Peru and WineIt seems that every country has its own types of liquors and spirits. Peru, with its Pisco, is certainly no exception. But, did you know that wines from Peru are also gaining in recognition?
Peruvian Wine History
Until recently, Peruvian wine exports were very limited. This is because Peruvian wine production has traditionally been quite low when compared to other more commercially developed South American countries, such as Chile and Argentina.
Peru's micro wine production has actually played to their favor though, by allowing them the time to experiment with different blends and wine making techniques without getting a reputation for low quality wines. Instead, Peruvian wine exports have arrived on the market as a seeming newcomer with surprisingly high quality. In fact, you could be forgiven for not even knowing that Peru has a wine industry.
The wine industry in Peru has actually been around far longer than most people realize. Wine grapes were first introduced to Peru by the Spanish conquistador Marquis Francisco de Caravantes who visited there during the sixteenth century. Ever since then, Peruvians have been working on perfecting their wine growing techniques. Today, wine makers in province of Ica are producing some very good wines. Peruvians know this well and now the rest of the world is finding out too.
Peruvian Wine Culture
The city of Ica lies within the province of Ica, which is the center of Peruvian wine culture. This is the area where wine grapes were first introduced and many smaller wineries still make use of ancient techniques to produce wines.
The province of Ica is known as an area of sand, sea and oases. Despite its hot and dry climate, Ica is actually a perfect place to grow wine grapes. The fields are thoroughly irrigated with water from the Andes and virtually any crop in the world can grow here. Peru's best wineries are located here and are referred to as "bodegas" which actually means "wineries". All Peruvian wineries are prefixed with this word; Bodega Tacama, Bodega Ocucaje, etc.
In some ways, Ica (the province) is not just the cradle of Peru's wine culture but of Peru as a whole. Saints and medicine men are a part of everyday life and this is also where the best Pisco brandy is distilled. Pisco has attained a certain degree of world fame and is considered to be Peru's national drink. It would be very hard to find a Peruvian winery that doesn't make Pisco alongside their wines.
There are three industrial wineries in Peru worth mentioning and all are located in the province of Ica.
The winery Tacama lies about 10 kilometers north of the city of Ica and is one of the best known and well respected wine exporters in Peru. Their Cabernet and Sauvignon Blanc wines are a true testament to what they can do with wine grapes. If you have ever tried a wine from Peru there is a good chance that it came from Tacama. There also are a couple of other wineries in the area that produce excellent quality wines as well.
About 40 kilometers south of the city of Ica is the winery Ocucaje. Ocucaje is arguably just as well known as Tacama, mainly because Ocucaje was the first winery to be established in this area. They are mainly known for the care and attention they put into producing some of the nation's best Piscos year after. But, they have not shied away from putting that same effort into producing high quality wines as well.
The winery Vista Alegre lies about 3 kilometers north of the city of Ica and produces wine and Pisco using some of the most modern machinery available. Vista Alegre is probably the most technically advanced of the wineries located near Ica but they have also managed to keep some traces of Peru's rich wine growing history. A wine from Vista Alegre is certain to be good.
Beyond the three industrial wineries, there is also a collective of about 85 different small wineries known collectively as the Artesanales wineries. These wineries follow many of old wine making traditions, including crushing the grapes by foot. During the harvest season, there are many festivals throughout Peru and it is not uncommon for the entire community surrounding one of these independent wineries to help stomp the grapes during the celebrations. While the three industrial wineries have abandoned this practice, there is something to be said for making wine in the traditional fashion and wines labeled as "Bodegas Artesanales" do have a certain old world charm to them.
While some Bodegas Artesanales wines are good, do not expect the same level of quality that comes from the industrial wineries. The industrial wineries have abandoned the traditional Peruvian methods in favor of more the widely accepted practices of fermentation in oak barrels and the use of stainless steel machinery.
Peruvian wines aren't likely to soar in popularity anytime soon, mainly because there just isn't very many of them being exported.
You can find Peruvian wines and Piscos in certain parts of the United States but supplies are usually limited to cities with a reasonable number of South Americans living in them, like New York and Chicago. The UK probably has the healthiest supply of Peruvian wines outside of South America. So, you may want to consider buying some for there if you really want some.
The biggest Peruvian wine exporter is Bodega Tacama and they do produce very good wines. It is also possible to find wines produced by Bodega Vista Alegre and Bodega Ocucaje. But, you are not likely to see any wines being sold under the label Bodegas Artesanales outside of Peru.
Peruvian wineries have a long way to go before they can compete with other more developed wine growing countries like France, America, Italy and Australia. Even their neighbors, Chile and Argentina, are much more developed that Peru is when it comes to commercial wine production. But, that is also one of things that make Peruvian wines stand out the most. They are different. The diversity of wines from around the world is probably the one thing that makes wine the best drink in the world. So if you are looking to try something different then you may find that a wine from Peru is exactly what you are looking for.