(Continued from “The Pride of Peru” on February 17, 2017)
The jewel in the Spanish crown, the Viceroyalty of Peru used to be amongst the most prosperous areas of the entire New World, in addition to being the single most important wine-producing region of South America for at least 100 years. That Peru ceased to be a wine powerhouse is extraordinary, and indeed it was due to dramatic circumstances.
Peru became a victim of its own success. With ideal growing conditions for vines and grapes, Peruvian wine began to challenge continental Spanish wine. For economic and political reasons, Spain under the reign of the Habsburgs banned the plantation of any new vineyards in 1595, and gradually banned all exports of Peruvian wine – with the sole exception of sacramental wine, the Habsburgs being good Catholics – starting from 1614. These policies were maintained under the reign of the Bourbons and the intermittent Bonapartes.
In 1687, a magnitude 8.7 earthquake and consequent tsunami virtually obliterated all wine infrastructure in Peru – vineyards, wineries and cellars alike. This natural disaster has few equivalents in European history, the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 maybe. It not only marked the end of the Peruvian wine boom, but also heralded the rise of Chile, which began to export wheat to crisis-hit Peru. The fortune of the two countries – Chile and Peru declared independence from Spain in 1810 and 1821 respectively – would reverse.
Starting from the mid-18th century, the Society of Jesus was suppressed in Europe and abroad, and the reason had more to do with politics than theology. The Jesuits, nicknamed “God’s Marines”, were seen as too international and ultramontanist, i.e. holding papal authority to be superior to monarchical power, enraging quite a few rulers across Europe. Such suppression did not abate until the late 19th century, and it took many more years before the world would see the first Jesuit pope. The Jesuits were pivotal in introducing and developing viticulture and winemaking in Peru; their suppression meant that precious expertise and know-how were lost. In the 19th century, the booming textile industry of newly industrialised Europe required large amount of cotton; Peru obliged, hence further restricting wine production.
Despite all this, Peru’s ideal growing conditions for vines and prolific production continued. As wine production and export were severely curtailed since the turn of the 17th century, the resourceful Peruvians began to produce Pisco, a distilled beverage made of grapes. The national drink of Peru, Pisco is as sacred to the Peruvians as Scotch to the Scots.
Made with a variety of grapes, hence acholado (literally: mixed). Immaculately clean and thoroughly transparent, the heady nose provides sweet ginger, dried herbs and jasmine. With a piquant mouthfeel, the potent palate furnishes greengage, sultana and bouquet garni. Full-bodied at 42 percent, the spirituous entry persists through a peppery mid-palate, leading to a fruity finish.
Made with 100 percent Italia grapes in mosto verde (literally: green must) style. Immaculately clean and thoroughly transparent, the aromatic nose presents Williams pear, garden herbs and daffodil. With a rounded mouthfeel, the fleshy palate supplies whitecurrant, palm sap and chrysanthemum tisane. Medium-full bodied at 42 percent, the floral entry continues through a jovial mid-palate, leading to a sweetish finish.
Made with 100 percent Quebranta grapes in mosto verde style. Immaculately clean and thoroughly transparent, the fragrant nose offers honeydew melon, rock sugar and frangipane. With a sprightly mouthfeel, the juicy palate delivers green apple, fresh herbs and lime blossom. Medium-bodied at 42 percent, the fruit-driven entry carries onto a refreshing mid-palate, leading to a tangy finish.
To be continued…
Special thanks to the Consulate General of Peru in Hong Kong & Macao for hosting the private tasting. The following spirits were tasted in the presence of Consul General Mr Sergio Manuel Avila Traverso and Deputy Consul General Mr Gonzalo Talavera-Alvarez.
For further information or enquiry, contact Ms Rosie Wu of the Consulate General of Peru in Hong Kong & Macao; E: firstname.lastname@example.org; T: +852 2868 2622
Jacky I.F. Cheong is a legal professional by day and columnist by night. Having spent his formative years in Britain,
France, and Germany, he regularly writes about wine, fine arts, classical music, and politics in several languages