Pisco is the peruvian grape aguardiente, obtained from the distillation of fresh wines from the exclusive fermentation of grape must (grape juice), following the traditional practices established in the production areas. Previously declared and recognized by the peruvian laws, such as the established ones in the regions of Lima, Ica, Arequipa, Moquegua and the Locumba, Sama and Caplina valleys in Tacna.
Chroniclers such as Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa, Guamán Poma de Ayala, Fray Martin de Murua, among others, accredit the existence of this geographic referent since the beginning of the colony, highlighting the cultivation of life as well as the wine and brandies production in that area. In the same way, Miguel Cabello de Balboa in “Misceláneas Antárticas”, written in 1586, mentions the Ica, Yumay and Pisco valleys when describing the south coast of Peru. As several chroniclers and other historical sources report, it is from the XVIIth century onward, that the interaction of a conductive land for grape is produced, with a technological culture developed in the valleys of southern Peru, where the Pisco moonshine is born.
The Pisco history is the history of miscegenation that enriches our culture and that we all recognize as part of our national identity in and out of the Peruvian borders.
In the Peruvian coast, there is a valley, a river, a harbor and a city, all called Pisco since the beginning of the colony. The linkage of the Pisco with the Peruvian geography and the topography is indisputable. The Pisco’s aguardiente, traditional drink of Peru and “flagship product”, offers to the world its quality of long lineage and its own roots.
Between February and March, the best Quebranta grapes are harvested and selected. After accomplishing this traditional process, we continue with the destemming, in which the rachis are removed from the bunches, and the grapes are squeezed in order to release their sweet juices, better known as musts.
The maceration is the next step. The squeezed grapes, with the flesh, peel and the seeds, are left to rest for a few days so the juice or must that they contain acquires the typical characteristics of our Quebranta grape once the fermentation process has started.
Subsequently, the solids of the grape in maceration are drained, leaving the must free of solid so that it finishes its natural fermentation in charge of the yeast that grapes contain. This process lasts approximately 14 days and at the end of this period, the sweet juice of the grape turns into wine or must.
Afterward comes the distillation, which is one of the most important phases of the Pisco elaboration. This is the action of eliminating the undesirable components of the must or wine via the boiling of it, managing to separate and purify the components. The alcohol vapor that is formed through the process (which is slow and careful) is cooled down and condensed back to a liquid phase in Pisco form. This process is made in stills as it was 100 years ago.
Finally, comes the rest of the Pisco, for not less than 6 months. This process is carried out in innocuous tanks in order to reach the ideal level and highlight of its organoleptic characteristics before being bottled, only in our glass bottles. The Pisco is filtered to eliminate any natural residue it may have.
SUS PRIMEROS VIAJES
In the middle of the XVIth century (1574), the Spanish started to use the name of Pisco to designate the name of a river, a village and a harbor. This was also one of the main routes that were serving for regional commerce, as it was a shipping point of guano and of the delivery of silver shipments to Spain. Pisco also recalls the great diversity of birds from the south, among them, we can emphasize the Parihuanas, the Huerequeque, the Zarcillo and the Condor, and this is because the word PISCO comes from the Quechua term Pisccu that means bird.
The exploitation of the grapevine in Peruvian lands was so successful that they started to export wine from the Peruvian viceroyalty towards Spain, which motivated the peninsular producers managing in the face of Felipe II to prohibit its commerce in order to avoid a dangerous competition, which was concretized in 1614.
As a consequence of this restriction, the coastal landowner monks intensified the Pisco production, product that quickly turned into a popular drink for its very own characteristics, especially between the travelers of the region. The name Pisco comes from the valley and harbor called Pisco, place where the aguardiente was embarked to be sent to Spain for the first time, in the XVIth century.
The history confirms that China was one of the first countries in the world that knew about the Peruvian Piscos existence. Precisely that occurred during the time in which the Qing dynasty, from machu origin, ruled China, empire that since 1839 was facing the harassing of the western potencies, and that after the defeat in the called Second Opium War, seemed force to sign the humiliating Treatry of Tientsin.
According to this one, the Qing govern had to permit the foreign embassy’s establishment in the heart of its empire, Beijing, one of the reasons that lead to the creation of the Yongli Yamen (of similar function of a Ministry of Foreign Affairs to address foreign issues) as well as the training and selection of talented Chinese diplomatic.
According to studies realized by the Peruvian diplomatic Gonzalo Gutierrez Reinel, in February 1889, the Chinese official in charge, Fu Yunlong joined with his diplomatic delegation of investigation, arrived to the Peruvian providence of Pisco, where he wrote down the liquor called pisco in his traveling report named “Notas Adicionales a la Crónica ilustrada del viaje al Perú”. In that time, China was ruled by the Qing dynasty.
