league away there is a safe bay that offers good anchorage. Due to the exports of its eau-de-vie that has become quite significant… Grapes have excellent quality, and are juicy and very sweet. The eau-de-vie is distilled from most part of them and, unsurprisingly, it tastes delicious. All of Peru and a large part of Chile purchase this beverage to the Ica valley. The common eau-de-vie is called Pisco eau-de-vie because it is shipped from this port.” (Crónicas y Relaciones que se refieren al origen y virtudes del Pisco. Bebida Tradicional y Patrimonio del Perú. [Chronicles and relationships referring to the origin and virtues of Pisco. Peruvian traditional beverage and heritage] Banco Latino, 1990, First Edition, Lima, pag. 35).

 Pisco, the Peruvian grape eau-de-vie, rapidly gained prestige and its export volumes grew significantly, as confirmed by the maritime trade news of the 17th and 18th Centuries and the many testimonies and stories of travelers in the 19th Century, which explain how the favorable conditions of the Ica and Moquegua valleys and the techniques developed by Peruvian craftsmen achieved a top-quality product that is now a symbol of tradition and pride.

As mentioned above, the exports of Peruvian grape eau-de-vie were made by sea to different destinations of the Colony through the port of Pisco. However, one further aspect is that the Peruvian eau-de-vie was stored in the famous earthen jars manufactured since ancient times in the region and which, coincidentally enough, were called “Piskos”. These two fundamental elements explain how the name was permanently branded to the product.

The Peruvian origin of the Pisco appellation has been broadly recognized around the world. For example, the last edition of the Diccionario de la Lengua Española (Dictionary of the Spanish Language) defines pisco as "eau-de-vie originally manufactured in Pisco, a region in Peru.” Likewise, the Encyclopaedia Britannica defines the word pisco as "city, Ica, in the southwest of Peru... known by its brandy made of muscatel grapes."

pisco bilingual magazine

jueves, 10 de diciembre de 2015

In the land of Pisco... Culture of Pisco: Noches de Cata

By Katrina Heimark
While pisco is not relatively young by any means, it certainly lacks an established culture, such as that celebrated by wine enthusiasts around the world. And, according to Livio Pastorino, editor of the monthly e-magazine, El Pisco es del Perú, not only does a culture of pisco need to be celebrated throughout Peru and the world, but also pisco lacks a transparent organization of authority on its quality, standards and production. 

Precisely because of this, Livio has established an organization called Asociación de Catadores Independientes de Pisco (ACIP), in which four graduates from the Insituto del Vino y del Pisco (IDVIP) meet every fifteen days to perform what they call blind taste testing of Pisco. They then publish the results of the testing on their blog, Noches de Cata. Each time ACIP meets, they taste 8 different brands of the same variety of pisco. The organization formed a little over a year ago, and they have sampled over 200 varieties of pisco.

They do so in a very strict, precise, and formal manner, but it wasn’t always that way. In April of 2009, ACIP began the blind tastings. Livio states that he noticed a higher level of efficiency, as well as more honest and transparent rating of the different piscos. “Things changed when we began the blind tastings,” he states, smiling. “We began to use the standards set up by the OIV (International Organization of wine and vine), which we religiously see as the official way of evaluating wines and piscos.”

“The truth is, in many nationalized Peruvian congresses on pisco, these standards are not even incorporated into the evaluation of pisco,” Livio explains. He is proud of his organization, because it is comprised of pisco lovers without any sort of ties to bodegas, production or any type of pisco company. “We are more transparent, which means we can evaluate pisco in a more honest and fair way. Over 60 percent of the evaluators of pisco in the congresses and competitions are producers or work with pisco in the bodegas. Most are self-taught, which is different from our group. We were educated in an institute.” And, Peru doesn’t not have a group that regularly dedicates itself to the evaluation of pisco, “because it is time consuming,” states Livio.

ACIP evaluates piscos on a scale of 1 to 100. “When we first began the tasting, we were really strict,” says Livio. “But now we’ve become more accepting of varieties, but we certainly haven’t lost our ability to criticize,” he laughs. A good pisco must achieve a rating between 88 and 90 points, combined from ratings from the four regular tasting participants of ACIP. However, an excellent pisco has to reach between 94 and 100 points, a tough grading scale.

