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.
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.
-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
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 name pisco itself has an interesting history. Pisqu or pissqu means “little bird” or “seagull” in the Quechua language. Legend has it that an Ica Valley tribe was
renowned for its skilled potters. Chuquimanco, the tribe’s chief, saw a flock of pisqu seabirds, and was inspired to name the potters’ village after them. This Incan tribe
produced amphora-style clay vessels to store liquids, as well as to ferment chicha (corn mash beer), which is the only alcoholic beverage attributable to the pre-Colombian
Incas. These vessels came to be called piskos, after the tribe that made them; this eventually evolved into the word pisco. When the Spanish conquistadors arrived, they
imposed their lifestyle upon Peru. Wine was a basic component of daily life (and the Catholic Church); so the Spanish quickly imported Iberian grapes to Peru. European
black Muscatel grapes were planted throughout Peru’s southern coastal valleys in the mid-1500s. These grapes, which had been previously used to make raisins and
brandy, became the grape of choice for Peruvian winemaking. Advanced Incan irrigation canals were already in place in the Ica Valley, which carried melted snow down from
the Andes Mountains; as a result, viniculture was able to flourish in this hot, desert area. These Muscatel grapes came to be known in Peru as quebranta, which means
“broken-in.” As the grapes acclimatized to their new environment, they developed into a genetic mutation, becoming their own discrete variety. Quite fortuitously, this
mutation rendered quebranta grapes resistant (though not immune) to the phylloxera insect that all but destroyed European grape stock in the 19th century.