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Wine and Pisco Tasting

Written on: Tuesday November 27th, 2007

A journal entry from: Kevin and Julie's RTW

Location: Ica, Peru

Author: Julie


Today is our last day in our little oasis before taking the bus tomorrow to Lima. I spent most of the morning working on our blog. We are so far behind that it was time for me to put some serious effort in playing catch up. We are really enjoying blogging but it?s so easy to keep putting the writing off to another day, then next you know you have three weeks to write about. While writing, I was serenaded by Kevin and his friend Jairo playing electric guitar in our room. They had spent the previous afternoon and early evening recording videos for YouTube. Jairo is slowly travelling to Argentina from Colombia with the intention of joining a band, but first he needed to update his YouTube videos with recent recordings. It will make auditioning for a band a bit easier when they can see how well he can play. Kevin had set-up our small digital camera in our room and Jairo had brought over his electric guitar and amp. I was blown away by how well this unassuming looking guy could play.

Once my blogging duties over for the morning, I put on my bathing suit and camped out in one of the lounge chairs to try to get as much sun as I could since it would soon come to an end. We?ve been lucky with one beautiful sunny day after another, we couldn?t ask for better weather. Our itinerary for the next month has us heading back into the mountains of Bolivia which should be nice but not nearly as warm as it is here. Time ticked by quickly and 1:30 came soon enough. I had to get ready for our wine tasting tour.

The lands around Ica are ideal for growing grape vines with its fertile but dry soil, year round sunshine and good irrigation ensured by the underground water table. There are over 50 wineries around the Ica valley with most being small family owned bodegas but there are a few huge commercially viable businesses with a strong export business to North America and Europe. Today we would be visiting two and our first stop was at the modern winery of Vista Alegre, although they have been in business since 1857. They have 20 wine varietals and produce 24 different products of white wines, rosÚs wines, red wines, and Pisco. We were given a tour of the facilities and saw where the wines were pressed, fermented, stored, and finally bottled. The wine is stored in oak barrels which are imported from Europe, while the Pisco is stored in fibreglass vats which will not color or flavour the product. Then the best part came, the tasting! We tried a very nice, light white wine, a delicate rosÚ, then a dry yet fruit red wine, and finished with a shot of Pisco Pure. We both really liked the rosÚ (which I normally hate) for its delicate finish and bought a bottle for the high price of 11 soles. We plan on drinking it tonight with our supper to toast our trip and the wonderful time we?ve had here in Huacachina. In Peru, a sweet red wine is preferred, so the dry red wines are sold in North America and Europe while their sweet red wine stock is sold nationally. A bottle of wine is shared as an aperitif with dessert and isn?t consumed during a meal. It explains why I?ve had such difficulty finding a decent dry red wine that isn?t sickly sweet.

Next, our taxi tour guide took us to a traditional winery named Tacama, which still produce the wines and Pisco the old fashion way. The grapes are foot stomped, the dregs are filtered by hand and the wines and Pisco are stored in clay containers. To make a pure Pisco, the grapes are fermented for 12 days, then distilled for 3 months. It takes 1200 liters of grape juice to make 400 liters of Pisco. Another type of Pisco called Pisco Mostada Verde is made from 6 day fermented juice and requires 1200 liters of juice to make 200 liters of Pisco, due to its high sugar content. During the distillation, there are three parts to the Pisco vapours that are separated; the head which is 70-100% pure methyl alcohol is poisonous and put aside, the body which is between 35-70% pure ethanol is bottled, and the last section called the feet which is between 10-25% alcohol is combined with the pure methyl alcohol to create a cleaning agent. We had a funny guide who made the tour quite enjoyable. He couldn?t wait to take us to the tasting but first we stopped at a counter where we tasted various fruit products they made at the winery including the traditional drink of Chicha Morada made from red corn, a fig jam, and homemade chocolates with pecans. Finally, the tasting! We began with a wine type called Perfect Love. It is a combination of 1/3 part Pisco with 2/3 parts of grape juice. It was delicious with a slight after-taste of almonds. I could see myself sipping it by the pool or poured over vanilla ice cream. Yummy! Then we tried a few of their wines but none really jumped out at us, the ones we had tasted at the previous winery were of better quality. Then came the Pisco tasting! There were 4 kinds: Pisco Puro, Pisco Sour mix, Pisco Mostada Verde and Pisco Acholado (a blend of Pisco liquors). All were good but a bit too strong for my liking. The method of drinking it involves swirling it in the glass, inhaling the fumes, drinking and letting it sit in your mouth for a few seconds before swallowing and exhaling. For me, it seemed to increase the taste of alcohol in my mouth and throat but did not add to the flavour of the product. I guess I?m just a fan of it mixed as a Pisco Sour, made by whipping it with lemon, sugar, and egg whites. We weren?t able to leave though without buying a tiny bottle of the Perfect Love wine, even if it means having to drag it around with us in our bag for the next month. I consider it medicinal to help keep our bones warm once we get back to the mountains!

We came back to the hotel with a definite buzz and two bottles of wine to be consumed by the pool. We were so sad to know the day was ending and tomorrow we would have to leave. Unfortunately, we have a flight booked to Cusco from Lima that we cannot miss. Ahh, paradise I shall miss thee!


From Monique (ex-voisine) on Dec 19th, 2007

Bonjour Julie et Kevin, j'espère que vous êtes bien. J'ai lu quelques-uns de vos textes et regardé certaines photos. C'est magnifique !! Je vous souhaite de passer un merveilleux temps des Fêtes. Bisous.