Pisco is a type of brandy distilled from grapes grown in the warm and sunny regions of Peru. It was first produced in the Pisco province of Peru in the 16th century, located three hundred kilometers south of Lima. It is the favorable soils and mild climate of the Ica Valley made an ideal home for the wineries. Pisco is considered amongst the leading spirit of the world due to its low level of impurities. The flavour is very smooth and has a deceptive almost non-alcoholic taste. Pisco can either be enjoyed straight or used in mixed drinks, one of the best known being the Pisco Sour, Peru’s national drink.
“Pisco is Peruvian, it clearly belongs to Peru. Pisco is the name by which a certain valley in southern Peru has long been known, famous for its great variety of bird species, in fact, the word ‘pisco’ is derived from the Quechua term ‘pisscu’, which means ‘little bird'”; it seems that the Pisco valley had always a large population of small birds.
“Like many Peruvian traditions, pisco is a manifestation of a mixed inheritance, an example of Andean heritage influenced by Hispanic culture. This brandy, aged in earthen pots, has always been an expression of what it means to be Peruvian. In the Eighteenth Century, Lopez de Carabantes described pisco as a worthy competitor of sherry, naming it as one of the most exquisite drinks in the world. Even then it had been justly famous for years, its name identifying it unmistakably with the Peruvian coast. Thus it is that for centuries, pisco has conquered the taste buds of everyone who tastes it. This delicate and tempting brandy can be drunk straight or as part of the ever-popular cocktail, the Pisco Sour.” “The ritual that is the preparation of pisco begins during the annual grape harvest. The bunches of grapes are carefully picked and taken to the press, where barefoot young men stomp the grapes amidst an atmosphere of great jubilation and joy. The juice runs from the tubs through a canal, and is collected in earthen pots where it is fermented for fourteen days. When the fermentation process is complete, the must is distilled in a classic liquor still, then returned to the pots to be aged until the precise moment for bottling arrives.”
There are mainly 4 different types of pisco:
- Pisco Puro is made only from the non-aromatic, black Quebranta grape. This variety is mainly used in mixed drinks as it is quite dry.
- Pisco Acholado is the result of two varieties of grapes usually the Italia and Quebranta grapes being blended. This variety is very popular due to its sweet odour and flavour and the immediate “kick”, which can be felt after drinking.
- Pisco Aromático is made from either the Muscat , Italia, Moscatel or Torrontes grapes. It has an intensely fruity aroma.
- Pisco Mosto Verde is the most expensive of all Piscos to produce. This variety is made from grape juice, which has not been allowed to ferment completely and therefore still has some sugar content. It has a sophisticated velvety palate and texture.
Main Pisco producers are the four wine producers in Ica (Tabernero, Tacama, Ocucaje and Vista Alegre) and many other smaller producers in south Perú, some of them producing excellent quality piscos in Mala and Lunahuaná (south of Lima), Chincha, Pisco, Ica, Nazca, Arequipa (Majes), Moquegua and Tacna.
Bodega Biondi for example, in Moquegua, is one of the traditional high quality pisco producers in Perú.