Pisco, is the national drink of Peru. It is a distilled beverage made from grapes and is produced in various regions of the country. The most popular drink in Peru is by far the Pisco Sour.

The first vineyards in the Viceroyalty of Peru were planted in the fertile coastal valleys of Peru shortly after the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors. The Marquis Francisco de Caravantes was the first to import grapes, bringing them from the Canary Islands in 1553. Even though Spain imposed many restrictions on wine production and commerce, the winemaking industry developed rapidly, mainly in the "Corregimiento" of Ica in Peru.

In the late 1550s, the Spanish began to plant and harvest grapes for wine in the southern regions of Peru. "Export quality" grapes were selected to produce wine, while those left were discarded or given to the farmers to do with as they pleased. This is how small groups began to use these grapes to distill a brandy-like liquor from the discarded grapes, using similar techniques to those of "Chicha" production. The oldest written historical record of grape brandy production in the Spanish colonies date back to Peru 1613. Pisco was considered a lesser beverage by the Spanish and not consumed by them. Pisco did not have a name for a long time, although it is reported the Spanish called it "aguardiente".

Pisco's popularity increased when sailors that transported products between the colonies and Spain began to call it pisco, naming it after the port where it could be bought. The drink then became a favorite of sailors and workers who visited the port of Pisco. As trade from Peru to the world grew, so did the popularity of pisco, until it almost equaled wine in quantity as an export. In 1641, wine imports from Peru into Spain were banned, severely damaging the wine industry in the colony; only a few vineyards that had parallel wine and pisco operations survived this change. Those that did began to concentrate on pisco production, nearly eliminating wine production in Peru.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, pisco was a mainstay on ocean-crossing vessels, drunk mostly by sailors, as officers usually drank whisky or other "finer" spirits. The main reasons for its heyday were the low price and high availability. This position was maintained by pisco until the onset of rum, which won over consumers with lower prices and a softer flavor. Pisco was also briefly popular in San Francisco and nearby areas of California during the Gold Rush in the 19th century, where it was introduced by Chilean and Peruvian miners.

Varieties of Pisco
In the years following the re-establishment of pisco production, many grapes were used to produce pisco, leading to a wide variation in flavor, aroma, viscosity and appearance of the liquor. This harmed attempts to export the product under a single denomination since there could be enormous differences between the contents of bottles sold as pisco. As such, a number of regulations were established to counteract this situation and set a baseline for a product to carry the name. Four levels of pisco were thus designated:

· Pure, made from a single variety of grape, mostly "Quebranta", although "Mollar" or Common Black can be used. However, no blending between varieties is accepted in this type, ure pisco should contain only one variety of grape. Pure pisco is a very viscous liquid, slightly more so than vodka and comparable to "Sambuca". It has an odor which is vaguely reminiscent of reeds. Its flavor is very smooth and almost non-alcoholic, which can be very deceptive, with the result that many first-time drinkers often drink to excess and can quickly become inebriated without noticing. Some people consider it "heresy" to mix pure pisco with anything else, and it is generally accepted that it should be drunk alone, even to the exclusion of ice.

· Aromatic, made from "Muscat" or "Muscat"-derived grape varieties, and also from "Italia" and "Torontel" grape varieties; once again, the pisco should only contain one variety of grape in any production lot.

· Acholado blended from the must of several varieties of grape. "Acholado" is gaining popularity due to its sweetness, both in odor and flavor, making it a favorite for Pisco sour, a mixed drink.

· Mosto Verde, Green Must is generally seen in high-income environments. Its grape taste is very strong, as is its fruity perfume. Green Must, distilled from partially fermented must, this must be distilled before the fermentation process has completely transformed sugars into alcohol. Aromatic is rarely seen nowadays, as its production has almost ceased in Peru, since according to Peruvian specifications, some Chilean pisco would be classified as aromatic, provided that the restriction of 'no additives' is obeyed. See the Chilean pisco section for more information.

