(Continued from “The Pride of Peru II” on 10 March 2017)
Pisco is, in a nutshell, a double-distilled grape must-based aguardiente, i.e. brandy. The term Pisco originated from the eponymous historic port city, valley and river situated in Peru, which were in turn named after either a native bird species, or the ancient amphora-like ceramic containers. Precursors of Pisco had been produced for centuries prior to Spanish colonisation, after which vitis vinifera was introduced and began to be used. Pisco is, therefore, the emblematic fusion of pre-Columbian civilisation and European influence.
Pisco was initially made to replace Orujo, a pomace brandy from northwestern Spain, i.e. Galicia, Asturias and Cantabria. Pisco is often made with old grape varieties that no longer exist in Europe. Pisco production in Peru began in the 16th century, and exceeded wine production by the mid-18th century. The California Gold Rush during the mid-19th century was boom time for Pisco, which found its first major international market in the US. Since the beginning of the 21st century, Pisco has been gaining popularity across the globe.
The Peruvians take great pride in their Pisco, with five specific DOs (Denominación de Origen), including Arequipa, Ica, Lima, Moquegua and Tacna. Peruvian Pisco is produced in mainly four styles: puro (literally: pure) uses one single variety; aromáticas (literally: aromatics) uses one single variety from the massive Muscat family; the intensely fruity mosto verde (literally: green must), made with partially fermented must, requires 12kg – as opposed to 8kg otherwise – of grapes to make a standard 700ml bottle; and the multi-varietal acholado (literally: mixed).
The Pisco dispute between Peru and Chile is almost as sensitive as the Diaoyutai / Senkaku Islands dispute between China and Japan. Chile produces and consumes more Pisco than Peru, but it is beyond reasonable doubt that Pisco originated from Peru. Production methods definitively separate Peruvian and Chilean Piscos: the former is usually single-varietal, distilled by pot stills in batches, with a specific vintage, minimally aged and not influenced by vessels, then bottled at cask-strength; the latter is often blended, distilled by column stills in large quantities and aged in barrels. Does that not sound like the difference between single malt and grain whiskies? Unsurprisingly, Peru insists on a stringent definition of Pisco, whereas Chile defines Pisco rather loosely.
As if rivalry in football and Pisco is not fierce enough, both Peru and Chile have Pisco Sour – made with Pisco, lime juice, bitters, sugar syrup and egg white – as their national cocktail, and both claim to have invented it. Whether Pisco and Pisco Sour should be served as apéritif or digestif may be internal discussion, but dispute over their origin may well escalate into such a diplomatic dispute as to “hurt the feelings” of another nation…
Made with a variety of grapes, hence acholado. Immaculately clean and thoroughly transparent, the pristine nose offers cloudberry, white strawberry and garden herbs. With a dainty mouthfeel, the invigorating palate delivers white cherry, thyme and white smoke. Medium-bodied at 42 percent, the focused entry continues through a linear mid-palate, leading to a clean finish.
Made with a blend of Italia, Quebranta and Torontel, hence acholado. Immaculately clean and thoroughly transparent, the expansive nose effuses whitecurrant, white pepper and crushed leaf. With an oily mouthfeel, the rounded palate emanates lime, brine and ginger blossom. Full-bodied at 40 percent, the potent entry evolves into a saline mid-palate, leading to a persistent finish.
To be continued one day…
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