VIVA PISCO: A FAVORED BEVERAGE OF MAYU’S FAIR TRADE ALPACA ARTISANS


We would like to present a guest post by Kaity Nicastri, a well-traveled social worker and friend of Mayu, who has spent much of her time in South America teaching English to primary school kids, among other projects. Thanks, Kaity!

Piiiiissssccoooo! For those of you who have not had the pleasure, nay, the privilege, of sipping a finely (or not so finely) distilled pisco beverage, this post may seem frivolous. But pisco is no laughing matter for Peruvians and Chileans. This is serious business, so put your game face on, and let’s take a walk down Pisco Lane.

The Story:
Pisco was first produced during the Spanish viceroyalty era, recorded as early as 1613 in Peru. (For once, colonialism was good for something!) And there are so many legends about how the name was derived that I hesitate to choose only one. Possibly, the port from whence the clear fermented grape brandy was shipped is responsible. (Yes, there is a town named Pisco.) Perhaps it comes from a Quechua word for a bird, pissqu. Now it’s the name of a drink, and “pisco grape” is a term that has entered the vocabulary of Chileans and Peruvians alike.

Peru and Chile both claim pisco as their national beverage, and there is some lighthearted (and not-so-lighthearted) rivalry around who should really be able to claim it as a national beverage and export it as such. Numerous (over 50) legal actions have been taken both locally, nationally, regionally, and internationally to decide which country should have the right to exclusive exportation rights. Chile has focused primarily on national regulation and working towards a shared right to exportation, while Peru has primarily exerted efforts to exclude Chile from production and exportation rights.

Why bother arguing? Just drink some pisco and be friends already! Well, of course, money is involved. And taxes. Lots of them. So you have a lot of haggling over which country gets the corner on the pisco market.

The Drink:
Pisco is made from a variety of grapes, and Peru and Chile each have their own standards for the drink. Let’s break it down a little:

In terms of grapes used in production, Peru has decided that “Non Aromatic” pisco must be produced by Quebranta, Common Black, Mollar, Uvina, and “Aromatic” pisco must be produced by Italia, Muscat, Albilla, and Torontel. Chile can produce a wider variety of pisco, and uses 11 different kinds of Muscat grapes, Pedro Jimenez, and Torontel.

Then the production varies, with Peru controlling the process very tightly and using specific drums and equipment to maintain the fermented purity of the drink. Chile uses wood to age the crude liquor, while in Peru, it must be with materials that do not change any of the properties.

They went as far as to designate “Pisco Areas”. In Peru: Lima,  Ica, Chincha, Pisco, Arequipa, Moquegua, Locuma, and Sama and Caplina valleys in Tacna. In Chile: Atacama and Coquimbo in the III and IV Regions of Chile.

What you should do?

Sample some pisco from each country, and decide for yourself which country does it better.

Warning: After a few glasses, it might start to taste the same, though, so perhaps you shouldn’t drink all of them at once. Also, pregnant women, and person suffering from health conditions aggravated by drinking alcoholic beverages should not participate. (Don’t say you weren’t warned!)

Some combinations I personally recommend: Pisco Sour, Piscola (Pisco + Coke), Pisco + Sprite, or Pisco Mango. However, feel free to try others and report back!

Spoken like a true Pisco fanatic! (Just in time for the weekend, right?!) If you can, [responsibly] try some delicious Pisco prontisimo! And as always, remember to check back with Mayu on Twitter, Facebook and our blog for our favorite recipes, as well as exciting news about Peru, sustainability, eco-fashion, fair trade, and hand-knit alpaca!


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