Some other specific restrictions of note are:

Aging: Pisco must be aged for a minimum of three months in vessels of "glass, stainless steel or any other material which does not alter its physical, chemical or organic properties". Additives: no additives of any kind may be added to the pisco that could alter its flavor, odor, appearance or alcoholic proof.

· Macerated Piscos: they are prepared with different fruits or leaves macerated in Pisco for many weeks. Usually prepared at home and consumed as a digestive. The preparation is simple, in a "damajuana" (big glass bottle), you add the fruit or element to be macerated, then pour the Pisco over it and leave it for 8 weeks. The alternatives are endless but the most common are made with coca leaves, peach, dry raisins, cinnamon and coffee seeds.

Grapes used to make Pisco

· Aromatics: Albilla, Italia, Moscatel y Torontel.
· Not aromatics: Mollar, Negra corriente, Quebranta y Uvina.

The controversy with Chile
There has been a longtime dispute between Peru and Chile about where does the pisco comes from. Both claim the property of the beverage and both want to promote the pisco as their own. Both countries have different arguments to defend their position. Peru’s position is based on historical and geographical arguments. Mainly the fact that the beverage was first produced in the village of Pisco (south of Lima) in the XVI century presenting documents that shows that this distilled beverage was produced in during those times. On the other hand, Chile claims that they have a bigger production and consumption of this product. According to some sources, they produce 50 million of liters of pisco while Peru only 1.5.

Chile and Peru have made several actions to defend the geographical indication of the pisco including trade agreements, association agreement and the request to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) for international registration of an appellation of origin. They have also included to their national activities calendar dates such as “Pisco Day”, “Piscola Day” (Chile), “Pisco Sour Day” (Peru) among other kind of marketing actions.

At this moment the controversy continues in spite all the actions taken by both countries. A Chilean authority even proposed to share the denomination so both countries can benefit with all the action they both may do together. However this option was not accepted by Peru. We believe it is important to recognize that both products are VERY different and not only have a different way of production but also have different characteristics

Definition Firewater obtained exclusively from the distillation of recently fermented "pisco grapes", using methods which maintain the traditional principles of quality established in recognized production areas. ...is reserved to firewater produced and bottled, in consumable quantities, in Regions III and IV, elaborated by the distillation of genuine wine, originating from specified varietals, grown in said regions.
Grapes Non Aromatic: Quebranta, Common Black, Mollar Aromatic: Italia, Muscat, Albilla, Torontel. Yellow Muscat, White Early Muscat, Alexandria Muscat, Austrian Muscat, Frontignan Muscat, Hamburg Muscat, Black Muscat, Pink Muscat, Canelli Muscat, Orange Muscat, Pedro Jiménez , Torontel.
Production The fermentation process can be done with partial or total maceration of the grape, strictly controlling the temperature and decomposition of sugars. The grape juice is fermented into wine containing 14° alcohol (28 proof).
The fermented product is distilled in copper or stainless steel receivers to the desired alcoholic proof. No product may be added to alter the alcoholic proof, odor, flavor or color of the liquid. The fermented product is distilled in copper receivers until an alcoholic proof of 55° to 60° is reached. Rectifiers must be added if the alcoholic proof is less than that specified.
The pisco must be aged a minimum of three months in glass, stainless steel or other materials which do not alter the physical, chemical or organic properties before bottling. The crude firewater is aged in wood for a short time, usually not more than a few months. Higher quality brands may be aged in oak barrels for a longer time.
The pisco must be bottled directly after aging, without alteration or adding any product which could alter the odor, flavor or appearance. The firewater from different distilleries is mixed, diluted with demineralized water in order to lower the alcoholic proof to the desired level, filtered and bottled.
Alcohol Content 38° to 48° (76 to 96 proof) 30° to 50° (60 to 100 proof)
Designated Pisco Areas Departments of Lima, Ica (Ica, Chincha,Pisco), Arequipa, Moquegua and the Locumba, Sama and Caplina valleys in the Department of Tacna. Atacama, Coquimbo.



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