During his trips, Fu traveled to the eleven countries of Dongyang (East or Pacific Ocean), including Japan, USA, Peru, Chile, Brazil, Canada, Cuba and Ecuador. He observed and wrote down information of a vast quantity and large range of subjects such as history, administrative systems, foreign relations, politic issues, culture, literature, military systems, industry or the orographic systems of the visited countries.
From there, the Peruvian specialist Cesar Espinosa Sulen found out the following reference, which is revealing of the exhaustiveness with which the Chinese official in charge observed the Peruvian reality: “Notas adicionales a la crónica ilustrada del viaje a Peru”. Fu Yunlong, a hualing second grade officer, assistant in the Zhílì providence (today Húbei), director of the Bureau of Machineries of the North Marine Provinces, and expeditionary emissary, exhibits: In the third day of the first lunar month (of the 5 th year of the Guangxù emperor i.e February 2 nd, 1889), […] we docked in Pisco. The liquor comes from here.”
United States of America
The documentation found in the USA reveals that the first official importation from Pisco to California comes from San Diego in 1827, and the first towards San Francisco in 1839. This Peruvian presence can be observed in illustrations from the time that show settlers wearing ponchos or chullos in their daily activities, and adding to this list, our Pisco.
After California appended to the USA in 1847, the city of San Francisco is the one that may have had the most relation with ancient Peruvian families from the XIXth century, maybe this motivated for the gold fiber in the middle of that century motivate the presence of Peruvian miner experts. That’s why the Pisco formed part of the history of this part of the USA, and moreover the Pisco Punch recipe.
Because of that, during the inauguration of the famous Bar Bank Exchange in 1853 that in a beginning turned into the temple of the bohemia and the archetype of a past of glorious leaders and good men. Thanks to the Pisco and more exactly to the Pisco Punch created by Duncal Nicol (1887), better known as “Pisco John” the famous bar’s specialty whose recipe was discovered years later.
In the middle of the XVIth century, the grape arrived in Peru from the Canary Islands, brought by the marquis Francisco de Caravantes. Chroniclers from that time point out that it was in the Marcahuasi farm, in Cuzco, where the first winemaking was produced. However, it was in the Ica valleys that these crops expanded widely, due to the favorable climatic conditions of the place, which is the reason the wine industry developed with strength there.
The Quebranta grape is the one that builds the Pisco’s body, in other words, the one that gives it structure, strength, vigor, without losing elegance. It is undoubtable that due to that, the best Peruvian cocktails, such as Pisco sour and Chilcano, are prepared with this grape’s Pisco.
In the beginning, it was thought that the Quebranta grapes origin was in the South of Spain, in Canarias. Today it is claimed that it is the result of the natural Liston Pierto (Negra Criolla) grapevine and the Negramoll (Mollar), according to the Pisco characterization studies made by Dr. Juan Cacho Palomar, professor of the Zaragoza University, Spain.
Its bunch is loose, cone-shaped and medium sized. The berry is oval, the colouring goes from black to grey, passing through pink, yellow and green. Its peel has a medium thickness, the flesh and juice are sweet. Another virtue of this grapevine is its high performance.
It is harvested in February and March. The main fields are in the south of Peru, in Ica, Lima and some in Arequipa.
TYPES OF GRAPE
Besides the Quebranta grape, there are other 7 varieties of pisquera grapes:
The non- aromatic:
Negra Criolla. This grape variety is from the valleys of Moquegua and Tacna. It allows the preparation of a really likeable and well-structured Pisco, with a good persistence. The smell recalls new-mown grass.
Mollar. It is produced in less quantity than the other grapes and generally it is cultivated in the Quebranta grapes crops.
Uvina. It's a traditional pisco grape variety “from Lunahuaná Valley, it has been used for the Pisco production for more than 70 years. The Uvina has small bluish-black berries, and abundant large bunch of grapes. Its origin is unknown, but it has adapted well to conditions of soil and climate in Lunahuana, Pacarán and Zuñiga, in the Cañete providence, Lima region.
Moscatel. It is known among the aromatic grapes as the one that provides the most delicious Pisco. Due to its little performance, it is scanty cultivated. Its peel has red, blue and sealing tones, it has a round berry and no abundant bunches.
Italia. Romantic grape that is cultivated in all the producing areas of Peru. It has a big production and abundant bunches, the berry has an oval form. It is one of the few grapes in the world that it is uses to produce wines and piscos, and to be eaten.
Torontel. This grape belongs to the Moscatos family. It has a pale green color. It offers moscatel smells, similar to the Italia grape, but greater finesse. The piscos that are made with this grape are elegant, from delicate and well-structured smell.
Albillo. This grape is pretty similar to the Spanish Alban, from big and cone-shaped bunches, they can weigh up to 2 kilos. The berries are round, translucent, medium sized, between light green and yellow tonality. This grape produces a very delicate pisco, with structure and fresh flavors. It has less perfume than the other aromatic grapes, but combined with other varieties rounds the pisco, obtaining an extraordinary softness.