Livio explains that ACIP proceeds very carefully through all of the tastings. They only focus on one variety, and although they have little over 4 months to complete a year of blind tasting, they still haven’t finished the evaluations of all the different types of piscos. ACIP only evaluates pisco that one can buy in the major stores in Lima, but they do once and a while taste a pisco that a producer has directly sent to them. Livo explains that these tastings are listed in the blog as “bonuses,” as most people won’t have a direct or easy access to the alcohol.

 Each pisco is evaluated for clarity, aroma, the first impression in the mouth, the persistence afterwards of the flavors, and the correspondence between the smell and the flavor. Livio states that the best way to evaluate a pisco is to drink it close to where it was produced, as that gives you the sense of aromas, climate and influences on the grapes while they are growing. “Each pisco picks up the flavors of the region it is produced in, and it is a completely different experience to taste a pisco in Lima than in Ica, for example,” he states.

When asked about his favorite variety of pisco, Livio states “I am a loyal fan of pure pisco. But out of all the varieties, I would have to choose one of the aromatic types as my favorite. I fell in love with the aromatic varieties while studying pisco in IDVIP. It is incredible when a pisco can remind you of jasmine, magnolias, pineapple, just by the smell, and when you have the pisco in your mouth, you have the sensation that you are eating the fruit. It is very difficult to produce a good aromatic pisco, and because of that I find that it is my favorite.”

With the organization ACIP, Livio explains that all the group members have learned that pisco is marvelous. While I would think that goes without saying, Livio explains that pisco is truly a unique and versatile distilled alcohol. It has a high number of varieties, and comes from a limited area of Peru, but yet, it still has a huge range of diversity and charm. And that, precisely, is why he wants to spread the culture of pisco, not just through Peru, but through the rest of the world.

“Someday,” Livio says, “We would like to offer a pisco evaluation service for the bodegas and the producers of pisco in Peru. And, of course, we would love to continue doing more and more tastings, as well as teach Peruvians and foreigners alike the intricacies of tasting and valuing pisco.” And, with these noble efforts, one can only imagine ACIP will make it possible.

To learn more about ACIP, www.nochesdecata.blogspot.com 

miércoles, 2 de diciembre de 2015

In the land of Pisco... Pisco Grapes

The grapes used to produce wine and Pisco were brought to Colonial America from Spain during the 17” century. To day, only eight varieties of grapes are officially recognized as a source for Pisco production, divided into the following two groups: 

The grapes used to produce wine and Pisco were brought to Colonial America from Spain during the 17” century. To day, only eight varieties of grapes are officially recognized as a source for Pisco production, divided into the following two groups:

Non-Aromatic Grapes
Quebranta, Mollar, Negra Criolla and Uvina:

Negra Criolla is known as the “Mission Grape” in California.
Pisco is most commonly made with the Quebranta grape, which is beleived to be a mutation of the Negra Criolla grape, resulting from its adaptation to the specific weather and soil conditions of the Peruvian valleys. This grape produces a Pisco characterized by an elegant aroma of dry fields, bananas, tropical fruits, chocolate and black raisins.

Aromatic Grapes
Italia, Moscatel, Torontel and Albilla.

These are mainly muscatel grapes.

Pisco Varieties
There are three different types of Pisco:

1.-Pisco Puro (Pure Pisco): Pisco produced from only one of the eight recognized varieties (single-variety Pisco).

2.-Pisco Acholado (Blended Pisco):
Pisco produced by blending at least two recognized varieties of grapes.

3.-Pisco Mosto Verde (Green Must Pisco): 
Pisco that is produced when the fermentation process is interrupted in order to distill the must, which still has traces of sweetness. (This must is “green”. If the fermentation process had been allowed to conclude, the distilled product would have been made of “mature” must.) This process instills the body, aroma and flavor of this special kind of Pisco with more complexity. Unlike Pure Pisco and Blended Pisco, Green Must Pisco requires more than twice as many kilograms of grapes to produce one liter of Pisco.

Translated by Katrina Heimark